Friday, February 8, started clear and cool. I was glad it was cool since I was wearing a winter coat for Helsinki and did not want to wear it at the Austin airport while it was 84 degrees.

I got to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, checked in, got my boarding passes, and went to the Admirals Club. The Austin AC was selected as the best Admiral’s Club in 2007. The secret is not the location or the services it offers, its hidden secret is the great staff, they are extremely helpful.

I had a smooth flight to Dallas, arriving on time in Terminal A. I took the SkyLink to Terminal D. Terminal D is the newest terminal at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and is my favorite because it does not look like a standard airline terminal. It has a lot of open space and is much less crowded than the rest of DFW, with a lot of natural light; it’s a a beautiful terminal.

I went to the Admirals Club and met with three other people from Flyer Talk who were doing mileage runs. They were all going to Germany, taking advantage of the low fare to Frankfurt.

The lounge in the Terminal D Admirals club at DFW.
The view from the lounge in the Terminal D Admirals club at DFW.

After a beverage or two, we headed to the gate for American Airlines flight 70, non-stop from DFW to Frankfurt. We were on a Boeing 777 (or “triple seven” as it is known). I’ve always enjoyed this plane because each coach seat has its own television screen with 12 separate entertainment channels. I would have taken advantage of this except for the fact that I fell asleep right after the meal.

Nine hours after we left Dallas we arrived in Frankfurt. Our first destination was the Admiral’s Club. It is located outside of the security area at this airport, so we had to clear customs to get there. My discussion with the customs agent was very quick.

“How long will you be in Germany?

“Three hours, I am flying to Helsinki in a few hours.”

“How long will you be in Finland?”

“Until tomorrow morning.” At that point he let me through without even stamping my passport.

We went to the AC: it’s smaller than most of the clubs in the USA, but also seemed a more luxurious with very nice wood paneling. Also, it offered complimentary alcoholic beverages. All overseas ACs offer this, no clubs in the USA do so.

The lounge and food offerings at the Frankfurt Admirals Club.

I took advantage of the time to shower and shave at the AC, and change into fresh clothes. After a quick meal, I said good-bye to my Flyer Talk friends and headed over to the other terminal for my flight to Helsinki.

Three mileage runners from Flyer Talk, at the Frankfurt Admirals Club: OC Joe, Mr. Bob, and tenomoc.

I took a train, very similar to the SkyLink at DFW, to the other terminal. Clearing security was quick and easy. I got to the gate, but did not see an airplane. In fact, I didn’t even see a ramp for getting to a plane.

The train at the Frankfurt airport, reflected in one of the terminal buildings.
The terminal-terminal train at the Frankfurt airport, reflected in one of the terminal buildings.

When they announced it was time to board the flight and we still had no airplane, I started to get concerned. But I soon found the reason: this wasn’t a real gate, it was a bus stop! We left the terminal and got on a bus to the other side of the airport where our plane, a Finnair Airbus A-319, was waiting for us. A quick trip up the steps to the plane and I took my seat.

Ukraine International airplane at Frankfurt
For me, one of the more interesting things about overseas airports is the chance to see airlines that I would never see at home. Ukraine International is one of them.
Boarding the Helsinki flight at Frankfurt
Boarding the Helsinki flight at Frankfurt

It was a 3-hour flight to Helsinki. Finnair has a television camera in the nose of the plane and shows the take-off from that view, I wish more American airlines did this! The only other time I have seen this was on Japan Air Lines.

Shortly after take-off they served a meal, something we normally don’t see on flights in the USA. They served meatballs in gravy with mashed potatoes and broccoli. It reminded me of the type of meal we used to see on almost all flights in the USA meals that are now nothing more than fond memories.

After the meal I fell asleep and stayed asleep until the flight attendant woke me to prepare for our landing at Helsinki’s Vantaa International Airport. I looked out the window as the plane descended into the clouds and stayed in them. This was a pure instrument landing, I did not see the ground until two seconds before we touched down!

The plane parked at the far end of the airport where we boarded a bus to the terminal. It was cold as we walked to the bus, but not below freezing.

Arrival at Helsinki
A grey dreary sky greeted us as we arrived at Helsinki Vantaa airport, and made our way to the bus to the terminal.

I got to the terminal and had to clear customs. I saw a sign for “Non-EU Citizens” and went through that door. There were two more doors, one labeled “Something to declare,” the other “Nothing to declare.” I went through the latter and passed right into the terminal. No customs official spoke to me, and again, my passport was not stamped.

Vantaa airport offers a service that used to be very common at American airports, but is no longer permitted: they will store your bags for you. I visited the customer service desk and left my roller-bag with them: they would hold it for five Euros per day. Not a bad deal, certainly worth paying so that I would not have to drag the bag around town with me.

I took the Finnair bus to downtown Helsinki. Payment was easy, they accepted cash and credit cards. This is a great buy, 5.2 Euros for the 30-minute ride into town. A half hour later I got off the bus across the street from the Helsinki railroad station in the middle of downtown. The great experience had begun!