When I missed a flight it felt like the end of the world. But it’s not, even if it feels like it at the time…
So today I thought I would write about the time I missed a flight. It was a few years ago now, but it’s still up there as one of my biggest ‘teachable moments’, as Oprah may say. Some big lessons got learned that day, and I’ve tried to keep them front of mind ever since.
Before, I tended to go for the whole fly by the seat of my pants vibe when it comes to travel. You know how it is. Chuck a pile of clothes in a suitcase the night before, rock up without a plan, figure it out as you go.
And in many ways, I still like to do that. It’s supposed to be a holiday, not something that feels like work, right? However, I now know that you can’t always be a shambles and hope it’ll work out in the end… because sometimes it doesn’t.
Flying by the seat of my pants
There had definitely been a few times where I’d been a bit scatty with travel and felt like I was playing perilously close to the wind. Here are just a few examples…
The time I rocked up to the airport a day early
All well and good you may think, at least it wasn’t a day late. But I’d booked my accommodation for that day! I basically had to pay for a night’s stay that I didn’t use and lose a day of my holiday into the equation. Not great when you’re young and broke.
The time I almost missed a flight back from Texas
Not too big of a deal, you may think. However, I was actually over in Dallas for work (to go to Wrestlemania) and missing the flight would have gone down like a lead balloon. Luckily, after a lot of worrying and waiting I made it to the gate by the skin of my teeth!
The time I thought my flight was at 8pm…
But it actually left at 8am – the result of a miscommunication between me and a friend. Luckily it was only Amsterdam so I was able to rebook a flight in an internet café (back in those days) for the same day without hurting my bank balance too much. But still!
The time I missed a flight
So as you can see, I’ve got previous when it comes to travelling chaotically. However, these minor mishaps were all trumped by the time I missed a flight to Croatia. Because not only did I miss a flight but it also had a pretty big knock-on effect over the rest of the trip.
Let’s rewind to that terrible moment when I realised I’d fucked up. I actually tapped some of this blog on my phone at the time, so here it is in all its raging ugly glory…
“Feel free to judge. I am one of those people. Those idiotic, terrible travellers who do ridiculous things like arrive at the airport without their passport or boarding pass printed out, as if they don’t know the rules of travelling on a Ryanair flight. Today, I am them.
I’ve done this kind of shit before, but normally I come out of it relatively unscathed. Not this time. After our train to the airport was delayed by an ungodly hour and 45 minutes, not even a taxi driver who drove like he was in a Mission Impossible movie (probably, not that I’ve seen any) could save us. We arrived at the airport just as the flight was taking off.”
To stay or just go home?
We had a decision to make. Do we just go home and scrap the whole holiday, or do we try and find some other flights that will get us to where we’re going – which was Brela, Croatia. I wasn’t prepared to give up on going away, so we made the decision to push on.
Onto Skycanner. Forty minutes of anger, tears, panic and despair later, not necessarily in that order, we booked the cheapest flights we could find that would get us there. Which, for the record, were not cheap in the slightest. It involved one flight to Barcelona that day and then another to Split the next day. Here’s what I wrote:
“As I write this, I’m sitting in a Costa at the airport, trying not to get too annoyed at the freezing air-con and terrible music, while waiting for a 20.20 flight to Barcelona. Only a mere six hours after the missed flight. This will arrive at midnight, and then the plane to Croatia won’t leave until 6pm the next day. So basically, I’ll be losing a whole 24 hours of my holiday. You won’t be too surprised to hear that I’m absolutely raging about it.”
As you can tell, I wasn’t best pleased. Here’s what I learned from it…
5 learns from the time I missed a flight
1) You will be angry
Although there was some relief in booking flights to Barcelona, all I can remember is being absolutely furious. Mostly at myself. I was furious at the money I was shelling out for the new flights. Furious at the time I was losing on this holiday that I’d worked so damn hard for. Furious that I couldn’t just be a normal person who could go on holiday without any drama.
And, of course, that anger projected outwards, too. I was mad at the guy on the train who kept making stupid jokes like, ‘At least you can watch your plane take off.’ I mean COME ON?! What normal person says something like that? This rage continued along the way, as we wasted hours in the airport, had to sleep in the airport at Barcelona overnight, and then didn’t get our suitcases until DAY FIVE of the holiday. Oh yes, that happened too.
All that anger is definitely a good incentive not to do it again, anyway!
2) You will laugh again
I mentioned the anger. But here’s the thing: you will laugh again. Three hours and twenty minutes after the ordeal started I laughed. I laughed when the Costa barista who was clearing the tables nearby to where we’d been sitting for the past three hours pointed at a Starbucks cup that had been left behind and said, ‘Ew, Starbucks’.
Sure, it’s not the funniest comment ever, but the way he said it made me smile. It felt like one of those terrible movies when someone’s significant other has died and they insist they’ll never laugh again… until you do. Usually when they least expect it.
3) You will arrive early in future
I distinctly remember looking at what time I should catch a train to the airport that day. I remember there were fewer trains than usual because it was a Sunday. There was one that would get us to the airport three hours before and one that would get us there about an hour and 45 minutes before. For some reason, I thought it would be OK to get the latter.
Whatever happened later, it was my fault for being too laissez-faire with the trains. These days, I’m always the person that is at the airport three hours plus in advance. Normally my boyfriend and I get some lunch somewhere or even a glass of wine at Wetherspoons. The airport becomes my little ecosystem for a few hours and I just chill out there.
It makes for a much more peaceful travel experience, so I’m glad I’ve changed!
4) You’ll pay more attention to hand luggage
I mentioned earlier that our suitcases didn’t arrive until the fifth day of the trip. Yay, just one more body blow in what was a total shambles of a trip so far. However, the despair I felt when we got through arrivals and twigged that the suitcases hadn’t shown up was another level. Especially as I quickly realised that everything I needed was in the suitcase.
I didn’t have a bikini. I didn’t have underwear. I didn’t have hair straighteners. I had nothing. We got a small amount of cash from someone (the airline?) to enable us to buy clothes. However, we were staying in a place called Brela which was lovely, but small. Let’s just say that the choice of bikinis were severely limited and I did not like what I had to wear.
This was definitely a learning curve for the future. While I can’t say that I now pack a bikini in my hand luggage I am definitely more mindful about what I pack in my carry-on luggage nowadays.
5) You will enjoy the unexpected
OK, I think I’ve done enough moaning now. Let’s talk about the best part of missing the fight, which was getting to go somewhere unexpected. That was Barcelona! Yes, having to catch two flights to get to my final destination was a massive pain but it did mean that we could grab a few hours in the Spanish capital, and that wasn’t to be sniffed at!
I’d always wanted to go to Barcelona. I thought if I could get a few hours there and get to see Antoni Gaudi’s architectural wonders in the flesh, then it might not be so bad after all. Yes, I had to sleep on the airport floor. Yes, I was half asleep as we wandered around the streets before it was barely light. And yes, I don’t think I got the most out of the trip.
But it was amazing to get those few hours in the city. Being able to cram two destinations into one trip was pretty special, so that was the one plus of missing the flight!
So that was my account of missing a flight. I’m actually getting a flight for the first time in over two years in a couple of weeks, when I fly to Copenhagen for a few days. Hopefully, I’m not too rusty and I actually remember what to do when I get to the airport. One thing is for sure, I will definitely be arriving with plenty of time to spare. That is a dead cert.