Travelling across the world is very easy now-a-days, even easier than getting on a bus in most cases, just more expensive. My troubles started early January 2014, in the brunt of this vortex winter. After weather woes, customs and security troubles, and on-board issues, this is my experience with what happened on my flight and how you can avoid the same scenario when you fly.
Many events happened during my journey, I will do my best to break it down so that you can follow the progress of the journey and what went wrong. Many of the events that took place couldn’t be avoided but keeping a level head and dealing with the issue is a good way to handle bad situations. Some of the things that happened on my journey may seem hard to believe but I assure that the events happened as I tell you.
- Flight to Washington D.C.
Movies always dramatize flights with something always going wrong, often with someone needing medical attention during the flight. I never thought it was something that actually happened but, surprisingly, I found that it can and does. During my 7 hour flight to Washington DC, within the first 30 minutes of being the air, it happened. I was preparing to go to sleep for most of the journey so I was hardly paying attention to my surroundings. After making pleasantries with my neighbors, I heard the request for a doctor over the speakers and I began paying attention. The seat belt lights signaling for everyone to remain seated were still lit which made it easy for me to see anyone standing but it didn’t seem like anyone was. Suddenly, out of the blue, a man stood up, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fainted. Luckily, there was a doctor on board who was able to administer O2 with the first aid kit on board and got him feeling better for the remainder of the flight. The diagnosis was that he had trapped a nerve by sitting uncomfortably and this had caused him to faint when he stood up.
- Customs and Security
Customs can sometimes be one of the easiest experiences but can also take a turn for the worst. After landing with a delayed flight, a couple of the other passengers and I banded together and ran to customs. This proved difficult because, despite running as soon as we left the plane, being at the back made it so we hardly made any ground as far as our place in the line was concerned. My connecting flight time was supposed to be 1 hour and 20 minutes, after the 40 minute delay, things weren’t looking good. The line to customs took over two hours, and dealing with customs took an hour longer for reasons which weren’t explained to me during an interview. After getting through customs, I lined up for security and managed to recheck my luggage on the last checking before it was closed. In the line for security, I realized that customs still had my flight ticket which had been confiscated during my interview. I had to go back into customs and get my flight ticket and luggage receipt back. Shortly after customs, I had to go through security. Security is something I am typically used to but, after being flustered from losing my ticket, I hadn’t prepared to go through. During customs you have to unpack your laptop and electronics. I was the last person through security for the night with a security woman rushing me through and helping me unpack my laptop. She grabbed the laptop from my laptop bag and placed it in a silver tray. As I sorted the rest of my gear out, I heard a loud bang coming from behind me. As I turned to see what the noise was, I saw my laptop on the floor; the woman picked it up and handed me a part which had broken off. I wasn’t happy but luckily, after further inspection, I found that my laptop was undamaged and the part couldn’t have been from my laptop. After this time had passed, I was sure I had missed my flight but a smaller shimmer of hope was presented to me when my flight was still on board and had been delayed 6 hours.
- Flight to Grand Rapids, MI
After waiting for my flight to Grand Rapids, the time came to where the flight should be departing, but no word. The flight was then cancelled due to bad weather and I was alerted to go to the service desk. This began a whole pattern of tedious events. Many flights were cancelled due to the sudden outburst of the weather, meaning that over 400 people were attempting to go to the customer service desk to get amended flights. This led to queues of between two and four hours. Once I reached the front of the line and got a new flight booked, the process would begin all over again when that flight was cancelled. This was the story for about two days; I ended up being very good at predicting when a flight would be cancelled and heading to the service desk. Other times, I would check the United Airline mobile app on the airport wifi since it often notifies you of cancellations before it is announced in the airport. With no likely chance of reaching Michigan by a Grand Rapids flight, I started looking into flights to other airports. I found that Detroit was the most reliable option so I asked to be given a flight into Detroit instead of Grand Rapids. The next flight scheduled for Detroit was fully booked but it had two standby slots. After talking to one of the air hostesses on this flight, she guaranteed me a spot on the plane and printed me a ticket with a seat number. I felt huge relief which was eventually met when the plane arrived and I was about to board. Then I over hear someone complaining about not being able to get on the plane despite already having tickets, my heart sank knowing that I was likely one of the people to have secured their spot on the plane. Miraculously I was able to get on the flight and they found places for the other two passengers which luckily saved me from that airport.
After my very eventful journey, I wanted to be able to share some advice if this situation ever presented itself to you and offer ways you can prevent it.
- Connecting Time
Airports, when handling international and connecting flights, will typically have a minimum connection time. Always make sure that your connection time between flights is always above the minimum to ensure you have enough time to board that flight. Even if your flight is above the minimum connection time, always anticipate delays due to unexpected waits through customs, unexpected weather issues, or overcrowding and long queues.
- Position on Plane
This is something that not many people will think about but it can be the difference between missing your flight and flying worry free. Typical airlines will allow the passenger to select which seats they would like to sit on when they book their tickets. Always aim to be towards the front of the plane if you are worried about a connecting flight. On huge planes carrying hundreds of people, this can delay you by a lot of time just by being towards the back.
Checking the weather for the time of year you are planning to travel will give you some insight if you need to account for more time on your connection. If your flight is soon then checking the weekly weather forecast will definitely help and allow you to prepare for the worst and make any arrangements that you need to.
- Backup Plan
The airline you have booked with might not refund or offer you new tickets when you miss your flight. Always check with the airline company if you are worried. If you miss the flight at fault of your own, then the airline won’t likely rebook a new flight for you. However, if it is due to their error, then they will help. Having travel insurance can get you out of a pinch if you lose your luggage and/or if you flight is cancelled. You can be entitled to the flight cost and the value of any belongings in your baggage.
Preparing is very important when coming to security or arriving at your destination and needing transport. In situations like going through security, preparing yourself and being ready when it’s your turn can make it so that you save time and can make it a much more pleasant experience. Always prepare at your destination for transport if needed, and accounting for any delays is always important so it doesn’t cost you anything extra.
- Check List
Making sure you have all of your core belongings such as: passport, flight ticket, baggage receipt and wallet or money is very important. If any of these are missing when you are travelling, then you can end up in trouble, perhaps even stranded. Always check that you have all of your belongings before moving on; if you lose something, then it will cause you stress and hassle while you are trying to recover what you have lost.
Thank you for reading this article, I hope it has been helpful to guide you on your adventures.