As a student pursuing a dual-degree at the European
Business School in Germany, I have the unique privilege of spending three
semesters abroad. I began Part 1 of 3 on January 4th and I marked
the end on May 28th. With each of these flights, something very
similar – and very stressful – happened. I missed the last connection for the
final leg of the journey. I want to reflect on both so that someone may find
humor and perhaps advice from my experience.
I moved abroad on January 4, 2019. At a total of 13
hours for the trip, it was my longest to that point and the one for which I was
most excited. It seemed to be pretty straightforward – Louisville to DC, 2-hour
layover, DC to Munich, 1.5-hour layover, Munich to Frankfurt. And it was. For
the first connection. However, on the trans-Atlantic flight, it began to snow
in southern Germany. By the time we were set to land, snow and ice had layered
on the runway. They had to scrape the runway before we could land. First obstacle.
Then, once off, I had to go through Customs and Border Control before racing to
my gate. But only, that gate was no longer my gate. I went to the service desk
for updated information, and I was sent to the other side of the airport. I hurried
off only to find that even though the new gate had a plane going to Frankfurt,
it wasn’t “my plane.” Second obstacle. I raced to the service desk, only to be
told that “my gate” was four down from the original, on the other side of the
airport. I made an honest effort to make it back but came up short. First
setback. The only thing to do in this situation is to go to the main service
desk, explain what happened, make some fake tears fall down your face (reserve
this for if they think it was your fault that you missed the connection), and
negotiate to get a new ticket. This is exactly what I did to a resounding
success. Except for one thing. No flights could accommodate me, so I was forced
to take a 4-hour train from Munich to Frankfurt. Second setback. After two
further weather delays of my trains, I arrived at my apartment in the small
community of Oestrich-Winkel.
Now in my five months abroad, I came to really
enjoy and appreciate Oestrich-Winkel, Germany, and Europe. However, I was
excited about the chance to come home for the summer to see friends and family.
As such, I booked a flight – Frankfurt to Amsterdam, 1.5-hour layover,
Amsterdam to Detroit, 1.5-hour layover, Detroit to Louisville. As before, the
first connection went as planned. I boarded my trans-Atlantic flight, got
settled in for the long trip, and was anxious to be back on American ground
(how naïve to think it would be easy). We were sitting on the runway in
Amsterdam, waiting for clearance to take off, when a young man alerted the
flight attendants that he was having chest pains and needed to get off the
plane. So, as before, the notion that this would be a no-issue flight went out
the window. We had to taxi back to the runway, get him off, find his checked
bags in the luggage hold, refuel the aircraft, and cool down the brakes.
Altogether, this process delayed our flight by about an hour. Unfortunately,
this only left 30 minutes for me to alight, go through Customs, find my checked
bag and recheck it, go back through security, and find my way to the correct
gate. Needless to say, I missed my final plane by about 45 minutes. Thankfully,
I had the experience needed to handle this. I marched to the main service desk,
explained what happened, and negotiated for a new ticket as before. I landed
back in Louisville at 9:30 pm, ready to start the summer!
Conclusion: delays can and probably will happen.
Flights can and probably will be missed. Keep calm and put on a smile (or
tears, depending on the situation) and ask for a new ticket. Before long,
you’ll be on your way again, loaded with a wonderful story to tell your folks
and a perfect subject for your travel blogs!