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domestic flights

It had to happen … I missed the plane!

You know, looking back over my travel history I’m beginning to think that I’m cursed in some way. So far I’ve managed to be delayed several times, had a plane turn back to a closer destination because of ‘technical difficulties’, missed connecting flights, lost my bags on numerous occasions and once I managed to somehow bypass immigration and end up out on the street in front of Frankfurt airport where I was only waiting for a connecting flight. But I’ve never missed a flight of my own fault - until last week.Our flight was scheduled to leave Sydney airport at 820am. I didn’t want to catch a plane at this time because we live outside of the city and getting to the airport can be a nightmare, particularly at that time of day. But as I was using my frequent flyer points I was restricted to this flight. So I got up nice and early and planned to be driving out of the driveway by 630am at the very latest. However, the World Cup final was being played at that exact same time and my football mad husband had gotten up at 5am to watch it. Unfortunately for me (and France) the match went into extra time and ultimately a penalty shoot-out so we were only getting into the car at 630am which meant we were at least 15-20 minutes behind schedule.

It seems that there were a whole bunch of other people who had also delayed their trip until after the end of the final as traffic was heavy and we crawled along the last bit of the freeway. My husband pulled up outside the departure hall and dropped us off to save time. He then went to park the car while I took the kids to check in - we had around 35 minutes to spare so I thought we were fine.

Now Qantas has instituted a new system whereby they have self-service check-in terminals and a bag drop. The idea is to check yourself in and receive a boarding pass and then line up to check in your luggage. The only problem is that there is no one close by to ask if you have a less than ordinary booking. Usually I would go straight to the “called flights” desk but there was noone on duty and so I approached the self help terminal and put in my frequent flyer card - up came my booking and it knew that I was travelling with an infant. But Loll’s booking didn’t appear and I was worried that he wasn’t in the system or that it would give me seats at the opposite end of the plane so I abandoned my checkin and approached the info desk. I told the woman that I had two separate bookings (mine was a frequent flyer one and Loll’s had been purchased by my mother) and she told me to go to the help queue. Now it just so happened that a P & O cruise ship had dropped off hundreds of passengers at that very moment for their flights home from Sydney. It was also the business persons’ rush hour and so the queues were horrendous and my husband was still nowhere in sight. I was getting worried that I would miss the flight, even with 30 mins to go.

About a minute or so later the info desk woman went to the called flights counter and asked that people on the 830am Melbourne flight come forward. I joined that queue but when I told the woman that I was on the 820am Perth flight she was very curt with me and told me I was too late. She didn’t give me any indication of what I was now supposed to do until I asked and she virtually barked at me to go to the sales counter.

Now, I usually try to remain calm and adopt a “it’ll be okay” attitude but I must admit that I was stressed out by this stage. I was upset at having missed the flight by literally 5 minutes and cursing myself that I hadn’t just gone ahead with the self checkin and annoyed that we hadn’t left home sooner. Plus my husband was still nowhere to be seen. So by the time it was my turn to talk to the sales clerk I was flustered and on the verge of tears. Luckily the clerk just booked me on the next flight and waived the redirection fee (tears do work LOL).

As we now had our boarding passes for the 1010am flight we joined the bag drop queue and checked in our luggage. They also made me check in my stroller which meant two hours in the airport with a roving toddler. We also found my husband, who had gone to the gate and then come back looking for us. It was then time to negotiate the security queues. Thankfully my boots did not set off the alarm this time and we were able to go straight through.

We now had two hours to kill and to add insult to injury, when we went up to the gate lounge the 820am plane was still waiting to roll back for another 10 minutes and I watched it taxi away while making a quick call to my parents to ensure that my mother wouldn’t be left waiting for two hours at the other end.

It’s amazing how time slows down when you really want it to whizz by, two hours in a gate lounge with a hyped up toddler is about as far from fun as I can imagine. There is only so much “look, there’s a plane!” and “stop running away and harassing the other passengers” that you really want to do on any given day!

Finally we were called to board and said goodbye to hubby. Having checked in so early we found ourselves at the back of the plane. By good fortune it was a fairly new Airbus A300 with individual TVs - a rarity on the domestic routes. We were given two seats with a window (Zavvy was travelling as a lap infant). I looked enviously at the row next to us with only one person in a three seat row (the back 4 or 5 middle rows in an A330 are only three seats wide as the plane narrows) and was going to ask the guy sitting there to swap but a steward moved some people there before I could ask.

It takes between one and two hours longer to fly from east to west across Australia than from west to east due to the winds. The wind was extremely strong that day so our flying time was just over 5.5 hours. That’s a long time to sit with a toddler on your lap. Luckily he wasn’t too badly behaved.

I hadn’t double checked on our meals at checkin and so the head steward informed me that they only had one child’s meal on board (I had pre-ordered a child and toddler meal) as we were now on a different flight. Loll took one look at the macaroni cheese and screwed up his nose so Zavvy ended up eating it and Loll stuck with cheese and crackers, a bread roll and some chocolate. I hadn’t planned on being in the air over lunchtime otherwise I would have brought him some sandwiches as he is a fussy eater. When it came time to eat my meal I was faced with a logistical challenge - trying to eat while a toddler sat on my lap. Normally when I fly with my hubby we take turns at eating and holding the baby but this time I had to put my tray on Loll’s table and eat leaning across - a feat I managed without spilling anything on me!

The rest of the flight passed without incident - slight grumbling from Zavvy who eventually fell asleep for an hour. Loll was quite content to sit and watch the same Disney cartoons that he watches at home.

We landed ten minutes late in Perth and were the last off the plane, stopping only to ferret out the apples at the bottom of my nappy/diaper bag to put in the quarantine bins. There at the gate was my Mum - it was great to see her (and I could really do with the extra set of hands!)

So, I guess the moral of my little story is:

1. Leave home extra early if you have a long drive through peak hour traffic
2. Try not to schedule your departure at the same time as the World Cup Final (or at least hope that it doesn’t go to a penalty shoot-out)
3. If in doubt - checkin and then argue about your seat allocation at the gate
4. Demand help if you need it
5. Tears do help sometimes (and may save you money LOL)
6. Don’t travel with me - I seem to be cursed!

perth, australia


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