In my new position, Director of Business Development for ST Electronics Satcom Business Group, I have traveled a fair amount (so far this year – 13 countries, 44 cities and 114K air miles flown) meeting with customers and prospects of the Agilis RF products. A recent flight cancellation turned into a nice day break in Japan for me, for others it was a nightmare night and day long event at the airport. Dealing with a flight change is nothing new to me. Here are some tips that might help.
It seems obvious to me not to listen to the airport personnel when you need to deal with a flight change, however based on the number of people who showed up at the airport to rebook their flight in person, maybe it isn’t. I was traveling from Singapore to San Francisco through Narita. Bad weather diverted us from Narita to Osaka. Five hours after our scheduled arrival time we finally made it to Narita. The gate agent told us “Come back at 11am tomorrow to rebook your flight.” I thought she was joking at first, but soon realized they she wasn’t. There were only two direct flights out of Narita to SFO, 4pm and 5:25pm, the counters didn’t open until 11am.
iPad to the rescue. My iPhone wouldn’t connect to the network in Japan, but my iPad would connect to the data network. I used Kayak (a good travel planning tool) to book a hotel room (Mercure Narita $138) while I stood in the immigration line listening to people responding to their travel agents who were telling them there were no hotels available. I used Skype on the iPad to call United on the way to the hotel to rebook my flight for the 5:25pm flight the following day to SFO. I used the United iPhone App to find the flight and available seats first, but wanted to talk to a human to confirm the change since it was international and an entire 747 was trying to rebook.
The Mercure Narita has a great Sushi restaurant in the basement. While eating dinner I used my iPad to find a nearby temple and tourist area within walking distance of the hotel. The following day I had a leisurely day walking around the Temple grounds, the tourist area, and had a great fresh eel lunch (very fresh, they killed them at the restaurant and then cooked them.
Back at the airport I ran into several people from the flight the day before. They told me they had been at the airport since 9:30am (remember there are only 2 direct flights 4pm and 5:25pm). They waiting in long lines for hours and spent the day in the airport rebooking and waiting for the flight to leave. They told me how they stayed at hotels with no food, and no dinner since we had been on the plane since early morning till 10pm (United even ran out of water on the plane). I told them of my adventure…
In summary, when you experience a flight delay:
1) Call the airline immediately when your flight is cancelled. Don’t go to the customer service desk unless they can’t help you on the 800 number. I have called from a plane returning to the terminal before to be the only one let off to catch another flight.
2) If you are connecting, look up the local area of the connecting city before leaving home so you have a plan in case you get stuck (I was really lucky). Try not to connect in countries that require prearranged Visa’s to leave the airport.
3) Carry your luggage, if possible, on the plane. It saves you hours in these when there is a flight cancellation. Or keep toiletries and change of clothes in your carry-on and come back to the airport the next day to claim the rest of your luggage. No need to wait around for them to find a baggage claim area open and offload the luggage. (See Briggs & Riley 22 inch expandable Carry-on post for a carry-on suitcase that can handle long trips).