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26.12.11

We always travel with the expectation and the hope that everything will be all right and on time.  We worry not to miss a flight, not to lose our luggage, not to wait in stations and airports, not to run out of money.  Last year, Thibault as an Erasmus student in Krakow wanted to travel back to Belgium for Christmas holidays when, everything went completely wrong..

Thibault your story is completely crazy. You were supposed to be at home in Belgium from Krakow in a few hours. Instead of this, how many hours were you travelling?
The flight Krakow-Brussels South is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. But I was misfortunate to spend hours of waiting. The first day was okay, we waited for about 2 hours when they told us  our flight was cancelled and they had scheduled the flight for the next day at 9:00 in the morning. Early in that morning we went by train to the airport and arrived there at 7:00 because we were told to get there in time.

They didn’t leave us much to hope for it though, because as soon as we had arrived, the screen already displayed that the flight got cancelled. AGAIN. Ryanair didn’t schedule any flights, the next two days to Brussels-South, so I had to look for an alternative. I wasn’t alone, I  was with 3 other Belgians and we met a fourth one, also an Erasmus student whose name coincidentally also was Thibault. We talked about renting a car, but it was too expensive. A friend called that he was stuck in Warsaw and was going to go by train, but then I would have had to go to Warsaw first. So we booked a flight with a different company.

This flight was scheduled at 14:00. But it got delayed, not once, not twice but lots of times. This was due to the fact the airplane was still in Brussels and unable to fly out.After waiting so many hours did you finally get the flight? Or again something went wrong? At – I think- 19:00 we were told the flight wasn’t coming. The company offered us alternative flights. Mine was via Munich, the next day. I actually made it on this flight –with a delay of 2 hours- so I missed the connecting flight in Munich. I had two options: stay the night in Munich, alone, or gamble on a flight to Dusseldorf, this one left 15 minutes after I’d seen this possibility. I hitchhiked with a Belgian-Polish couple I had met. By car it took us 2 hours to Liege, and then along with my parents it was another 2 hour drive. It got home December 25th at 23:00. So all in all I spent 30 hours of travelling I guess.

What was the problem that caused all the delation?
The biggest problem were the weather circumstances in Belgium. It hadn’t snowed this much and long in over 40 years, so as a consequence not a single airport was prepared to keep the landing strips clean and the majority of flights got cancelled.  The one I missed in Munich had already taken off because it was on a strict schedule and the flight from Krakow I was on got there delayed.


Were you alone at the airport waiting all these hours?  How did you spend your time?
The first two days I wasn’t alone. I had my two Belgian roommates and a friend I knew from class before Erasmus. The first night we were still happy and smiling about it. The flying companies gave us free hotel stays and it was Stephanie’s birthday. So we bought a bottle of wine and celebrated it. But the day we spent 12 hours or more at the airport was horrible, even while you’re not alone, you get bored. The airport in Krakow is also pretty small, not much to do around there. We were talking,  and trying to keep one another optimistic and smiling. It was difficult for Stephanie, her family and friends had her birthday party planned out, but she missed it. So we tried to cheer her up. The flight via Munich I had to take by myself(the others took a flight via Frankfurt). That’s when I started talking with the Polish girl, she took the flight to Dusseldorf with me and her boyfriend came to pick her up and gave me a ride to Belgium.

At the end you met your family. How did you feel to see them and be safe again?
I was mainly relieved because the last day I had no more money on my phone and I could only receive calls in Belgium, not quite that helpful when you’re in Germany all of a sudden! When they came to pick me up in Liege my parents drove two hours one way to get me on Christmas day. The entire ride we were talking and then I got to my aunt and uncle’s house. They had saved me some leftovers from Christmas. But it was already late, so we didn’t stay up for too long. I never had a Christmas feeling during those days, but I think the main feeling I had was happiness to be finally at home, not in a hotel nor at an airport, knowing that the next day I wouldn’t have to decide anything & mom would make me dinner!

It was a different Christmas Eve! How would you describe it? Now, after a year do you feel bad to think about it or you laugh?
Looking back on it now, I can really smile about it. Especially when I think how I decided to go to Dusseldorf. The lady of the company told me: “You’ll have to decide right now, the airplane is leaving in fifteen minutes.” I was all alone and used my last text to message my dad: “I’ll be in Dusseldorf at 19:00 Plan A: by train, send me the hours to Belgium, Plan B: I’ll go by car with people I don’t know, call me at 21:00.” It was an example of living in the moment taking a decision and just knowing you’ll be alright anyway. Or at least hoping. Not to mention I have a cool story now, that I won’t forget that easily. Besides, it even got you interested enough to interview me about it!

Thank you Thibault, I really wish you only nice travelling from now on

4.S.P.