On the Go: Surviving Flugverspätungen a.k.a. Flight Delays

I was sitting in London City Airport yesterday waiting for my connecting flight back to Edinburgh from Munich, and my flight was, of course, delayed – surprise! Really, I wasn’t surprised, as delay seemed to be the theme of the Edinburgh/Munich travel legs. But the getting to Munich was ridiculous. There is no other way to describe that travel day as anything other than a big, giant cluster****. 

After the torrential rain woke me up way before my alarm, I got to Edinburgh airport and was greeted by mega queues and a crazy long flight delay (four hours!)… 

And finally getting to Heathrow, having missed my connecting flight to Munich because of said four hour flight delay – caused by the aircraft’s technical “glitch” while it was still back in London, and an unaccompanied luggage situation (those who had abandoned ship during the delay). Needless to say, lunch was on the airline. I went and had a nice mac’n’cheese and salad with my £5 voucher.

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I don’t know if it was because I was tired and hungry, but it was actually very good mac’n’cheese.

Upon arrival at Heathrow T5, we all discovered that the overall network was down (imagine hundreds of blank departure info screens and thousands of people displaying a variety of emotions); as was the free wi-fi (gasp!) – likely because everyone was trying to use it. Ha. 

More queues and probably using up all of my mobile travel pass minutes to call the airline to to see if I indeed was moved on to the next (and only other) flight to Munich (as the flight attendant on the delayed flight to Heathrow told me I would be); but how to get my boarding pass when there’s a massive queue of people at the connections desk who I knew for fact didn’t have to catch a flight in 30 min?!? And it was bloody hot in Heathrow. Cluster****.

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Sigh…

It took a village, quick thinking, and a lot of cleansing breathing, but I got on that next plane to Munich. Phew!

All the waiting at Edinburgh Airport gave me the ample time to dive in to my German phrase book.

I’m tired, indeed!

I will never forget this word:  Flugverspätung (flook-ver-shpah-tung) = flight delay. Ha.

Some tips for surviving inevitable transport hitches that have served me very well when I am travelling:

  • Calm down, at least outwardly. Be like a duck: serene on the surface but paddling furiously under the water. You need to think on your feet. You are useless to yourself (and whoever you are with) if you are freaking out. This is where Darwinism kicks in, people. Survival of the fittest. 
  • Plug in. If wi-fi is working and available, log on so you can monitor the airline and airport websites for updates.
  • Get the facts. Find the airline desk, check screens/apps, call the airline, etc.  
  • Ask questions (to staff or fellow travellers). If you are in a country where English isn’t the default language, try to ask the questions in their language. Phrase books are a great thing. 
  • Pay attention and LISTEN (announcements, answers to questions, everything)
  • Be kind to the airline/airport staff. Always. They are your friends and are often told as much of nothing as you are. Say thank you for their help; even when they are useless. Because for every couple of useless people, there are at least a few really solid, with-it people that will be a pal and help you out. I had several people help me out last week that made up for some appalling (and very unlike the airline) overall communication and customer service the day I was flying to Munich. One of them started out as useless, but then turned in to my hero as he and the phone rep I had on the line are the reasons I got my boarding pass and on the new flight to Munich. Vielen Dank. Epic, EPIC THANK YOU.
  • Just roll with it. Realize that sometimes, there is nothing you can do except wait.
  • Read. Open your book/e-reader or go grab a magazine. Focus your brain on something other than the fact that you have been there for however many hours. 
  • Eat/Hydrate. Have a snack and a bottle of water handy in your carry-on. You will likely get “hangry”, or thirsty, or both. You might need to book it to your gate, and will need the fuel in your body. (If you get a voucher from the airline, take advantage! Note: It may sound like a good time to go have a drink, but better to be sharp when chaos is swirling.) 
  • BREATHE. You will survive the chaos. Even without wi-fi.

If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.

~ Dan Rather

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