Despite being unable to join in on the soviet adventure, I was not relieved from my post as booking agent, perhaps because it was the greatest logistical challenge we’d ever faced: getting five people from three cities all to Moscow. Mom, Dad and Tim were coming from Chicago, Morgan from school in South Carolina, and Kevin from Prague. There were so many schedules to book around I questioned whether it was worth it to even attempt. Gone are the days when we all lived under the same roof and roadtripped to Michigan. I longed for them.
I also longed for a private jet. Booking flights for this trip deprived me of countless hours of sleep. These combinations left even Orbitz and Travelocity puzzled. I started with the flight I’d hoped would be the easiest to book–Chicago to Moscow. I found a Lufthansa option with a layover in Dusseldorf, Germany. The only problem was it allowed for just a 30-minute layover, which even for the efficient and orderly Germans was a stretch to make. I envisioned the always-sluggish Tim trying to keep with the speedy Laur and Paul running to make their connection. My imagination enjoyed the idea so much that I booked it. Besides, it wasn’t me that would be frenetically scrambling through Dusseldorf airport.
To make it all the more confusing, Moscow has three airports equidistant from the city center. My mom, dad and Tim were flying into Vnukovo, an airport 45 minutes southwest. I wanted to book Morgan there as well, as she was the one I was more worried about.
It takes no statistical research to confirm that she was the only person that year in need of a flight from South Carolina to Moscow. I wanted to make things easy for her, but being in South Carolina hurts. South Carolinians still acknowledge the Confederacy, and I assume the same goes for the Soviet Union. In fact, I’m pretty sure southerners use the terms yankees and commies interchangeably.
I hoped Morgan was prepared to layover twice and endure more than 16 hours of travel time. I looked at every possible option–flying from Raleigh, Charlotte or even taking a bus to Atlanta. After hours of searching online and trying every imaginable combination of cities in the U.S. and Europe until 4 am. for several nights on end, I booked the most convenient of inconvenient flights. Morgan would have to take a 2-hour shuttle from Columbia, South Carolina to fly out of Charlotte, North Carolina, connect in Munich and then fly to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. It was a different Moscow airport than where my parents were flying, but its somewhat sketch website dubs itself as “most favorite airport in Russia,” so I figured it was okay. This would certainly hold true for our compatriot Edward Snowden, who was holed up there for several days “Livin’ The Dream at Sheremetyevo International Airport.” To cap it all off, Morgan was flying Aeroflot, an airline I’d never heard of. Upon Googling I learned it is the largest aircraft carrier in Russia, and it is majority-owned by the Russian government (read; Vlad Putin). Perf.
Kevin searched for flights himself, and we Gchatted about a flight he found to Moscow via Stockholm he’d sent to me. The subject title of the email was : Would this be a ridiculous option?
I opened it expecting a $3,000 business class flight with 5 a.m. departure and connection in Dubai. Needless to say I was relieved that the ridiculousness was attributed to a simple 25-hour layover in Stockholm for $300. A little expensive considering most one-way flights in Europe can often be purchased for less than $100, but to reiterate, Moscow isn’t really Europe.
8:11 AM Amanda: Russia is way further than we all thought, so if $300 something is the going rate then thats the going rate and there’s clearly nothing we can do about.dad said you could look into trains but the online forums say its not good
8:17 AM Kevin: it would be a really long train ride. prague to hungary is almost 600 km and it was 9 hours. prague to moscow is 2000 km
8:17 AM Amanda: HELL to the NO
8:18 AM Kevin: true. i guess i can ask him about the stockholm option
8:18 AM Amanda: would you just get a hostel or go back to the airport you think? prob a hostel since you dont have to be at the airport til like 10a i guess —or just stay somewhere in a hotel near the airport too. honestly dad prob doesnt care
8:20 AM Kevin: hostel probably. there like 15 dollars a night. i can afford that
8:20 AM Amanda: dude once that trip commences it becomes dad’s expense!
8:20 AM Kevin: i could always split the difference. it would be worth it for a day almost 24 hours in sweden
8:21 AM Amanda: I agree! PLUS you dont have that much flexibility because you have to get in around when they all get in, so its hard to be cheap when you are going around everyone elses schedules
Go figure the person closest to Moscow ends up laying over 25 hours. We booked it anyway and I forwarded it to my dad. “Sounds great!” was his only response to my email. Considering his layover was only 30 minutes in Dusseldorf, I am sure Dad was a bit jealous of Kevin’s 25-hour layover.
The next step was to book a flight from Moscow to Prague. Allow me to reiterate our options:
A) a seven hour layover in Warsaw, Poland
B) a four hour layover in Helsinki, Finland
C) an eight hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey (requires a 6:30 am departure from Moscow, arriving Prague 5:45pm)
No one wanted to go to Poland, and inevitably leaving the airport in Helsinki for only 4 hours to “tour” could prove very dangerous in terms of missing our connection. Apparently those were reasons enough to “play it safe” and select the flight that is the furthest away from both Prague and Moscow. It also had the longest layover and the earliest wake-up call. Flying from Moscow to Istanbul takes 2 hours and 41 minutes and blows past Prague. In the amount of time it was taking us to fly from Moscow to Istanbul to Prague, regular people could have flown directly to Prague to Moscow 7 times. Time is money they say, and we were surely sacrificing time for the latter.
With that, the flights were finally booked. Like a hopeless lover, my dad never gives up on the chance that Tim will someday respond to one of his emails:
On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 12:35 PM, Paul Anderson wrote:
I know you’re always curious about which airlines you’ll be flying (and I’m very impressed with that).
So here is the quick summary by flight (same as Mom and I):
Lufthansa, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, United
Morgan: Lufthansa, Aeroflot, Turkish, Turkish, Lufthansa, United
Kevin: SAS, Aeroflot, Turkish, Turkish
My dad, ever the optimist and ignorer of pressing issues, failed to mention that just one day before departures three people did not have Russian visas. Pretty soon some of us would be Snowdening: stuck in a Russia and unable to leave the airport.