Tick, tick, tick. A turn to the left, exiting the motorway. An sign loomed out of the mist, whizzing by unread. Then, strangely enough, a narrow country lane lined with tall trees, their leaves flailing in the wind as if in warning. Warning us that we were well off track. As the trees pushed in around us, closing the rest of the world out, we realised.
Realised, dear readers, that we were 80 miles from our destination, Luton Airport, in the middle of nowhere in Kent. I still don’t know where our taxi driver thought he was taking us, because at this point – in the woods – his Sat Nav told him we were a short 6 miles away.
I have to admit there was a moment where every horror film I’d ever watched flashed through my mind but, as it turned out, the Sat Nav was faulty and our driver had been on the road for 17 hours straight.
There was still time, though. Just. If we stepped on it and really tried. I was optimistic. Probably too optimistic. I remember thinking that we would catch this flight if it was the last thing we did.
Alas, we rocked up at the airport a hot, panting mess two minutes too late. The check-in had closed moments before. Then I started thinking – what if we had just driven a little faster, what if we had gone anti-clockwise around the M25 instead of clockwise? But there was no time for regrets at this stage. We had a holiday to go on and new flights to book.
Our story ended well. We managed to get a flight a couple of hours later (albeit from a different airport to a different country than we were originally going to) and only arrived in Slovenia four hours later than planned. Plus, the taxi company said they would reimburse the extra costs incurred due to us missing our flight. But, nevertheless, it was a hugely stressful experience and one I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
Not my face at the airport
I never thought I’d be THAT person who misses their flight. You see them at the customer services desks in airports, crowded round, shouting, with angry faces. You see them on television. And, if you’re like me, you always internally tut when you see them, “all you had to do was be on time. It’s your own fault.” But, now I know that it isn’t always the passenger’s fault. A multitude of things could go wrong and it’s always good to know what options you have in case it does (god forbid) ever happen to you.
So, you’re at the airport, the board has those dreaded words next to your flight: GATE CLOSED. What can you do if you miss your flight?
Don’t get angry
It’s difficult not to get angry and upset with anyone and everyone when in this situation, especially when it’s absolutely not your fault that you missed your flight (I certainly went through many emotions after hearing the words “the flight is now closed”).
My best advice would be to stay calm, even if there’s a member of staff rudely waving their hand in your face and not allowing you to speak (yes, that happened). It’s hard to rationally think through your options if you are too busy getting red in the face at anyone you see. Plus, staff are more likely to be helpful if you treat them like a human being and not a punching bag.
Just don’t get angry. It’s not worth it.
Can you get on another flight that day or leave your bags?
Your airline’s customer service desk might be able to offer you a few options. We had the option of leaving our suitcases at Luton and picking them up on our way back. We didn’t go for this. There might also be another flight out to your destination that day that has a few spare seats.
Unfortunately for us, there was only one flight to Ljubljana from Luton Airport each day with Wizz Air, and all of them were booked up until five days later. Not ideal when you’d especially booked that week off work.
Can you try another airline?
If your airline has no viable options for you, try another airline desk. We hopped over to the Easyjet desk to see if they had any flights that day. They had a few that we could get but, unfortunately, they were all booked up. At this point we were running out of options and thought we’d have to go back home and turn up at our respective jobs on the Monday morning, tails between our legs.
Then we tried Ryanair, a company I had never flown with before but had heard some questionable things about. As it turned out, they had a flight leaving that day that we could catch with just the right amount of seats. I never thought I’d say it, but Ryanair were a dream that day.
Flying over the Alps almost made the whole ordeal better
Can you change your departure and arrival destinations?
We were due to fly from Luton Airport to Ljubljana, but ended up flying from Stansted Airport to Trieste, in Italy. Research whether there’s any other airports near your destination, or maybe you can get a flight and then a train across country. Luckily, I knew that Trieste, despite being in a different country to the one we wanted to be in, was close to where we were staying because it had cropped up a couple of times when I was initially looking for flights. It’s worth keeping a note of some of the destinations, just in case you find yourself in this situation. So, we were looking at flights to Italy, Austria, and Croatia, which all border Slovenia.
The airports themselves can’t tell you what flights are leaving from other airports in the vicinity (Luton couldn’t tell us if there was a flight from Gatwick, Stansted, or Heathrow, for example), but the airlines can give you a schedule of their flights that day from every airport in the area. It’s just a case of working your way around, using process of elimination.
Can you get another form of transport
To save time and to avoid going from one desk to another with possible rejections all round, I quickly logged onto Skyscanner, a site that shows all flights from all airlines to all destinations, and quickly found a list of flights that were possibilities. Then, I noted down the airlines and hot-footed it to their specific desks. Because we knew when and where the flights were going, it saved time as the staff didn’t have to research from scratch.
Can you get the money you lost back?
Flights aren’t cheap, and if you need additional transport to other airports it can all start to add up. Luckily, the taxi company that messed up our journey have said that they are willing to refund any extra costs incurred. If it’s not your fault that you missed your flight, check whether there’s any way you can get the money back, whether it’s by calling the taxi company or checking the policy on your travel insurance. I’d say do this as soon as you can, so that they know there is a problem you want fixing.