It is Saturday March 2nd. Today is the flight to Sydney. I spent the night at my parents home, my dad is supposed to bring me to the airport. We get up at about 3am. I take a quick shower and we start close to 4am to the airport. We don’t have breakfast. My dad and I want to have it at the airport and he want’s to take some time to have a look at the new building there. The flight plan is: Vienna to Dusseldorf by Air Berlin then to Abu Dhabi and Sydney by Etihad Airways. Planned departure is at 6:25am.
I’m at the check-in counter. The whole procedure is taking longer than expected. The Air Berlin employee is typing on the keyboard and she is looking concentrated into the monitor. Suddenly she asks: “Do you have a visa?” . . . . Silence. I:”What?”
She: “I have problems to check you in for Sydney. Did you apply for an ETA visa?”
I: “I need a visa for Australia?”
She: “Yes, … … … But you can apply for it online.”
Ok, no problem. I have got my laptop with me and there is free WLAN at the airport. I leave the check-in counter with my whole luggage and tell my dad the situation. I start to search in the Internet for “ETA visa Australia”. The homepage is found very quick. I click “Apply online”, entered Name, Address, Birthdate. Choose Country. So what? There are only a few countries to choose from. Can’t be. So I read again.
You can apply for online visa, if you are from following countries.
Austria is not in the list. Reading on. If you are from one of the following countries you can get a visa from an travel agency, an other agent or from the embassy in your country. I started getting nervous.
Ok, I go to the Air Berlin counter and tell them my problem. Time is running. Then they say: “Sorry, we can’t do anything. The flights are bound. But Air Berlin is only responsible for the flight to Dusseldorf. But without a visa we can’t check you in.
I asked them, when the next flight will go. March 6. Meanwhile I check a flight-searchengine if there are any flights the next day. I too call the Australian embassy in Austria. Can’t be wrong. Maybe someone is already in the office at 5am. Someone is picking up the phone immediately. Just joking, there is a tape running. Office hours are from Monday to Friday from 8 until sometime.
I said to my dad: “I don’t think I’m going to Sydney today”. Thanks do my dad, he came up with the idea: “Try it again. Maybe you can get to Dusseldorf. There you have three hours stopover. You can try it again there. If not, you have to come home anyway.”
Back to the Air Berlin counter. The employee does the best to find a solution. He can’t do anything, but maybe the employees from the airport flight service on the left. They greet me with the words: “Are you Mr. Bauer?” Looks like my problem made the round.
A very big thank to the employees from the airport flight service and the person from Air Berlin. For about an hour the did their best and tried a lot of possibilities do split the flights. Finally they succeeded.
It’s 6:05am. Check-In officially closed at 5:55am. I move over to the check-in counter. The woman there is informed. She tells me, that my luggage is going with the next flight. If I succeed to get a visa in Dusseldorf the luggage is checked through. If not, I have to pick it up from the lost and found counter. But If I take out all liquids, I can take the luggage in the cabin. Ok, all liquids out, shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, … you can get that in Australia as well. I too have to leave a bottle of Snaps at home. I wanted to take it with me. I got it from my grandma for birthday.
The boarding pass was issued. At 6:20am, 5 minutes before take-off, I’m in the plane.
From the speaker you can hear: “Boarding completed … ready for take-off … here is your captain speaking … there is a lot of traffic, we will start in 25 minutes.” I thought: They can’t do that to me. Every minute counts.
At about 8:30 I’m in Dusseldorf. Passport control, there are a lot of people. I’m still in the transit area and have to get out to the departure area. Another passport control. The security person asked me: “Where are you coming from, with the whole luggage?” I told him the situation and ask him how I can get to the departure area quick. There, I needed to orientate. At the information counter, I ask, if there is a Etihad counter somewhere. “Yes, down there, on the left.”
It’s 9am. Planned departure is 11am. At the Etihad counter I tell again my problem. They say: “No problem at all. Within a few minutes you will have your visa.” I calmed down. But when they said: “It looked different in the training”, I thought: That can’t be true. Am I on “Hidden camera”. I just waited that a lot of people jumped out from everywhere, screaming “We got you!”. After half an hour the visa was issued and I was able to check in.
I could have used a sip of the Snaps I had to leave behind in Vienna. So, there was only the security check between me and the flight. I put my stuff on the conveyor belt and walked through the security control. At the other side I waited for my bags. One of them was separated. I just thought: WTF? The security person said: “Good day. Is that your bag? Yes? Could you take it over there please. We do a check for explosives.” Oh yes, off course will we do that. I’m already prepared for everything.
Hard to believe, but I found myself sitting in the plane. I got a not that bad seat where I hat some place. And one of the toilet had a window – a great new view.
Thank you for reading, Jürgen.