The Friendly Skies

Note the first nationality option when you fly Blue Air! I did this screen capture yesterday.

Note the first nationality option when you fly Blue Air! I did this screen capture yesterday.

I didn’t have the guts to check the box. Discretion in this case was the better part of valour, as you will see as you read this.

My wife, Vivian, is the world traveler. I’m the guy who likes to stay at home and sleep in the same bed every night. Usually when she wants to ramble through Europe for a month she takes one of the children and does all the planning.

Until this year, when she said it was my turn to go with her and to work out the logistics and find out how difficult planning such an excursion can be. I didn’t see a problem. How hard can it be to book a few trains and places to stay?

Vivian has been traveling in Europe her whole life. She has lived there. She has some of the train schedules memorized. She can find discount fares even the rail companies don’t know they offer. When I tried it I was lucky if I could get the websites to switch to English.

So I gave up on trains and switched to planes. I knew there were dozens of budget airlines in Europe offering cheap fares, though the only ones I knew by name were Ryanair, easyJet and Pegasus. I figured they had to be somewhat legitimate or they wouldn’t be allowed to operate.

First I had to find the airlines (thank you Google), then decide how to fit the flights available into our plans (or perhaps shift those plans). Budget airlines don’t always fly out of the most convenient airport, but the cost savings can offset that. For example, Beauvais bills itself as a Paris airport, though it is more than an hour north of that city. We got to fly from Bucharest to Dortmund, when we thought we were going to have to take a train to Dortmund from Dusseldorf – we didn’t know about Dortmund airport. Turns out it does and Hungarian carrier Wizz Air flies there from Bucharest, which worked out nicely for us.

Budget airlines do charge for everything – food, luggage, carry-ons, check-in – but the major airlines have started doing that also. There is a tendency to squeeze in as many passengers as possible, like sardines in a can, but I can put up with that for a short trip, and our longest flight, Beauvais to Bucharest, was just over three hours. With all the extras, the fares weren’t always as low as I had hoped, but usually were still cheaper than the train, not to mention that it was much faster.

Which brings us to the box I didn’t check. Somebody at Blue Air, the Romanian airline, has a sense of humour. Or maybe nobody examined the work of whoever designed their website. When you purchase your Blue Air ticket online you need to provide the usual information: name, address, nationality and which options you wish to purchase. For nationality the first option is Elbonian.

I so wanted to check that box, but this is an international travel document after all. I didn’t want to take the chance of not being allowed on the flight since I don’t actually have an Elbonian passport. No one does. Elbonia is not a real country. It was invented by Scott Adams for his Dilbert comic strip. I have wondered in the past if Elbonia was supposed to be Romania, and if that is the case it is not a very nice portrait.

In the past we have taken the train for all our European inter-city travel. Next time I think the train will be used only for those places we can’t fly to.

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