The Mishap: I Missed My Flight!

I don’t usually talk about my travel mishaps; but it took me 60 hours, traveling through 4 countries and 6 flights to get to Chile, all the while thinking I would think twice flying with Aeromexico again…

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Maybe that’s why I would think twice flying with Aeromexico again…

I don’t usually talk about my travel mishaps because it was embarrassing and stupid. In fact, they always happen, and they happen almost every time – I forgot to bring something (my local metro card, my toothbrush, my sim card, or my memory card); I drop something (my phone on the bus, my umbrella in the theatre, or my sunglasses in the restaurant); I forgot to charge my battery for the camera, or I did remember to charge my battery but I forgot to put it back in my camera…

Well, those incidents were probably my fault and then I was chatting the other day with a bunch of friends about my panic moments of taking a train. Yes, and especially in Japan. Even with the help of an app these days, taking a train in Japan sometimes could be super confusing! Different platforms, stations, and classes. When hundreds and hundreds of passengers keep pouring out from the train and I just got panic and all confused; I couldn’t even count how many times I boarded a wrong train or got off at the wrong station… I could go on and on about my JR horror stories, but this is now what I wanted to share today. Today, I wanted t share a little bit about catching a flight; and apparently, to my surprise, many of us have all been there.

Bye Bye - Los Angeles
Good Bye ~ Los Angeles!

The Beginning of a nightmare

So, I took off from Los Angeles last December, heading to Chile for my year-end South America trip. I had to transit in Mexico City at 5 AM (because I flew with Aeromexico), and we were already delayed about… 1 hour. It seems to me, that I had to expect a lot of delays when traveling to South America from the U.S…. I had the same delay when I was heading to Peru, we were stuck in the middle of the airport while we were on the plane, and we had to wait for an hour before taking off.

Mexico City: when we were literally 10 meters above ground, the plane pulled back up, and we were up in the air again.
Mexico City: when we were literally 10 meters above ground, the plane pulled back up, and we were up in the air again.

Anyway, the flight carried on as usual. Five hours later, we had our seatbelt fastened and the ready to touchdown. I could see from my window the entire Mexico City; though at dawn, the city was glittering with street lights and traffic was bustling. Somehow, magically if I might say, when we were literally 10 meters above ground, the plane pulled back up, and we were up in the air again. I didn’t know what happened, I didn’t understand why. The pilot was speaking something in Spanish and I didn’t understand. When I look out the window, we were high up and the city is covered with fog. We flew for another hour and finally, we landed. It was a little bit unexpected, but well, I had a 6-hour window before I hopped on my other flight to Chile. However, we were stuck on the plane after we landed and I wondered if they had a problem with the airport shuttle (the same thing happened in Peru and we waited almost an hour on the plane for a shuttle bus to come and take us back to the terminal). It was until then, a lady sat next to me in the business class told me that we were actually in Guanajuato, a nearby airport, due to the fog!

We were just waiting until the weather condition in Mexico City improved and we could go back. Due to security (and most likely, operational issues), we were unable to get off the plane, even though some of the passengers were actually heading to Guanajuato. What confused me the most was that when I looked out the window, the weather was sunny, warm, and calm.

Mexico Guanajuato Airport
We were actually in Guanajuato, a nearby airport, due to the fog!

Of course, there were a lot of concerned, anxious and jumping passengers during our wait as many of them were also heading to different connection flights to Argentina, Peru, Chile and so on. I remembered the flight attendant told them, repeatedly, that due to the weather, many connecting flights would “probably” be delayed and they did not have to worry.

I have had takeoffs and touchdowns during typhoon, hurricanes, and snowstorms – I was confused because apparently heavy fog during touchdowns was a big no-no in Mexico (and later I met a friend from Spain and she told me, yes, Mexico City was a valley and it happens – I didn’t verify). Anyway, we were delayed almost 5 hours before we finally had a go from the Mexico City Airport and finally returned to Mexico City.

Mexico

When we arrived at the airport, I could still see my plane parking at gate 66 from the window. But deep down I know it would not be that easy. In Mexico City, passengers have to go through customs clearance even though you are only transiting with the same airline. The other time when I was in Cancun, back from Cuba, we had to wait for an hour for the sniffing dogs to check our luggage, before they released them to the luggage belt, and we could see our luggage through the window, sitting there, waiting.

Mexico City AirportWhen I finally passed the customs (which took almost an hour in the queue), I missed my connection flight by 5 minutes, and someone at the luggage claim said the plane already took off. The connection flight was on time after all. In distraught, I was guided to a counter while a rather rude lady gave me another flight to Chile the same day because I had to be in Chile the next morning. I got bummed from business class to coach, but the lady couldn’t do anything about the refunds. I was kicked from offices to offices, counters to counters in the airport terminal, and all of them said I had to go to another office, or I had to call (well, classic poor customer service).

I didn’t want to be stuck in Mexico City, I didn’t have a phone, I hadn’t eaten and I had to agree to take the Avianca and LATAM flight to Chile because I need to arrive Santiago the next day or I might miss all the connections that I planned for the trip. The domino started. I had to make fast decisions. I had to act fast too because I only had about an hour to get to terminal 2 to catch my compensate flight! I had to use my plan B. Should I change my destination? Should I change my route? Should I wait for a day for my flights?

Any of these decisions would change my itinerary and I had to re-book my hotel reservations, connecting flights, and pickups… While Aeromexico staff told me the airport offered free Wi-Fi – but wait, I only get 5 minutes of free Wi-Fi for each mobile device in the airport (seriously?), and it was not enough time for me to rebook my everything. Even worse, the Aerotrén (a people mover at Mexico City International Airport) was out of service that day and I had to line up for a shuttle bus that transported us to terminal 1 in traffic. Enough was enough!

 Aerotrén (a people mover at Mexico City International Airport) was out of service that day and I had to line up for a shuttle bus that transported us to terminal 1 in traffic. Enough was enough!
Aerotrén (a people mover at Mexico City International Airport) was out of service that day and I had to line up for a shuttle bus that transported us to terminal 1 in traffic. Enough was enough!

When I made it through traffic to terminal 1, I could barely make it to the check-in counter (and got ‘almost’ yelled at by the ground staff, said I was late, and so my seat is ‘not confirmed’). I had to be standby at the gate (another long queue to security check, yes, of course); Finally, I made it to my flight to Bogota, Colombia, deep-breathing and calming myself in the entire process, and luckily I didn’t have to spend the night at the airport (I actually might).

Bogota AirportOnce I arrived Bogota, though less dramatic, I had to go through the customs clearance, check-in, check-out, and luggage claim all over again before I, yet again, barely made it on time to my connecting flight to another destination. In the end, it took me 60 hours to get to San Pedro de Atacama, and I have traveled through 4 countries in 48 hours with 6 flights, all the while thinking I am never flying with Aeromexico again.

Lesson Learned:

  1. Customs. Never underestimate the time you need through customs, the length of the queue depends on flights (hence, the volume of arrivals). Sometimes the queue could be short, but always assume they are long. Check if you need to go through the custom for your connecting flights and head to the custom as fast as you can if you do. Make sure you have the immigration form filled out on the plane and bring a pen with you!
  2. Luggage. Remove old barcode labels on your luggage because old barcodes confuse the scanners and increase your risk of losing it during transportation. If you are a frequent flyer member of the airline, make sure the ground staff put on the “priority” tag on your luggage.
  3. Terminals. Airports have more than one terminals and they could be far apart. Passengers may require to go through custom and reclaim their luggage if they are changing terminals. Again, don’t underestimate the time required to wait for a shuttle (even worse if there is no shuttle).
  4. Wi-Fi. As I said, some international airports provide free Wi-Fi but most of the time those Wi-Fi are extremely unreliable, limited, or not user-friendly.
    Tip: look for cafés (or Starbucks) as they usually provide much more user-friendly free Wi-Fi services.
  5. App. Download the airport apps, or airline apps (while you can). Although you may not need it, it could be useful when you are trying to locate the airline office, gate, lounge or information kiosk when you are already in a hurry.
  6. Plan B (or even C & D). Yes, always think about a plan B because anything can happen. What could you do if you can’t get to your destination? Any other route? Do you have a change of clothes if your luggage got lost? Do you have the contact numbers you need on your phone? Bring a good book, water and snack with you in your carry-ons; and always bring a power bank and charging cord in case you have to be in a long wait.
  7. Fellows. Don’t be afraid to talk to people, I was glad that I had help from other fellow travelers (while sorry to say, much more helpful than ground staff) along the way. They shared their experience, kept my spot in the queue, and even acted as a translator when I failed to communicate with the staff…
  8. Direct flight. Choose direct flight if you can. To me, it’s always on my top priority unless no direct flight is available then I consider connecting flights. If you have time, plan to stay a day or two in your connecting destination. There is always something to see and do in a place.

20 comments on “The Mishap: I Missed My Flight!”

  1. That journey was a nightmare for you! I remember missing a connecting flight due to weather in Miami. They were trying to fly me to Dallas, New York, and other random cities to get me to the UK. I was on my way home though so its not as stressful as joining a trip. Good list of recommendations. I’m terrible at taking label/stickers off!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks and the fear of where would I end up landing on was seriously quite overwhelming. Well it was an experience and lesson learned! 🤔

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  2. So sorry about what happened to you. We flew to Mexico City 2 times over the past year and the airport there was a disaster. The immigration line is ALWAYS so freaking long and the staff didn’t care to do anything about it. And like you said, it didn’t matter if you’re transferring or entering the city. The lesson I learned is to try to avoid booking flights via Mexico City Airport like a plague. It’s a total nightmare!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Cat and apparently we have all been there! Terminal 1 was a war zone and Ultimately, it was the airlines poor service that disappointed me the most. 😩

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  3. I’m so feeling your pain. How frustrating. Great tips. I never thought about the barcode, but I could see how it could cause some real problems. After going through customs in Amsterdam to catch a flight to Greece, I realized that not everything runs smoothly. Next time I’m making sure we have a longer layover. So stressful. Also, it totally irks me that some airports make you 1) pay for WiFi or 2) have a limited amount of time. Five minutes is so ridiculous. It could take that long for something to load if the WiFi isn’t good. I’m so with you on the direct flights!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lara and yes, direct flight direct flight, and direct flights for me. Apparently we don’t talk about this much, and we’ve all been there 🤨

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  4. Business Class should be enough to get you priority on your baggage. If you are flying in the US, make sure you download and use the passport app. It takes out one layer of clearing customs, and puts you to the front of line for people in your plane.

    I had a touch and go at the San Diego airport once. The landing in San Diego is a little weird because you barely clear Balboa Park on a hill and have to drop into the airport in the valley below. I think the pilot didn’t have enough runway left on our approach so we made another lap and lined it up again. I wonder if the elevation of Mexico City and the surrounding mountains makes it hard to land at… So I googled it. One thread with pilots contributing had the 3rd post about the Juarez airport. There was also a lot of chatter about LGA (new york Laguardia I assume), DCA (Washington Reagan with a ton of restricted air space) and San Diego (SAN).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good info! Thanks Jenn and I am interested in this kind of things, too ☺️ DCA is by the river but I do believe the “security” measures could be so much more confusing

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  5. OMG what a traumatic experience. I could totally imagine how frustrating it is to actually miss your flight, connection flight some more! I remember when I was heading to India once from Singapore and I missed the check in time, as the attendance asked me to re-queue due to my luggage overweight. That was terrible too!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh no, there’s nothing worse than missing a flight and it sounds like a stressful and strange experience. After your experience I can understand why you would not want to fly Aeromexico again. Great list of recommendations at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

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