Today early in the morning, I returned from FUDCon North America 2013 that took place in Lawrence, Kansas. What had been a trip I’d really looked forward to became my worst travel experience ever (and believe me, traveling is my hobby, I’ve traveled a lot in my life). This blogpost describes the journey to and from the conference more than FUDCon itself because unfortunately I spent more time traveling than being in Lawrence.
My trip started in Brno at 2 am. I took a bus to Vienna Airport. The more we were getting closer to Vienna the more I was getting worried because it was snowing a lot. I arrived at the airport at 5 am and all still seemed OK, all flights were on in spite of the snowing. Unfortunately my flight to Washington D.C. at 10 am was first delayed and then completely canceled, so were all other flights in Vienna after all. I wanted to cancel the whole trip and get a full refund because the flight cancellation meant I was going to miss one whole day out of three days of FUDCon. But there were thousands of people with canceled flights and Austrian Airlines didn’t take any individual requests. They just gave away hotel vouchers and told everyone to come back for rebooking tomorrow. We even couldn’t get our checked-in bags. After hours of waiting in lines, I finally got to our hotel in Vienna just to find out the lobby was completely full of people who were there to check in, too. Another line to wait :-/
On Friday, I had to get up at 4 am to get back to the airport early enough to rebook. Even though I came early I had to wait two hours in the line. My conditions were clear: get me to Lawrence today or give me all money back. They offered me a ticket Vienna-Dusseldorf-Chicago-Kansas City. I went for it. But our flight to Dusseldorf got delayed by 40 minutes because the plane wasn’t ready. We boarded the plane, but missed good weather and were called off from the runaway like 2-3 times because of snowing. But it wasn’t the end. Then a group a passenger decided to leave the flight and we had to wait for 40 minutes to get stairs and another 30 minutes to get their baggage out. In the end, I wanted to leave, too, because it was clear I’d miss my connection. But I was told that only passenger with Dusseldorf as the final destination could leave. By that time, there was already too much ice on the plane’s wings, so we had to go for deicing. After 5 hours of shuffling at the airport, we finally took off. When we arrived to Dusseldorf the plane to Chicago was already above the Atlantic. In addition, I found out they’d lost my suitcase that I hadn’t seen for almost two days. I really wanted to cancel the whole trip. I noticed there was a flight to Prague which could get me home the same day. I went to Lufthansa counter and I asked for the flight to Prague and full refund. But the ticket was booked with United and only United could refund me, so we called United and they were total jerks because they claimed I’d already started the trip and thus they couldn’t give me full refund. And they were willing to give me a ticket to the original destination (Vienna), but Vienna wasn’t accepting flights again. So it was clear I got stuck in Dusseldorf till the next day. At that moment, I decided to go all the way and I asked for rebooking. I got a ticket Dusseldorf-Frankfurt-Chicago-Kansas City. At least, I got a room in a close hotel and some basic hygiene stuff (tooth brush, shower gel,…).
I had to get up at 4 am again (uh, how I hate getting up early!). My third attempt to get to Kansas started with a flight to Frankfurt at 6 am. Unfortunately without my suitcase because it was going to arrive to Dusseldorf at 11 am. The connection in Frankfurt was OK except for the fact that I was picked for the extra security check. They tossed all things from my backback, coins from my wallet,… on the table. I had to undergo unpleasant body check etc. But I finally got on a flight over the Atlantic! We arrived to Chicago over one hour delayed which drove me crazy because I had only 45 minutes to get through the immigration, customs, to another terminal, through the security again. Normally, it would not be possible, but I finally got a bit lucky and everything was extraordinarily fast. I made it on time for the flight to Kansas City where Dennis Gilmore picked me up at 4.30 pm (thank you, Dennis!). I had to make a quick stop in Wall-mart to get myself underwear and socks because I’ve been missing my suitcase for 3 days already (it’s not a great experience to wear the same socks in closed winter boots for three days). I arrived to Lawrence just on time to get on the bus heading to FUDPub. I also got a hoodie from other guys who collected money to buy it for me (thank you, guys, it was a nice moment after all those troubles!). FUDPub was fun and it was nice to meet people I know from mailing lists, but never met in person before. Although I had been up for over 30 hours that day, I really enjoyed the night including the local band.
Sunday was my first day of FUDCon, but because it was the last day of the conference it was difficult to jump in. Some people were already leaving and most discussions and sessions had already started the day before. So I worked on some governance stuff and in the afternoon I had a session with Robyn Bergeron, Ruth Suehle, and John Rose. We touched stuff such as FY14 budgets, new reimbursement guidelines, FADs, credit card holders, changes in FUDCon etc. We made some things clear, but we should definitely continue in discussions at FOSDEM next week! By the time we finished the session, FUDCon was pretty much over and people were heading back to the hotel. That’s when my friend from my years in the USA came and we spent several hours in a Mexican restaurant catching up on our lives. I also bought a new suitcase to travel with back home because my old one still hadn’t arrived.
I almost missed the shuttle bus to the airport in Kansas City because my cell phone ran out of battery for some strange reason. Fortunately, I woke up by myself 20 minutes before it was leaving. I was really looking forward to much faster travel back home. But it all changed again. My flight to Washington D.C. was delayed by 3 hours and I asked for rebooking. They found me a new route through Chicago and London. The flight to Chicago was also delayed, but I was going to have a plenty of time in Chicago, so I didn’t care. I also met the French Fedora guys on that flight. The flight went OK, but then we started descending fast and the pressure was changing so quickly that I thought it’d break my ear-drums. All kids started screaming. The landing was quick and we stopped on the runaway. I noticed there were many firefighter’s cars along the runaway and when I saw firefighters running towards our plane I realized that all the interest is for us. The captain told us that we had an emergency situation and asked us to evacuate the plane quickly and calmly. It was like -15C outside and it was a bit chaotic because we were first directed to a firefighter’s car, then to a bus and then to another bus. Fortunately this accident didn’t cause any problems to my schedule. They drove us to the gate, I got an appreciation voucher and continued to my next flight to London which was surprisingly on time.
I had to wait for 6 hours for the next flight at London Heathrow. I tried to work on my laptop for a few hours. When I was about to go to the gate, I found out that my debit card was missing. Last time I saw it was when I bought the WiFi connection. I must have dropped it somewhere or someone took it when I put it on my belonging next to me when I was working. Anyway, it was gone. So I called my bank and blocked the card. But I didn’t know my credentials for telebanking, so they didn’t tell me if someone had withdrawn any money. The flight to Vienna was OK and pretty much on time. But when I arrived to baggage claim I found out that they’d lost even my new suitcase! I went to the lost&found counter to file a ticket and found out that the suitcase was in Washington. I also asked about my old suitcase because I hadn’t had any updates about it for several days. I was told that it arrived to Kansas City in the morning. Awesome, right on time! What was even more awesome was that because of the lost baggage ticket filing I missed the bus to Brno. So I had to wait for three more hours and arrived to Brno after midnight. Right after I arrived home, I checked my bank account and fortunately no strange charges.
So this was my trip to FUDCon in Lawrence. It involved 55 hours of total delay, 5 different airports in 4 countries, 7 flights, 3 different hotels, 2 lost bags, 1 emergency landing, 1 lost debit card, and countless lines and terrible meals at airports and on planes. But it also proved to me that I can count on my Fedora friends when I get in trouble and therefore one of our four foundations “Friends” is valid.