I was having a chat with a friend yesterday and he brought up missed or cancelled flights. He asked me if I ever deliberately missed or cancelled a flight. Stories came back from the depths of my memories. I did not want to bore him with details so I just said “Yeah, I have.” Our conversation gave me the idea to compile my air travel mishaps.
Note that I have kept a couple of these stories under wraps out of embarrassment. I only told my family and very close friends. But, some of these events happened years ago, and the lovely thing about time is that shame tarnishes as the years go by. So, below are my notes on my stupidity and bad luck.
First Act of Stupidity
The first time I ever missed a flight was on January 2, 2010. It was a 4 a.m. flight from Cebu to Manila. That time, a colleague and I were uprooting our lives in Cebu and transplanting ourselves to Manila – whether that decision paid off is yet to be seen by me, eight years on.
Anyway, we woke up two hours before the flight. Back then, you can get to the airport in about 15 to 20 minutes during very early dawn. We were complacent. We did some last minute packing; we took our time bathing and grooming. It was less than an hour before the flight when we were ready to leave my apartment.
We got to the airport five minutes after the gates closed. The staff at the counter was unyielding. We booked tickets for the next flight at about USD120 each. Good thing the office allowed us to claim a relocation expense refund but we got the money months after we filed our papers.
Second Act of Stupidity
I missed a morning flight to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia on October 26, 2013.
A couple of weeks before, I booked a promo fare on Air Asia – a round trip ticket for USD160. I excitedly booked a hotel, did research on things to do and see there for five days, and filed my request for vacation leave.
To compensate for my absence from work, I did a lot of overtime and beat multiple deadlines. I bore it all because I was going to have a blast – a light at the end of the tunnel.
The night before my 9:20 a.m. flight, I worked up to 10 pm just to finish everything. After a late dinner, I got home around eleven. I was too tired to pack so I set my alarm to five in the morning. I plopped on my bed in my office clothes and passed out.
I opened my eyes and saw the sun through my window. Adrenaline shot out of my nose and I bolted out of my bed. I looked at the clock – it was 8:00. a.m.! Either something was wrong with the clock and it did not go off, or I did not hear it and it got tired eventually so it shut up.
I hurriedly took off my clothes and stuffed some clothes and underwear in my backpack. I grabbed my passport, credit cards, and wallet and dashed out of my apartment building. I figured I’d buy clothes and toiletries in Malaysia. And miracle of miracles, I was able to get a cab the moment I got out of the building.
Traffic was remarkably light considering it was a Friday morning. As we coasted along, I began to hope. But my heart sank everytime we got stopped by a red light or passed through a bottleneck. The traffic hitches lasted only a couple of minutes or so and I found my semblance of a soul singing hymns to the universe, asking it to rearrange time and space so I could get to the airport on time.
I arrived at NAIA 4, which is a small terminal compared to the massive other three terminals. I paid the cabbie and I made a mad dash through the international departure area and up to the check-in counter. I was panting, sweating, and disheveled.
“Sir, the counter is closed already” the lady in charge of check-in gently informed me.
“Those people aren’t even through immigration yet” I nodded at four people who were lining up at immigration, just a few meters behind the check-in counter.
“Did you come all the way from the provinces? Are you an Overseas Filipino Worker?” she inauired.
“I live kinda far from the airport” I said almost inaudibly.
“I’ll check with my manager first” she said and walked towards Air Asia personnel who were standing near the immigration booth. After a short discussion, she came back. “I’m sorry, sir. The passenger manifesto has already been finalized and immigration officials will no longer allow modifications”. I thanked the lady for her efforts and I walked out of the terminal and took a cab home.
While in the cab, I debated if I should push through with the trip. I did an online search and saw that Cebu Pacific had an eleven o’clock flight that evening. A one-way ticket cost USD220.
On one hand, It would be quite embarassing if I didn’t push through with it considering the fanfare I’d drummed up over the trip for the past couple of weeks. All those overtime and preparations for nothing. On another, I could cut costs by cancelling the trip and avoid spending more.
Pride won out in the end.
The minute I got home, I booked the Cebu Pacific ticket and started packing my stuff carefully. Around noon, I was on my way to Resorts World Manila, which is right across NAIA 3 where my flight would depart.
I had lunch there and walked around the hotel complex. I also called my family, a couple of friends, and a co-worker. They were shocked that I was still in Manila. My news was greeted with derisive laughter.
Three hours before departure, I was at the check-in counter. A schoolmate saw me and asked “Why are you always travelling? Are you going through something?” I replied “I’m travelling to see if I am truly going through something”.
Delayed, Delayed, Delayed
Around 2 a.m. on June 25, 2015, I was at NAIA 1 for my flight to Singapore scheduled at 5:15 am. When the Tiger Air plane arrived, we were informed to prepare ourselves for boarding. I dozed off while waiting for the boarding announcement.”The flight will be delayed due to the replacement of a wheel”. There were groans but no complaints.
Up to 8:00 am, I was regularly woken up by announcements that the flight will be delayed due to technical difficulties. At 8:00 am, it was announced that the flight will be delayed to 10:00 am, more groans but not a lot of complaints. At 10:00 am, it was announced that the flight will be moved to 5:00 pm. There was an uproar.
Let’s just say people got very emotional: airline staff tried their best to stay calm and hold back tears, people cursed, and a threat of a class suit was made. I focused on looking for other early available flights so that I would not miss my connecting flight from Singapore to Paris on Emirates at nine o’clock that night.
While other people glared and bared their teeth at the staff, I charmed them into giving me a certification of offloading, refund papers, and my luggage back. It took an hour and afterwards we had to go back through immigration. The other passengers lingered on to avail of the hotel accommodation while I dashed out to get a cab.
“Take me to NAIA 2 and stop at a Philippine Airline ticket outlet on the way”. Good thing the cabbie knew his way around. It was at that time that my fantasy of enacting a movie scene coincided with my actual life. I burst into the Philippine Airline ticketing office and hissed with much relish “Book me a ticket on the earliest flight out of here!”
The ticket people were stunned. I approached the nearest guy who immediately sprang into action and informed me that the earliest flight was in about two hours or past 1 p.m. and it cost USD300. “Book me that ticket”. The staff looked very impressed. After a few minutes, I got my ticket and jumped into the cab that had been waiting for me. I was dropped off at NAIA 2 and I tipped the cabbie generously.
As I was checking in, the lady at the counter noted that I only had a one-way ticket and asked me if Singapore was my final destination. “No, I have a connecting flight to Paris tonight”. “What airline? Can you show me your ticket?”. After examining my ticket, she informed me that she had made arrangements for my luggage to be directly transferred to Emirates.
When I landed at Changi, my Emirates flight was boarding early. The minute I got off the plane, I dashed to the pre-departure gate.
Just Bad Luck
In the wee hours of August 17, 2018, a Xiamen Airways plane skidded off the runway at NAIA, which caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights and left thousands of passengers stranded.
I went to the airport because there was no word about my 7:00 p.m. Philippine Airline flight being cancelled. It was when I was at the departure area at NAIA 2 that it was confirmed that my flight was cancelled. Hundreds of us had to line up at the assistance desks in the hopes of rebooking or getting into an available flight. I was in line for a total of five hours.
The airline sent people up and down the queue to distribute mini-cakes and bottled water. They were generous because they offered everyone a second helping – maybe the high concentration of sugar in our blood kept us docile and patient.
On my third hour, someone threw a full-blown tantrum: yelling and cursing at the airport security. When educated Filipinos go on full-blown rage, English is the lingua franca. It’s just more dramatic that way.
“I’ve been here for 16 hours. I’ve been here longer than you!” he screeched at the security personnel. “Tama na yan. Nakakahiya sa kanila(Hey, stop it. It’s embarrassing to the others)” while the guard gestured at us, the audience.”I don’t care if they know me!!!”. Someone must have missed out on the complimentary stuff. And some people got to eat full meals based on the conversations I heard.
The next available flight fell on the same day as my return flight. I was supposed to attend an aunt’s birthday party. The outbound flight got refunded but my inbound flight did not. It was because they were booked separately and had different booking condotions. Ces’t la vie.
Always have a credit card ready and if life or your stupidity causes you to incur unnecessary expenses, just suck it in. Travelling is full of hazards so be prepared to bear it and grin through it.