This is the first post in a three part trip report of my big move to Doha, Qatar. If you’re new to trip reports you may find these boring as I did at first, but now I quite enjoy them. In other words, I’m going to keep writing them, so get used to it. If you find yourself falling asleep reading them, just scroll through them really fast to look at the pretty pictures.
24 Hours in Transit: Part 1 – Adios Snow (MCI-CLT)
24 Hours in Transit: Part 2 – Crossing the Pond in Envoy Class (CLT-FRA)
24 Hours in Transit: Part 3 – World’s 5-Star Airline (FRA-DOH)
Let me preface what I’m about to say by telling you that I love to fly. Sure, everyone loves to travel, but for most people the flying part of traveling is just a means to an end. I would guess for most people the actual flight experience is either a somewhat neutral experience or a small pain they’re willing to put up with in order to visit some new and exotic location. But there are those people who downright hate flying. They hate packing their liquids in 3 ounce containers, being asked to remove their belt and shoes just to get on a plane, being subjected to pat downs or nudoscope scans, their ears popping during takeoffs and landings, or the fact that it’s such a long process just to get on a plane these days.
Not this guy. All those things combined is such a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the magic that is hopping on a metal tube and blasting through the air at 600 mph. Traveling halfway across the world in hours when it used to take months is nothing short of amazing. It really is pure magic to me, and I typically enjoy every minute of it (ok, well maybe not the TSA part). From people watching in the airport to feeling the G’s pulling me back in my seat as I take off I find it to be an incredible experience no matter how often I do it.
All that being said, after spending 24 hours in airports and on airplanes, I thought, man am I glad I’m not doing that again anytime soon. I think what did me in was the 5 hour layover in Frankfurt. Not enough time to leave the airport, but a bit too much time in the airport, even with lounge access. [Full disclosure: That’s how I felt immediately upon arriving. Now that it’s been a few weeks I’m getting a bit antsy to hop back on a plane.]
Well, enough trying to convince you that long flights aren’t worth the trip, because they most certainly are (especially if you’re planning to come visit us – we’re totally worth it).
Dawn took the day off to take me to the airport and see me off. I was flying MCI-CLT-FRA-DOH (Kansas City to Charlotte to Frankfurt to Doha) and the first flight was scheduled to leave at 3:35 PM KC time. We left a little after noon, and grabbed Jimmy John’s on the way. I had Chipotle the night before as my last supper in the States, and Jimmy John’s is another favorite of mine so it was good to enjoy that before hopping on a plane to a place with who knows what kind of fast food options.
Checking in took a while as the service agent was concerned that I had no visa for Qatar (you buy it when you get there) or a return ticket from DOH. She had to look something up, and make a call to confirm that all was good. She didn’t want me to not be let on the plane in CLT or be immediately put on a plane back to the States once I hit DOH. I’m all for her doing her job and checking into things, but I wasn’t concerned there would be any issues. Granted, I just assumed my company had informed me correctly that I’d just buy a 30 day visa once I arrived, and there’d be no problems. I didn’t spend any time checking up on those types of requirements. That’s typically how I roll, and there’s a good chance it’ll come back to bite me eventually. At least I’ll have a story though. And that’s what life is all about, right? The stories?
After she finished doing her due diligence and found out I’d be fine without a visa or a return ticket, we proceeded with the checking in. As much as I like to preach the no checked baggage rule I let myself off the hook since I was moving for 1-2 years. To reduce what we’re shipping over, I tried to pack as much in my luggage as possible. Airlines vary on their rules a little depending on where you’re flying and what class you’re flying in. As I was flying transatlantic business class with US Airways I was allowed 2 checked bags with up to 70 lbs each (the economy limit is 1 bag at 50 lbs – with no fees). One of my bags was around the 50 lb mark. The scale read the 2nd bag as 70 lbs, but I’m pretty sure it was a few pounds over the limit. I’m pretty convinced I brought way too many clothes, but my wife decided that I wasn’t allowed to wear the same two pairs of jeans and 10 shirts for two years straight. After being here for a month, I think my 10 shirts would have been just fine.
As my bags were checked, it was time to play the waiting game. While living in Orlando, I had arriving at the airport at just the right time down to an art form. I knew exactly how long it took for me to get from my office to the place I parked my car, how long the the shuttle ride to the airport was, and how to speed through security by using the old Clear security line (it was sort of hidden) that had become the expert flyer line. As I was typically flying out on a Friday after lunch I always worked in enough time to grab my standard airport dinner from McDonald’s. It was a routine that I had perfected and quite enjoyed. After moving to Kansas City I found myself getting to the airport way earlier than necessary. I had moved to a city with an airport that serves about 10 million passengers a year from one that serves about 35 million, and I’m getting there twice as early. Not to mention that every 10 gates or so in Kansas City has their own dedicated security line. It makes absolutely no sense, yet I continued to do it time and time again.
So, with time to spare before the flight, I set about knocking off tasks from my ever growing ‘Before I Move To Do List’. I still don’t think I’ve completed everything on that list, and I’ve already been here a month. That’s about how my to-do lists go. Eventually it was time to head to the gate, and get on the plane.
It was the end of March, yet there was still snow on the ground. I think it was God’s little going away present. “Hey, you’re headed to a place with no precipitation of any kind and the kind of heat where it’s illegal to make people work outside from 12-3 in the summer, so I’ll go ahead and dump about 24″ of snow on you a few weeks before you leave, and then give you a little more of it just before you leave the country.” Well, I was glad to be leaving all that mess behind. If I can’t ski on it, I don’t want to see it. I won’t have to worry about that for a while at least.
The flight to Charlotte was in domestic first class on an Airbus A320. I believe some of those US Airways flights to CLT during the day are served by regional jets , so I was happy to be on a bit bigger plane for the 2 hr flight. I had a coupon for a free 24 hr pass of in flight internet that I received from my Milepoint premium membership. It was only a 2 hr flight, and US Airways doesn’t have wifi available on international yet, so it wasn’t the best use of a 24 hr pass. But if I didn’t use it on that flight then I figured it’d probably expire before I did have the chance to use it. I killed the time reading blogs and taking advantage of the snacks they offered the first class passengers. I really should learn to bring my own snacks when flying economy. It really does make the flight better. Food makes everything better. After a fairly uneventful two hour flight I was in Charlotte.