A school friend’s dad had the mantra that “if you’ve never missed a flight, you’re spending way too much time in airports”.
Every time it was repeated we laughed, yet in the back of my mind I couldn’t ever imagine missing a flight not causing a great deal of stress and costing a lot of money.
I LOVE spending time in airports so I’ve spent certainly spent more time than I’ve needed to in them. It’s an added benefit that until last year I’d never missed a flight.
I’ve written before about my experience travelling from Barcelona to Luxembourg when security strikes at Barcelona airport meant my best friend Renee and I were unable to get through security in time to board our flight.
But what did I learn when I missed a flight?
Plan how you’re getting to the airport well in advance
Renee and I casually pondered how we’d get to the airport over breakfast and decided it looked easy enough to get there via the Metro, which would also save us the hassle of taking a bus and then a train or the expense of a taxi. We also thought we had ‘heaps of time’.
We knew nothing about the airport or it’s connections to the city as we’d caught a train to Barcelona from Madrid, and when I’d visited the city previously it was on a cruise ship.
In practice, the closest Metro station was harder to find than expected, and we eventually realised what we were looking for was actually a train to the airport and not the Metro, so we were quickly running behind schedule.
By the time we were at the correct station and started struggling through the process of buying the correct tickets on a foreign ticket machine, we realised we wouldn’t make the train we’d intended to and would have to take the next one which was 30 minutes later.
In calmer hindsight – had we got the train half an hour earlier we’d still have missed our flight. But we were stressed from the get go.
The lesson remains: Plan it out at least the night before!
Double check your tickets
When Renee and I left Athens after we did The Yacht Week a few years ago, one of the friends we were with arrived at the airport to find she’d booked her flight for the wrong day and that her flight had left the day before. It cost her a ridiculous amount of money to get on a flight to London that day.
I’ve also heard horror stories where there is more than one airport in a city and people go to the wrong one.
So we checked checked checked and went to the right airport on the right day. But we didn’t know we’d have to change terminals from where we got off the train. After scanning the Departures Board and not seeing our flight we realised our error. As we were already running late it was a stressful exercise to find the bus, join a queue and slowly make our way to the correct terminal.
The lesson: Check ALL your flight details; date, time, airline, airport, terminal… everything!
If you missed a flight, do as the airline tells you to
Sometimes it will only cost you a smaller fee to rebook rather than paying for a whole new flight. Best case scenario (apparently) it may just take a visit the airline desk, smiling nicely, and seeing whether they’ll just pop you on the next available flight to your destination.
This isn’t exactly likely to happen with a low-cost carrier but certainly go where they tell you to go and do what they tell you to do so it’s all nicely recorded and you know you’ve done all you can. It’ll also provide you with the required evidence for any Insurance claims later.
The lesson: you don’t know unless you try.
Trains are an effective way to travel around Europe
Our train sped at around 300kmph through France. It offered beautiful views, free WiFi, a food carriage (although the items were expensive) and we could pace around in a way impossible on a plane.
We’d considered taking the train through France in our initial plans then decided to fly instead.
Pro tip: flying isn’t the only option. Seriously consider alternative transport means.
Do you spend ridiculous amounts of time in airports to avoid missing flights? Have you ever missed a flight? What did you learn from the experience? Let me know in the comments!
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Hahahhaha I relate SOOO much to this post. I’m terrible at planning. I’ve even gotten on the wrong flight before. Maybe I should start taking trains…
Kay I feel like if you got on the wrong flight then something went seriously wrong at the airport! There’s no way that could be your fault ! Haha
I’ve only missed a flight once. Sometimes even the best laid plans aren’t good enough and you just have to realise that what will be will be and mark it down to experience.
Good attitude Anne!
I’ve only come close once (knock on wood) and it was the only time I didn’t arrive at the airport two hours in advance (and security turned out to be crazy). It was so stressful and someone else from my flight even cut me in line…grrr!
So stressful when that happens! Especially when you know you’d normally be at the airport but are still miles away. People who cut queues in those situations are the worst but I’m always too polite to tell them off and refuse to let them past. I need to be more assertive in those situations!
I wholeheartedly agree that flying is not the only option. I really enjoy train rides and feel like they are often worth their price just for what I get to see along the way. I have never missed a flight, but I definitely am the kind to show up way too early 😀
Yes the train went through so many beautiful French villages the price was totally worth the experience! I was horrified at the price of the train from London to Glasgow a couple of weeks later though.
As a traveller who suffers with anxiety, this is a really useful guide, and a reminder that sometimes even the best of us miss our flights! Though I love airports too, so I’m more likely to get lost in my own little world shopping and people-watching! 😉
Thanks so much Nicky! Yes I’m quite happy shopping, eating and drinking in airports myself and airports are the best place to people watch aren’t they!
Trains are the best way to get around 🙂
I have actually missed my first flight ever in December, in Mexico. It wasn’t my fault, as the flight was slightly late and the queues through security infinite. As if you have a connection in Mexico City, you still have to go through security. I remember picking up my luggage to self-transfer it (again, a rule of connections in Mexico) and the conveyor belt wasn’t working. So someone advised me to go out and head towards the airline’s check in desks. I was lucky that they put me on the next available flight without any extra cost. 🙂
Definitely not your fault Joanna so I’m really glad they just put you on the next available flight at no extra charge! How long did you have to wait? And really curious as to which airline it was?!
These are super tips to help you NOT miss a flight! I’ve never actually missed one before, but I require medical special assistance when I fly so always research everything like crazy and arrive at airports way way way too early!
Thanks Sarah and congrats on never having missed a flight! It sounds like you need to be super prepared – better early than late for sure!
These are great tips and reminders of things that seem obvious but can easily get forgotten. Sometimes we are so wrapped in the excitement of traveling that we forget things can go wrong. Great post, thanks!
You’re right we’re either wrapped up in the excitement and forgetting things can go wrong or stressing about what ‘might’ happen and forgetting to have a good time! Thanks Perri!
We’ve not missed a flight yet but have had a few close calls. I left my passport in the hotel room once and had to make the trip back from Gatwick to retrieve it. I only just made my flight but my luggage didn’t but arrived the next day, phew.
Oh man… a run to retrieve a forgotten passport would be so stressful! And for your luggage to then be delayed!! Well done still making the flight though!