What Happens if I Miss My Connecting Plane?
Sometimes things don't go the way you hope when you travel. Forgotten items, long lines, you name it. But the one thing we all fear as travelers: what happens if I miss my connecting plane? Will I end up like Tom Hanks in that movie where he lives in an airport forever? It happened to me today. So let's talk about it.
A Minor Inconvenience
I did something dumb. I booked a ticket to Venice, connecting through Amsterdam. It had a 50 minute connection and I am on a tight schedule, needed to be at my destination with time to spare. I have flown through Amsterdam six, count 'em, six times THIS YEAR, and all with short connections in the hour range and never a problem. I figured this one would be fine.My Seattle flight left late, but they promised us they would make up for the time in the air, which they usually do. Not this time. Plus, we got held up over Amsterdam due to fog. By the time we landed and the doors opened, my next flight was 25 minutes from departure, and my heart was pounding.I politely pushed past other travelers, letting people know my dilemma. Most people are super kind when you let them know the hurry you're in. I dashed across the airport, and again vocalizing my rush, was allowed to go quickly through passport control. Running endlessly with all of my stuff, I finally got to the gate and the plane was still there...but the door was closed and no matter how much sweetness or cajoling I tried, they were not opening it for me. GRRRRRRRR.My heart pounding from the run, I asked the gate agent what to do next. She shrugged. "Guess you'll have to take the next one. But you should probably also breathe first." Uuuhhh. And?At this point, I had some options. I could call Delta and ask them to rearrange things, or I could go find a KLM (the partner airline) desk to help me, or I could try the automated kiosks in the hallways. I was tempted to call Delta, as they issued the ticket, but I asked a few airport staff members what they suggested and they told me to go to the Transfer Desk. AH! So THAT'S what that desk is for!The Transfer Desk had a small line, and when it was my turn, the agent said flatly, "Oh, you've already been rebooked." Huh. Would have been nice to get a message about that. She eventually found my flight and printed my boarding pass. The big bonus in talking to someone in person--she gave me a food voucher for €10. That's a nice perk I didn't expect.This was a small inconvenience. I'll get where I need to go, a bit late but I'll survive. It's just an example of how it works when you miss a flight. They will fix it. You'll be ok and get where you're going. Eventually.
It Could Be Worse
I have a slightly less happy story to share, though. A few years back, I was flying home after a long season, Rome to Seattle on British Airways. I was tired and my kids were dying to see me. The Rome flight sat on the tarmac forever, and left really late.Once in London, the plane to Seattle was still there when we landed. Whew! There were at least 20 people from my flight going to Seattle, but......they wouldn't hold it. It took off, apparently less than half full from the looks of the mob of angry Seattleites milling around Heathrow.I dutifully went to the transfer desk and found a line of more than 2000 people, all furious about missing connections. I called the travel agent I bought the ticket from and she tried to rebook it, but told me I still needed to wait in the line and confirm my new booking with an agent. With my dying cell phone, I called home to share the sad news I wasn't coming home just yet.I waited in that line for more than 8 hours. People took turns going to the toilet and bumming snacks off of each other. At 10pm, the British Airways desk was closing for the night. Over that long wait, I had bonded with my fellow travelers and we were all fit to be tied. Sending us away after waiting all that time??Someone (and I wish it had been me) came up with a great idea. What about calling American Airlines? They are a partner, maybe they could help. And indeed, this magical person in line called up American, rebooked their ticket in a flash and had just enough battery power left for me to do the same. Had we thought of it earlier, we could have flown that day.The British ticket line descended into chaos. I knew that they owed me a hotel room and food, so I looked around for the person handing out vouchers. I snapped up mine and sprinted to the bus, hoping to get a room before the mob figured the system out. And that was the sad part, British didn't announce the vouchers, didn't show people how to use them. People wandered aimlessly around the transit desk. I wondered about the people from far away places that didn't speak English.The hotel they put me in was plush, a Hilton or something, and I had a nice meal at their expensive restaurant. But I couldn't enjoy it. I missed my babies and home, and I was so pissed that British didn't seem to care, or attempt to help the thousands of stranded passengers. I made it home on American the next day, skip-hopping across the US on any available flight towards Seattle. What a nightmare. But I made it. Eventually.
Everything is a lesson in travel. I took a gamble booking such a tight connection and it didn't pan out. I stayed calm and figured out the best place to start fixing the problem.The lessons:1. Book longer connections, minimum 1 hour.2. Always be prepared for complications.3. Keep your phone charged and have a back-up battery.4. Know who issued your ticket--it may be on KLM but could be a Delta ticket, for example.5. Be verbal, tell people what you need. The Delta and KLM people were very accommodating and got the issue fixed. Airports are full of people who want to help.6. Know what you're owed. Short delays should net you a food voucher. The airline should provide hotel and food if you miss a flight and can't connect until the next day. Be insistent about this and ask for it if they don't volunteer it.Above all, just keep this in mind. In all of my years as a tour guide, every single person that has ever traveled with me has made it to Europe and back home. Eventually. That's a lot of people! If they can do it, so can you, even if you're delayed.The most important lesson of this story? Keep Calm, Carry On (and don't fly British).