ALMOST! Think of this as a travel “how to” in reverse. How to Miss a Flight in 10 Ways, from a professional procrastinator/ panic extraordinaire! (This is based upon my harrowing yet self- proclaimed inspirational journey with staff travel and connections from Dubai to Vancouver and back, with multiple stops, including Hong Kong and Seattle.
1. Be on Standby/ Staff Travel
Staff Travel is like the magical unicorn of the aviation world. It’s shrouded in myth and legend (“my friend said that her cousin’s best friend’s aunty knew a girl that got on a Sydney flight what was overbooked by 50 people in economy” and “I was rejected from -insert US city here- flight due to cargo restrictions” ), tales are passed down from crew to crew from all fleets and all airlines, and they are spread around faster than bed bugs on a multi sector! My point is, Staff Travel is a fantastic, amazing, life changing part of working for an airline that will either make or break your holiday/ annual leave/ days off/ emergency leave. Airline staff are genuinely blessed to be able to travel the world at a fraction of the regular price, yet I feel the price is paid in ever- increasing blood pressure, extra long stopovers in airports without wifi and having to act like a fully functioning, respectable adult even thought you have been wearing the same pair or underwear for about 48 hours. (I will have you know that I ALWAYS pack multiple spares, but not much can be done when your luggage malfunctions and spews its entire contents all over the floor of Hong Kong International. Cheers, Victoria’s Secret, cheers.)
A contributing factor to missing flights (in my case) is travelling on standby with OTHER airlines than the one I worked for. Other airlines means no boarding pass until you go to the staff travel counter of THAT airline. This resulted in me having to run through arrivals, change terminals, obtain a ticket and then go back through departures, all within the short space of approximately 45 minutes. So, consider yourself lucky, if you have a full fare ticket as a regular customer. Yes, you may have had to work 10x as hard to pay for the damn thing, but at least you won’t get kicked off the flight in favour of transporting a live elephant in the cargo (true story!)
2. Fly on an A380
The Airbus A380 is a piece of French aeronautic genius. It is spacious, shiny, in-your-face luxurious and every passenger’s dream. That’s why I was so happy to be flying for the second time as a passenger on an A380 (to Hong Kong) rather than operating a 16 hour flight on the 380 as crew! The downside to such a large aircraft is the large number of passengers (approximately 498 in economy). More passengers means more human beings, with their own luggage, family, passports, paraphernalia and bodies. More bodies means more chance of having an unwell passenger on board, hence me falling asleep as we were meant to be taxiing away from the aero bridge (on time) and waking up almost 2 hours later to find that we were STILL attached to the aero bridge, as an unwell passenger had to be offloaded. Seeing as I was crew at the time, I was well aware of the nature of the incident, the unpredictability of the aviation industry and the utter helplessness of the crew in the situation (it’s not their fault someone felt ill and failed to notify anyone until it was too late!). This didn’t stop me from silently fuming to myself about the probability of missing my connecting flight with my Hong Kong based airline, and mentally cursing all sick human beings in my general vicinity. Harsh but obviously necessary).
Part of my genius plan to make it to from Stockholm to Dubai to Hong Kong to Vancouver in ONE DAY was to (cleverly or stupidly, you decide) pack the essentials for a 2 week skiing holiday in a slightly-larger-than-usual cabin bag (thanks Jane!) and a gift-with-purchase Victoria’s Secret duffel bag that barely holds my tanning oil and book on a day at the beach…I’m not sure why I decided that it was definitely going to perform when it came to holding my heaviest winter jackets and boots on a transatlantic flight. Needless to say, after my olympic worthy dash from aircraft door to departures and back, I found out poor Victoria’s Secret. Cheaply made gifts with purchase don’t travel so well! I ended up huffing and puffing all the way to staff travel, only to have my bag dismember upon my turn to check in. MORTIFIED. The lady at staff travels was so unbelievably helpful, she packaged the remnants of my bag into a cardboard box, and secured it with enough masking tape that it would take 2 pairs of hands and 2 sets of scissors to later rescue my beloved underwear. I arrived at Vancouver airport some 15 hours later, looking almost-perfect (an art one in a long distance relationship one must master, if one wishes to keep surprising one’s boyfriend) except for my homeless-meets-chic (minus the chic) “trunk”. It was more hobo than boho. James later went on to tell me that he didn’t notice my new-found luggage, lack of personal hygiene or obvious hairstyling because he was so glad to see me. Bless him. The point is to not pack what you don’t need in hand luggage (and maybe leave on a later flight if it means you can have checked in baggage and not have an aneurism on the way to the aircraft).
4. Travel Via an Airport that You’re Not Familiar With
Being crew, I am proud to say that my passport boasts more stamps than Kimye has cringe worthy pictures (i.e. A LOT!), but I had never been to Hong Kong before, as crew or a passenger, and therefore I was left running around like a headless chicken from train to train in search of the correct terminal/ a legible sign in English. A plus is to always travel via cities/ airports that you have at least a vague idea about before leaving your comfort zone. These aren’t words to live by, though, because half of the fun in travelling is misadventure!
5. Carry Too Many Toiletries
Even if they are LAGS (Liquids, Aerosols, Gels) less than 50ml, security tends to become suspicious and feel the need to repeatedly go through your makeup/ toiletry case on the off chance that your Chanel travel perfume is some kind of weapon. In hindsight, perhaps I should’ve carried less, but as previously mentioned, I was packing for a 2 week holiday in two small carry on bags, and let’s face it, a girl’s gotta moisturise!
6. Have a Passport that’s “Been Around”
You know what I’m talking about. My passport, when compared to those of my family and non-crew friends, is the international call-girl of passports. Up until not too long ago, I had valid Visas for two different countries, neither of which applied to the place that I was visiting, and I still have more than 50 stamps spanning over more than half of it, and it was brand new when I moved to Dubai. Until Customs and Border Protection staff actually read my declaration and realise that I am crew, my passport, relatively young age and lack of baggage sets off red flags all over the world. Once they do realise the nature of my travel, my job and my reasons for travelling, all is forgotten, we become best friends and I am given my precious stamp on my poor, “promiscuous” passport!*
7. Be Too Polite
I’m not saying that in order to avoid missing a connecting flight you must be downright rude, but there is a difference between being polite and being pushed around. Example: it may be polite to walk slowly behind the people who disembark before you, but if they are moving at a glacial pace, I think it is acceptable to excuse yourself and rush past them, as long as you don’t knock them over! (I may or may not have had to manhandle a certain gentleman that refused to move out of my way, but it all ended well)
8. Lack in the Athletics Department
It is kind of hard to call myself “athletic” when my boyfriend is Australia’s answer to Action Man. There isn’t a sport he hasn’t met that he cannot conquer (even horse riding, Liz 😉 ). I used to consider myself rather fit and sporty (netball, swimming, tennis, running and rollerblading were among my childhood interests), but since being with James I am about as coordinated as a fish climbing a tree. I would like to believe that if I had been a bit better at cardio, I wouldn’t have almost lost consciousness whilst running from gate to gate around various airports worldwide. I am in not lazy in any sense of the word, unless you call reading books and eating sweets and not exercising 24×7 lazy. In that case, I am the laziest of them all 😀
9. Wear Winter Layers in a Summer Climate
In a desperate bit to conserve precious space in my overflowing hand luggages (plural), I decided it would be an excellent idea to travel from Dubai to Hong Kong wearing leggings, thermals (top and bottoms), a t-shirt, jumper, jacket and a scarf. Usually, this would be ok, as I would have time to un-peel myself from my layers of carefully selected Zara items and scrunch them nicely into my bag (in true Taylor Fashion). In this instance, I ran cross-country, actually, more like cross- terminal, in these ridiculously good quality warm clothes that made me sweat a horrible and very unattractive amount. The moral of the story is: layer up, BUT have somewhere to store said layers if it all goes pear shaped!
10. Forget Something
I knew it was too good to be true. I had made it to Vancouver at my expected time, if not slightly earlier, dodgy cardboard luggage, overfilled passport and all. I even made it back to Dubai after more than 2 weeks break, with the loads and all odds stacked against me. As I arrived back to my apartment, I realised that I was locked out. My keyring, i.e. the reason for my existence containing my second most important possessions (FOB for staff portal access, the actual keys to my suitcases, apartment and my Tiffany and Co keyring that cost almost as much as my first car repayment, and my beloved Harrods dog in memory of my Baxter), was still living it up in Canada! Luckily I actually made it onto my flight in Seattle, back to Dubai, because, little did I know, that whilst I was waiting for a boarding pass, if the flight had filled up and I wasn’t allowed on, I would’ve been stranded in Seattle Airport for 24 hours, with no Fob check the loads, no wifi to contact anyone for help and no way to rebook an alternate flight home! Phew!
After all that, it turned out someone was looking out for me. With a little bit of improvisation and sheer determination, I made all of my connections (after rebooking them the first time), but it was a stressful experience to say the least, especially when you have limited holidays, you don’t want to spend the days roaming around the airport a la Tom Hanks in The Terminal. So my advice to you is: take these what-not-to-do’s on board (literally!) and try to be as open minded and prepared as possible whilst travelling…a more positive mind set would’ve saved some of my sanity, and allowed me to not pester my friends so much!
Good Luck, and may the Loads be ever in your favour! x
* P.s I would like to again point out that my passport has “been around” the world. I am in a relationship and have not “been around” like that!
This post is dedicated to my gorgeous friend and ex-roomie Marcella. Thank you for always calming my irrational fears about flights/ connections/loads and ticketing in general. You are a friendship lifesaver, and I miss you heaps 🙂 xx