I’ve been flying—nationally and internationally since I was 17—so for about 14 years—and I’d never missed a single flight or connection. Ever. That is until last week on my trip home to Iowa.
Now some of you may have missed flights before—and if you’re anything like me you probably felt your heart drop into your stomach; the blood draining from your face as you realized you were stranded at an airport away from home and not yet at your destination. But for those of you that haven’t, I’m hoping my experience, and what I learned from it, can help you avoid missing flights in the future. Or, at the very least, help you have a better idea of what to expect if you do miss a flight.
- Beware of Time Zones—They’ll Get’cha!
I’ve flown across time zones before. This is no new thing for me. If you’ve traveled across even a couple states on a plane, chances are you’ve crossed a few time zones yourself. I ‘get’ time zones. I understand the need to make sure my watch is changed to match the new time zone. This is “old hat” for me. But sometimes, even experienced travelers can get tripped up by a simple issue like time differences. On this last trip, which I now think of as ‘my nightmare trip’, I learned the importance of double and triple-checking my electronic devices to make sure that they are working correctly.
One little box inside my “date and time” settings on my smartphone had, at some point, been switched off. I turned my phone off for my flight from San Diego to Phoenix and when I turned it back on in Phoenix I incorrectly believed that it had automatically changed the time to match the new time zone. Like it had always done. There were no clocks on display in Phoenix like there are at some airports, and since I don’t even own a watch, I was depending on my smart phone to be able to keep track of the time.
My flight from San Diego was probably one of the worst flights of my life despite it’s very short duration. We endured violent turbulence that at one point lifted everyone seven inches off their seat. Moments after lift off, a man in the row right behind me began to get horribly ill due to a severe anxiety attack, leading to an emergency landing and being boarded by paramedics, as well as a plethora of other smaller issues. Everything combined meant I was more than a little frazzled and ready to sit and relax by the time I landed in Phoenix. I made it to the correct terminal and sat at a café within site of the sign for my gate and proceeded to kill time.
Forty minutes before boarding I meandered down to my gate, only to find it nearly abandoned with nothing on the television screen behind the check-in desk. Looking up at a “departures” screen a few feet away I saw the following message: “Des Moines; 5:15PM departure; Status: Departed.” I looked at my phone, looked at the screen again, looked at the empty seating area, back at my phone and finally back at the screen. “It must be a computer glitch,” I thought, looking at my phone a third time where the time of “4:30PM” blinked back at me. I waved down an airport employee and asked him what was going on.
“Is something wrong with the computers,” I asked. “It says the flight to Des Moines left already, but it’s not supposed to leave until 5:15 and it’s only 4:30.”
He looked at me like I was wrong in the head and said, “Well, it’s left already because it’s actually 5:30 right now.”
My heart dropped, my stomach rolled over and denial and panic went to war in my chest. “Are you serious? It’s 5:30? What do I do? Where should I go if I’ve missed my flight?”
“Go to the customer service desk at the end of the hall.”