Have you ever missed a flight? It’s one of the worst feelings, when you realise that you won’t be sitting by the pool sipping a cool cerveza by sunset. Or maybe you’d planned to meet friends. Or even had an important business meeting. Well, over the years, I’ve missed several flights.
I only started thinking about it when I missed my latest flight before Christmas. Yes, maybe I’m a bit casual about it now, but look, I’m not one of these stressed travellers at the best of times, so don’t expect to see me at the gate 3 hours before departure. I prefer to plan the trip and work out exactly where I need to be by when and get there just in time.
So here’s a walk through my dash through airports over the past 10 years. I’ve learnt a lot: double check your departure time, AND DAY; learn how to set the alarm on your mobile phone; don’t go drinking before you leave and allow enough time for connecting flights to clear immigration queues.
Disclaimer: if you ever travel with me, you do so at your own risk, so don’t blame me if we end up drinking coffee in Dublin Airport for 24 hours waiting for the next flight.
2002: Brussels Charleroi (Missed flight reason: alarm didn’t sound)
Going on exchange for 1 year to the University of Maastricht in The Netherlands was meant to be a life changing adventure for me. Looking back, I can definitely say it changed my outlook on life in many ways, through the friends I made and places I visited. But it all started so badly. I stayed in Mossy’s house the night before and had joked with him and Bitzi about how funny it would be if I was still there the next morning when they were going to work. My flight was at 6am so the alarm was set for 3am. I awoke to a very bright room and thought, hang on; it’s usually dark at 3am. I screamed F************K and the boys came running it – it was 9am!! Nightmare. The alarm hadn’t sounded. With this bad omen, I thought this is the start of the worst year of my life. I knew going abroad was a bad idea. Anyway I rang Ryanair but the next flight wasn’t until the next morning. I did wake up that morning, so made it to Holland. The rest is history – I never looked back and Maastricht was an amazing place to live.
2005: Rotterdam (Missed flight reason: a drink too many)
The weekend before I started an internship with General Electric in the south of Holland, I was at a wedding in Galway. I got back to Dublin early on Sunday before my evening flight. I went to Messr Maguires on the quays to watch Man Utd play Newcastle Utd with a certain friend, K***N. I was just killing time so the afternoon passed easily by. We had another drink and were having the craic. I thought I’d loads of time to catch the bus. I eventually got the airport bus but it took forever and I arrived at 8pm, just in time for check-in. However I couldn’t see the flight on the board, so asked at the desk and the girl said that flight had already gone. No way! I couldn’t even sprint to the gate. Next flight wasn’t ‘til the morning, which would mean I’d be late for my first day at work! Great. I made it via Charleroi in Belgium (yes that old reliable friend) the next day, and only came clean on on the reason for my late start on the last day of my internship.
2007: Merida, Venezuela (Missed flight reason: delays clearing immigration)
Ireland had just lost to France in the Rugby World Cup the night before. I’d had an overnight in Paris due to connecting flights, so after flying Paris – Caracas I’d booked an internal flight to Merida in the Andes. I’d over 2.5 hours from arrival time to departure time so thought it was plenty. Our flight arrived a few minutes late but I wasn’t worried, all I had to do was get stamp in my passport and pick up bags. Surely that couldn’t take hours? I forget that in the socialist republic of Venezuela things tend to flow slower. I also didn’t calculate on all the European flights arriving at the same time, meaning a huge queue at passport control. Everyone was getting tetchy about getting their next flight or bus, so I couldn’t skip the queue. Eventually I made it through to discover I’d to run to the next terminal. I made it with 15 minutes before departure but the chica at check-in wasn’t having any of my charm. Result: missed flight. Travel plans in chaos. The next flight I could get was 4 days later. So I quickly scoured the Lonely Planet and made a call to get out of Caracas asap, so hopped on a bus and ended up spending over 4 hours going down the coast to Maracay.
2009: London (Missed flight reason: booking for wrong date & city)
Have you ever been to a Champions League semi-final? Well I was meant to be in Emirates Stadium to watch Arsenal take on Man Utd in the 2nd leg of the 2009 CL decider, but ended up watching it in a pub in central London. Ok this is complicated. First, I made the flight to London. No issues. Thing was that our travel agent had booked us tickets for the 1st match in Old Trafford the week before. We found this out AFTER that match. There was a huge misunderstanding somewhere along the line, so they booked us hotel and match tickets for Manchester (1st leg), while we booked our own flights to London (2nd leg). We were adamant that London was what we’d specified, but anyway it was pan hecho as they say in Spain, so we complained like hell and asked them to make sure we’d tickets for the return leg in the Emirates. We travelled with this hope, but tickets were like gold dust. We even tortured ourselves by going to the Emirates on the off chance of picking up a ticket, but unless we paid £300 for a ticket would we find a seat. So we missed the match.
2009: Manchester (Missed flight reason: alarm didn’t sound)
The football story continues. We were livid about missing the match, so asked the travel agent for compensation. The CL final in Rome would have been perfect but was too expensive, so we settled on the last Premier League game in Old Trafford between Man Utd and Arsenal. Not the same intensity as CL, but a weekend in Manchester none the less. Again another 6.30am flight, so I set the alarm on my phone for 4.40am. I woke and heard my phone beep, so though I’ll snooze for 5 minutes. I heard another beep, this time my phone was ringing. It was 5.30am and K***N was calling. I was still in bed and she was at the airport, having gone through security. I scrambled into a taxi and managed to get there by 6am. Next problem: huge queues at security which delayed me. Other problem was that K***N had my ticket, and she was on the other side of security. Eventually I got through and ran the whole way to Pier D, arriving as they closed the gate. K***N was livid. And then I conked out in the seat beside her. She hasn’t forgiven me. We made the match, Utd lifted the Premier League trophy, I booed Cristiano Ronaldo, so we all went home happy.
2010: New York (Missed flight reason: booking wrong date)
We were in Seattle with work and decided to spend the weekend in NYC on the way back. Plan was to fly out on a Thursday night, arrive Friday morning and have 3 days to explore. We’d even booked tickets to an ice hockey game on Friday night. So I packed my bags on Thursday morning, took them to work, but as I checked my tickets that morning, realised my ticket was booked for Friday night, not Thursday night. I thought I’d messed up and the other 3 travelling with me had booked Thursday night so I’d be Sleepless in Seattle, alone. But when they checked, they’d also made the same mistake. Quadruple stupidity D******D, S****N and C****E. Anyway we missed the ice hockey and paid for a hotel we never used. At least I’ll double check days and dates in future.
2010: Madrid (Missed flight reason: alarm didn’t sound)
This Christmas I spent under the eternal sun of Gran Canaria. Given the weather chaos we’ve had here in December, with piles of snow and weeks of sub-zero temperatures, I was lucky to get out there. It nearly didn’t happen. And it wasn’t due to weather. My curse was booking a 6.30am flight (again!). I’d set the alarm on my shiny new Windows 7 Phone for 4am, but can you guess what happens next? Yes I awake at 6am and realise, oh it’s very bright for 4am. I know it’s impossible to get to the airport in time, even if flight is delayed. But I head out anyway hoping to get on the next flight out. My flight was initially to Madrid, as my plan was to spend the day there catching up with friends, and then fly onto Gran Canaria that night. So I still need to get to Madrid.
The airport is in chaos, with thousands of people held up due to cancelled flights over the previous few days. I join the Aer Lingus queue to re-book a new ticket, expecting to pay €250+ for a new ticket. There are people behind me stressing about not getting on their way to Australia for Christmas. Tension in the air. Anyway I get to the top of the queue and explain to the guy that I missed my flight. No details asked or given. He simply checks his computer and says “we’ve a flight at 4pm, the cost is €75 to change the flight.” You can’t believe how sweet those words sounded. €75 sounds like nothing, compared to over €250 for a new flight.
So I book that flight and go home, hoping that I’ll make it out later that day. When I return, all’s good but the weather is changing. It’s below zero and snow is expected. As I climb the steps on the plane it begins to snow. Within 10 minutes the airfield is covered in a blanket of snow. I’m stressing now about not making my connection in Madrid. We can’t be delayed. We taxi out and shoot up the runway. Phew. I hear later on that we were one of the last flights out. They closed the airport shortly after. So the chaos and disruption continued. I could have been stuck there for days trying to get out.