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For the 2nd time ever in my life, I turned up to an airport full of expectation, only to find myself headed back to the city from whence I came and in front of a hotel I did not book several hours later.
The first time, I was on the way back to Malaysia via Singapore during summer break. After an unusually long flight delay at the gate, we were informed that our pilot had actually suffered a heart attack and therefore our flight had to be rescheduled. The pilot on the inbound flight had volunteered to fly the plane back out, but due to regulations, had to be grounded from flying until he’d had sufficient rest. This meant our flight was delayed from late afternoon/early evening until early the next morning. The delay in giving us the information was because they’d been hoping the inbound pilot could fly the plane out later that night.
Travelling alone and looking forward to seeing my parents after a whole year away from them at the tender age of 18, I was more than a little disappointed. Truth be told, I was virtually in tears by the time I was able to call them up and tell them not to go to the airport that night.
It was several years later before I could look back on that experience and realise that it could have been worse. Much worse.
For starters, the pilot could have had his heart attack while we were in the air!
On top of that, I was at the receiving end of Singapore Airlines’ incredible service. Since I’d already packed up my entire college room and didn’t have a place to stay, they put me up at arguably the best hotel in town, then known as Burswood Hotel in Perth. Somehow, despite travelling alone, I somehow ended up in a honeymoon suite with the largest bed and bathtub I have ever come across. I wish I’d been more into photography and blogging back then, but since I wasn’t, you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say I have yet to stay in a better hotel room since. We were also provided dinner at the Atrium buffet, allowed to make one international phone call to inform our loved ones of the news, and driven to and from the hotel.
The sad thing is, I didn’t enjoy or even appreciate what should have been an indulgent experience. I was young, not a seasoned traveler at that point, scared of being alone, and self conscious about dining by myself. It would be several years before I realised that I actually like my own company, and that my first world problems are really no big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Fast forward to today. I was due to fly out of Melbourne at 7pm and from Sydney to Tokyo at 10.20pm. But this happened.
(Source, google “Sydney storm” for more information and spectacular photos)
The worst thing was, I had actually gone to the airport several hours earlier, partly because I’d been hoping to secure an earlier flight to Sydney so that I could indulge in some duty free shopping there, but mainly because my conference had finished earlier than anticipated and I was too stingy to pay the full cab fare to the airport when I could share a cab with a colleague of mine. No luck with the earlier flight, but I figured I could always relax in the lounge since I’ve flown frequently enough with Qantas to achieve gold status on their frequent flyer programme. Little did I know that trouble was literally brewing ahead.
There I sat in the lounge with ever increasing concern as I watched my departure time to Sydney get pushed back by one 15 minute interval after another.
Finally, the announcement came that passengers on the flight from Melbourne-Sydney-Tokyo would not be able to make their connection. As they were unable to book us a hotel in Sydney, we’d have to return to the Melbourne CBD and get rebooked on the next available flight the next day. So here I am at the Pullman Hotel in Albert Park, Melbourne.
It’s not as nice as the Burswood was, but it’s comfortable enough. There’s even a loofah amongst the provided amenities.
We were also given taxi vouchers to the airport and back tomorrow, and a $50 food voucher for dinner and breakfast. Which isn’t a lot when you consider that breakfast costs $31.50 here. Just as well I’d already eaten in the Qantas Lounge, so all I felt like having anyway was the soup of the day (pumpkin and miso) and some hot chocolate. Perfect comfort food (in bed!) after a long and disappointing day.
It’s funny how perspectives change with age and experience.
The first time my flight got delayed, I was a wreck!
This time, I’ve remained calm, knowing that it could have been worse. Much worse.
For starters, we could have been caught in the storm.
On top of that, I now have the benefit of the internet for when things don’t go to plan. I’ve spent the last hour or so cancelling my 2 nights’ stay in Nikko (forfeiting 1 night, but I figure I’m spending that night in Melbourne with Qantas footing the bill anyway), and booking a last minute nights’ stay at a ryokan in Asakusa, Tokyo instead (the remaining nights after that have all been booked already). It’s disappointing that I won’t get to visit Nikko as planned, but it just didn’t seem worthwhile anymore to arrive there at 12-1pm one day and have to check out around noon the next day. Nikko is around 3-4 hours from Tokyo by train, and after the tiring day today, I decided I’d rather take it easy and spend an extra day in Tokyo rather than spending 7-8 hours on a train to and from Nikko with really only one afternoon to explore the sights there. I’ll just have to save it up for my next trip to Japan.
Oh, and for the record? Singapore Airlines has far superior customer service compared to Qantas. I recall them being apologetic and incredibly helpful, whilst the Qantas staff were increasingly agitated and terse as the evening progressed. I understand they were under a lot of pressure due the many flight delays and even cancellations, but still – tsk, tsk.
Have you had to make last minute changes to your travel plans before? What airport dramas have you experienced and how did you cope with/handle them?
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