Day 33 – Man was not meant to fly

19 Oct

Holy crap! What a day – I don’t even know where to begin. So I’m collecting a friend at the airport. Her flight does not land until 22:50 so I have lots of time after school to complete the following tasks (in no particular order)

  1. Figure out the procedure for collecting my rents from the airport – they are coming to visit in two weeks
  2. Get some info for operation WHISKEY CHARLIE, specifically the procedure for purchasing, packing, and checking a second piece of over-sized luggage – costs, location in the airport, how to pay, VAT refund – stuff like that
  3. Check out the merchandise at this super-massive renovation store called Praktiker – it’s located right near the airport

So nice!

To and From Berlin Tegel (TLX)

This was surprisingly fast.

  • 04 min – walk from German school to Hackescher Markt Station
  • 04 min – S-bahn to Friedrichstraße station
  • 05 min – Switch to the U6 Subway line
  • 10 min – U6 Subway to Karl-Schumacher Platz
  • 10 min – Wait for bus
  • 10 min – Bus 125 Tegel to TLX

Visit to the Praktiker

This place is huge – think the biggest Home Depot you’ve ever been to and then double it. I’m kicking myself cause I only have 90 minutes before it closes. I go in past the aquariums and head upstairs to the bathroom section. Here is what I find:

  • 254 euros for a complete toilet kit – this is not bad
  • the toilet is small enough to be checked as regular baggage (38 x 42 x 55 cm)
  • the cistern is too big and will have to be shipped as “bulky baggage” (18 x 52 x 117 cm)
  • both items are below the 23 kg weight restriction
  • they don’t have the low-frame cistern as a regular item – special order: 359 euros. Ouch.
  • a plain, un-boxed toilet bowl is about 30 euros
  • the cistern on its own is 160 euros
  • packing materials to prevent shipping damage will cost about 20 euros
    – 12 sheets of Styrofoam 20 mm (50 cm x 100 cm) 8 euros
    – duct tape 9 euros
    – knife to cut the Styrofoam 3 euros
  • to get the VAT refund one simply has to fill out a form (below) and get the receipt stamped.

  • the VAT refund one gets at the airport is only about 11% (see the chart below)
  • to get the full 19% the purchaser has to return to the exact same store within three months with the store receipt, passport, and processed VAT claim – lame

Logistics – getting to the airport with a two-piece toilet.

The exit from the Praktiker is less than 100 m from the bus station that goes to the airport. The bus itself is set up for people with lots of luggage. There’s a wide open space for baggage and strollers.

Note: it is unknown at this time if all the buses on this route have this configuration. Right now I’m thinking it would be possible to take a cistern and toilet (properly packed) on the bus. I should check the bus company’s website to see if the can refuse service for too much baggage. If one of the clerks can help me take the stuff to the bus stop, I should be able to load and unload the gear and just grab a trolly at the airport. Man I hope it does not snow.

I also have to package everything so it doesn’t get damaged in transit. I ask the lady at the service desk if I could purchase it the day before and wrap it up so on travel day I’m just picking it up and going. This is two days before Christmas – gonna be an adventure. She says it shouldn’t be a problem.

In addition, I have to make sure that they actually have this stuff in stock. If I get there on the 21st and they’re backordered, this will all have been for not. And finally I need to make sure that all the parts are there. The box for the one remaining cistern from Mr. Clever had been opened and resealed. I’d hate to get home to find a missing part.

Berlin Tegel

Next I head to the airport. I have to mention that the bus stop to go to the airport is directly below the flight path for inbound aircraft. So as I’m waiting for the bus I get to see about 10 different jets fly directly overhead. This is so cool.

So I get to the airport and I head to the information desk. I need the location of

  • the VAT refund desk
  • the Customs desk
  • the Lufthansa ticket counter
  • the bulky baggage drop off

The lady who works there gives me all that plus the order of operations:

  1. Customs
  2. VAT Refund
  3. Ticket Counter
  4. Check in
  5. Bulky Baggage

She’s super friendly and not at all phased by my barrage of questions. And when she finds out my flight isn’t for another 9 weeks she laughs and sends me on my way.

Next up is the Lufthansa ticket desk. I know that I’m going to have to pay for the extra bag and this is the place to do it. They are not busy at all and I get ushered over to the Super-Elite / Star Alliance Gold counter. Rainer is super helpful. He speaks perfect English and really knows his stuff. He’s also happy that my flight isn’t until Christmas. I can tell he’s done this a million times and usually the passenger has to catch a flight in two hours (not two months). We take our time and go through it all. When I tell him that I want to ship a couple of toilets he almost falls off his chair. From this point on he can’t help but grin. I can tell he’s got a great story to tell his wife.

So pay attention Star Alliance customers, the following applies if:

  1. you bought your ticket after June 1, 2011 (they changed all the rules on June 1) and
  2. the first leg of your journey is a partner airline (if your whole journey is AC then I think it’s just $70 CAN for oversized and $70 for an additional regular bag) and
  3. you are on a non-refundable economy ticket (business class tickets can check more luggage) and
  4. you are not Aeroplan Elite / SuperElite / Star Alliance Gold (these guys also get additional luggage provisions) and
  5. your baggage is checked all the way through (if your baggage is not checked through you may have to pay twice – once for the partner airline and once for Air Canada) and
  6. you are flying with Lufthansa (the other airlines will charge different amounts)


  • it also depends where you are flying to – if you are flying to Brazil for some reason they have retained the 2 bag no-cost checked luggage
  • standard luggage – max 23 kg weight, max 158 cm in linear dimensions (length + width + height)
  • oversized luggage – greater than 23 kg weight or greater than 158 cm linear dimensions but less than 32 kg in weight, 292 cm in linear dimensions, and/or 203 cm in length.
  • Air Canada Cargo handles the shipment of all bags that exceed the oversized luggage values.

There are six cases

Case 1

  • 0 euros – first item – standard luggage

Case 2

  • 0 euros – first item – standard luggage
  • 300 euros – second item – oversized luggage

Case 3

  • 100 euros – first item – oversized luggage
  • 50 euros – second item – standard luggage

Case 4

  • 100 euros – first item – oversized luggage

Case 5

  • 0 euros – no items checked

Case 6

  • 0 euros – first item – standard luggage
  • 50 euros – second item – standard luggage

VAT refund

The VAT refund counter is closed but they have a website that’s pretty helpful. All that is needed is

  • passport number
  • credit card
  • name and address
  • valid customs stamp
  • item
  • receipt from the store


Is located right next door to the VAT counter.


Anyway, I’m glad I was able to get all this sorted out. It would have been a disaster if I had done all this work to find out that it was going to cost an extra 300 euros to check an oversized bag. Plus I now know where everything is in the airport. This provides some measure of comfort. I’m going to save the analysis for another post. Stay tuned.

They actually have an aquarium section

5 Responses to “Day 33 – Man was not meant to fly”

  1. Lottabot October 19, 2011 at 05:43 #

    And if you can pack yourself inside one of the toilets you save the airfare.

  2. Sara Horton October 19, 2011 at 08:43 #

    Have you considered the cost of just shipping what you want back to Canada now? If the delivery time is 6-8 weeks they the toilet et al should arrive around the same time you do. It might be easier.

  3. Nina October 19, 2011 at 16:27 #

    Why don’t you find someone at your language school or one of your friends who has a car and ask them to drive you to the airport? It’s much easier and more comfortable than taking the bus and risk damaging or loosing one part of your luggage. Just give this person 20 € and the problem is solved.

  4. Lottabot October 19, 2011 at 17:35 #

    If you were to put let’s say half as much effort in studying for your German class as you’re putting into this toilet-scavenger-hunt maybe, just maybe, you wouldn’t be failing the class?? Unless you’re conducting the toilet-scavenger-hunt solely in German (which I hope you are!)? You don’t have more than two months to go of your I-can-become-completely-fluent-in-any-language-in-three-months time frame =) Just saying.
    The toilets will be there even after your class is done.

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