Frankfurt Airport – The German Experience

FrankfurtAirport

It seems the most difficult Schengen Visa to get is from the German one, all the others were more routine and less difficult with the paper work. I can understand if they wanted to clarify paperwork, but they out right refuse any bookings from a local travel agency, the whole process was annoying and if you just want to make a one or two week stop they just give you a one month or two month visa. Previously they used to give 3 to 5 year visas without an issue. If you get it from Italy or Spain they still do that and 3 years from the French Embassy and the French used to take the longest. At least the British have a normal two week process or a 45 KD VIP process which takes 3 to 5 days.

I have my Visa and took off with a one day trip to Frankfurt and the rest of the week in Amsterdam. Unluckily for us there were probably two planes that landed from China because the lines were insanely long and these people do not know how to que. A new line opened up which one lady went to who wasn’t European and so I tried my luck and so did a friend. The lady immigrations officer was thinking of letting us pass on the European line since there were no Europeans but the guy next to her told her to send him back and he sent me back to the insanely long line. We understand rules but there was no one there and the lines for Europe remained empty.

We got back in line and waited, the Chinese were getting stamped without any questions and I would say at least 80% of them didn’t speak a word of English. They didn’t even bother looking at their paper work. We thought at least the line will move quickly.

When it came to our turn, instead of taking 2 mins it took 20 mins. The guy wanted my confirmation booking in Frankfurt and in Amsterdam, and he wanted to see my ticket back to Kuwait. I told him I have the printed booking from Lufthansa that I already gave to him and my confirmations are on my phone. He looked at my phone and then shrugged, he asked me why I didn’t have a ticket with me, I told him no airline issues a ticket one week before the flight. He went through my passport twice and kept typing on the computer, I was done to his annoyance and my friend was still going through questioning. The Chinese guy behind me walked out 30 seconds after me.

That was a very strange experience, and I’m surprised that Germany is turning into this, since when I spoke to people about it they told me it isn’t an isolated incident.

Now as for when we were leaving my cousin wanted to do the tax refund as he had one item from Frankfurt and one item from Amsterdam. In Amsterdam the Customs people told us he would have to exit the European Union to get the customs stamp so in his case he would get it done in Germany. When we went to Germany they stamped all the things of the Chinese guy in line in front of us without asking a question or asking to see the items.

When my cousin step up he just had to invoices with the details filled out but he refuse to stamp the one from Amsterdam and we explained to him what we were told and he simply said it wasn’t his problem. Then he refused to stamp the other invoice and said he would get it done after immigrations, but then when we went inside they told us it was only Jewelery at the inside customs not a Tumi bag.

This was the strangest experience I have had at Frankfurt Airport, it seems they are getting a bit aggressive with arabs from what I can tell. In Frankfurt itself it was easy and an enjoyable trip for me even though I was just there for 24 hrs but this treatment at the airport was not expected.

In-Flight Wifi on Lufthansa Flights

LufthansaWiFi

This turned out to be a surprising feature on Lufthansa, In-Flight wifi that was useable, something I wasn’t expecting. I just flew back form the the US and on the flight back I was supposed to sleep to try to get my sleep in order, but that didn’t work out as I planned.

When I connected to the wireless I had a few emails to shoot and then I was done, I thought the connection was going to be mediocre at best because of previous in-flight wifi experience. I was wrong, to my surprise the connection was good, I was getting speeds from 3 to 5 MB which made surfing decent, I went through all my emails, and started going through my RSS Feeds on Google Reader. Even youtube streaming was working fine to my surprise, not lightning fast but pretty decent.

Pricing:

  • HotSpot Pass Sky 1 hour: €10.95 or 3,500 miles
  • HotSpot Pass Sky 24 hours: €19.95 or 7,000 miles

I went with the 24 hour option because that worked out perfectly for use on my flight back to Kuwait as well.

After using it for a while, I was very impressed, surfing was pretty good and some high bandwidth websites were operating fine. But don’t expect downloads to do much, overall I think Lufthansa did a fantastic job with the system they have setup. But from their website I understood coverage only works over the Atlantic, US, Europe and Middle East but not all the other regions yet. Also it isn’t on every plane, some planes have it and some don’t.

Schengen Visa – Getting Difficult

Schengenzone

I just renewed my passport last year and I still had a valid US Visa for a few more years but my Schengen ran out, and my UK Visa ran out with my passport. The UK visa was straight forward, I submit the required documents and since I scanned the finger prints five years ago I don’t need to do it again.

I’m traveling and going through Germany so I submitted to get the Visa from the German Embassy with my original bookings at the time. I went to Al Qabas Visa processing in Sanabil Tower or Al Babtain Tower as it used to be remembered. Went through the process, it was smooth, they asked for my insurance, and the preliminary bookings. It was several weeks before my travel date which worked out fine.

I get notified after a week that my Schengen Visa was refused because I didn’t have a confirmed hotel booking and for 10 days I don’t have a hotel booking in Germany. I mentioned that Germany was not my end destination and they didn’t even pay attention to that. I was confused and pissed, there is even a stamp on my passport stating that my passport was reject by the German Embassy, on a new passport so that pissed me off.

I go back to them this time with the bookings stating that Germany is not my final destination, and the visa for the final destination is attached from when I originally submitted and if there were questions why didn’t anyone ask me, my cell phone number is on the form. The person at the counter didn’t type that up so they thought I was going to stay in Germany for 10 days without a hotel booking. Great, back to square one but this time instead of 5 days it took 3 days, and I got it after the weekend.

The surprising part was the Visa, the validity of it starts at the date of travel not when it is issued, usually the validity starts when the Visa is issued. And I only got 4 months when my previous one was three years, something is odd, but I will take it for now since I’m traveling soon. Still it was very odd that they are doing this and its not like I have had multiple Schengens before. so its surprising that they gave me such a short Visa validity. It seems they are getting more Anal or they want people to pay more for the Visas, I’m not sure what changed but its very annoying.

Lufthansa Strikes

Over the past couple of days I had to return due to an emergency and my return ticket was through Lufthansa. When I came to make the booking, they found me a seat, but within 15 minutes I get a call notifying me that both flights out of San Francisco were canceled. It was due to the strikes taking place in Frankfurt, this is the first time that I have seen Lufthansa strike, I would expect from the British, Italian, and French but not the Germans. Never thought Lufthansa would strike and such bad timing. It was supposed to be a four day strike but took a little longer then expected, it seems they need to clean house or do something to solve this. I had to take another route to get back home to Kuwait, and it seems I was lucky to even get a seat since flights to Kuwait are pretty much booked up.