It’s your first time traveling alone without a friend or partner beside you. This time, you’re the pilot of decision-making. They all come down to you, while keeping tabs on all your belongs as to not lose or forget anything at the airport or on the Lufthansa flight.
As Covid-19 lingers in the air, Boston Logan International Airport remains slow of travelers. You enter through the Terminal E doors, and feel the warmer air… wait warmer air? Yes, you’re traveling mid-winter, and not only that, it’s the coldest day of the month with the outside temperature hovering below 0 degree Fahrenheit. The fridge air makes the temperature inside feel welcoming. Passing through the sliding doors, you look up and see international flags hung — covering the ceiling of the departure hall. All the countries that Boston serves — England, Germany, Qatar, UAE, Morocco, and the list continues.
You have one carry-on and a personal bag, so no luggage today. Since there are no machines for self-check-in available at the moment, you wait in the line with the soon-to-be fellow passengers. There are only three families in front of you — the perks of an empty flight & arriving two hours before scheduled departure. You stand in the line waiting anxiously. Even though you’ve traveled through Terminal E—the international terminal—many times before, your eyes search as your fingers play among themselves. Traveling alone feels foreign in your system.
Terminal E contains almost one hundred check-in counters. They all serve international flights and each counter for a specific airline. Counters 40-45 are designated for Lufthansa flights. The large departure hall has two sections — left side has counters 51-100 and on the right side has the first fifty counters.
At the check-in counter, you hand your passport and Covid-19 vaccination card (welcome to 2022). You took a PCR test just in case, but the country you’re visiting doesn’t require it for travelers who have a vaccination card. The Lufthansa flight person presses a few buttons on his keyboard, gazes at your passport a few times, cross-checks the vaccination card with your passport and then, Ta-Da, the tickets come out from a machine.
“Your Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt will start boarding at 3PM through gate E10,” he says in a deep voice, handing you the passport with a ticket and your vaccination card inside.
You leave counter 41 and reach the center of the departure hall — where all passengers enter through security. You walk towards it, keeping your passport and ticket in hand. The vaccination card is no longer needed, so you tuck that inside your jacket pocket.
The security screening, usually packed with travelers—especially in the evenings and during summer—has no one waiting in the snake-like paths. It’s quite dead and feels unusual. Though no complaints here — you’d rather get through quick than risk missing your flight. You could only image it happens to many people in the summer when the security has a never-ending line of passengers.
You hand the security guard your passport, and she asks you to lower your mask; she looks at you, then your passport, then you, then your passport. She closes the passport and hands it back to you, gesturing deeper inside security screening area.
You’ve gone in many times through security at Boston Logan Airport. You know the deal without a reminder. Take off your belt, pull out the laptop, place it in a separate bin, check your pockets for anything, then wait for the security personnel to motion you through. Everything passes through smoothly, and you’re now inside. Gate E10, you remember the Lufthansa staff person said. You raise your head and search for the gate. On a small rectangular board, it says: Gates E8-E13 (with a left arrow below).
You turn left and walk toward gate E10. It’s quite empty. You don’t see anyone walking except a person who collects trash and an employee of a restaurant. You think how it could be so empty, then everything beings piecing together. Covid-19 could have been the culprit, but you believe he is only an accomplice. The real culprit is the timing. You’re at terminal E, which is usually packed with international travelers, but the timing is off. Every time you’ve been to Terminal E, it was in the evening or late-evening, the time many international flights take off from Boston.
This time you’re flying with Lufthansa and their flight is at 3PM — an unusual time for a flight heading to Europe. All European and Middle Eastern flights take off in the evening as to take advantage of the night hours. All this comes to mind as you made your way to Gate E10. Now it all makes sense, Terminal E feels dead because the beating heart of the terminal—the passengers—haven’t arrived for their evening to late-evening flights.
You find yourself seated at the gate by 2PM, 45 minutes before boarding time. Few people were heading to Frankfurt that afternoon, so you hope the seat next to you remains empty. The Lufthansa flight waits outside for its passengers.
Boarded on the plane, your hope becomes a reality. Not only is no one sitting next to you, but the entire row — row 21 — is empty. You place your carryon on the cover above, and place your personal bag, packed with your electronics, on the seat beside you. You click the seatbelt on the small backpack for laughs, but you know once the plane moves, the flight attendant will ask for it to be stored under the seat.
Once you’re boarded, there are no delays and Lufthansa plane pushes back from the gate on time. More good news comes from the captain. He gets on the speaker and speaks in German fluently and then with an accented English. “Due to the help of tail winds tonight, we’re expected to arrive in Frankfurt earlier than expected. But due to a curfew in Germany, we don’t want to arrive too early. Our scheduled arrival time is 4:45 AM.” (This is why European flights take off in the evening, so that they don’t arrive before the sunrise.)
Now it’s time to watch the flight maneuver through the runways until it reaches its take-off runaway. The sunset hides behind Boston’s Skyline, but you know as the plane lifts, you’ll have the incredible view of the early winter sunset. The engines become louder as the pilot increases the thrust. You’re pushed back against your seat, but your eyes remain on the sunset. The plane lifts its nose, followed by its back legs. The Lufthansa plane races the sunset, until it changes course, leaving the sunset behind, and heading for the darkness currently within the Atlantic Ocean.
The plane reaches its cruising altitude about 30 minutes into the flight, and it’s time for you to dive into a movie. Halfway through the first movie, you’re served dinner. A really low quality dinner, compared to the other European airlines you’ve been on. Every economy passenger gets the same dinner, without giving a choice. The bread is hard, and as you slice it, crumbs fall.
After a disappointing dinner, you return your attention to the movie and they turn off the airplane lights—giving the passengers a chance to close their eyes. As it has only been two hours since departure, and local time is 5PM, sleep is far from reaching your body. You try your utmost best to close your eyes, hoping that sleep would pay you a visit early, but it remains far away.
By the end of the second movie, you try changing things, and you put on a television show. You find a liking to the show—Young Sheldon. It’s a sitcom; two episodes through it, the flight attendants turn the lights on — waking up the few passengers who went to sleep. It’s about 10PM in Boston, so fatigue slithers into your body. The breakfast is a disappointment but not as much as dinner. A flight attendant hands you a small box with some fruits and a blueberry muffin.
Now that the airplane descends into Frankfurt, you look out your window and see lights covering the darkness of the night sky. The sun that descended in Boston still has an hour or so before it rises above this part of the world. You arrive in Frankfurt for the third time of your life, and you exit the plane with wishful thoughts of a bed and a pillow.
Discovering your new favorite show—Young Sheldon—became the highlight of your flight. It made the entire experience of the flight bearable. The meals were not up to the standards of Lufthansa—the Lufthansa you knew from years ago. The biggest disappointment was the timing of the flight, making it hard to sleep.