I Missed My First Flight

  1. After years of almost missing almost every flight I’ve ever taken, and once almost not being allowed to board the plane due to a visa issue, I had my biggest flight-related shitshow to date: I missed an international flight.

I live in San Francisco, CA, and I had planned to meet my friend in Split, Croatia on June 1. I found a one-way flight from San Francisco to Split on May 31 that would get me to Split on June 1 (because of the time change), and cost $392 – but would have two stopovers and take a total of 30 hours.

I knew that Norwegian has really cheap flights from Oakland, CA to London. Oakland is near to San Francisco, so I thought I was being SO clever by buying a May 31 $250 flight to London, and then buying a separate $200 flight from London to Split four hours after I landed, meaning $450 total. This would make my total travel time 16 hours instead of 30 hours, for only 58 dollars more. Smart, right?

WELL, it would have been, EXCEPT, the Warriors (basketball team from Oakland) had their big playoff game on May 31. The stadium is right next to the Oakland airport, so this caused an insane traffic jam. I didn’t know about any of this, because I don’t follow sports, and the fact that a basketball game might affect my flight isn’t something that even occurred to me. (Except from now on, of course, I’ll always check to see if there’s a nearby game on the same day I’m traveling.)

It also happened to be the one day that my friend who lives in Guam (whom I see once every two years or so) was in San Francisco. In typical me fashion, I hadn’t really finished packing, so my friend came over to help me shove all my clothes in my backpack and see me off. I was wearing my cow onesie, of course. Best plane attire.

My flight was at 6:30, and the airport is about an hour and a half from my neighborhood on the metro, but 40 minutes in a car. By the time my friend and I had finished shoving everything in my backpack, it was 3:30, so I decided to call a Lyft just to be safe. Oh, the irony.

What should have taken 40 minutes took TWO HOURS AND 50 MINUTES. When I saw I still had half an hour left until arrival time, and we were still stuck in insane traffic, I called Norwegian to ask when the next flight was, and was met with a recording announcing the wait time was “longer than usual.” I was on hold until I got to the airport, so I hung up.

I got to the Oakland Airport at 6:20, rushed to the kiosk, slid my passport under the scanner and frantically entered all the information it asked for. It said my flight number and reservation number were invalid, and it didn’t recognize my last name. I rushed to the closest airport official to ask for help, but he said “they don’t train us to use these machines, I’m just a TSA agent.” Fair enough. The line for the Norwegian check-in counter was almost out the door, so I ran up to the front and stood on the side while the agent helped the customer standing there, and then quickly explained my situation before it was the next customer’s turn. She said they couldn’t help me, and that check-in closed at 6, and the only thing I could do was call Norwegian and have them rebook me. Picture a girl in a cow onesie with a large blue backpack frantically bouncing around the airport doing all this, because that’s what was happening.

I went back to the kiosks and called Norwegian again, and decided to wait in line while I did so, just in case they would rebook me now that I had officially missed my flight. I got to the front of the line before Norwegian picked up, and they were vaguely apologetic but said that only the people over the phone could help me.

About five minutes later, after being on hold for 34 minutes, Norwegian picked up but said that because it was more than 30 minutes after my scheduled flight takeoff time, they couldn’t rebook or refund me and I had to buy a whole new flight. 

So, instead of cleverly creating my own layover and saving myself money and travel time, I was now missing two flights.

My friend Elena happened to text me right then to wish me a safe flight, and I told her what happened, so she came and picked me up, took me to her house and calmed me down while simultaneously feeding me a burrito. 

After calling Norwegian to try to get a partial refund since they put me on hold for so long, they reluctantly refunded me a whopping €23. Woo-hoo.

I ended up having a buy a whole new flight for the next day, June 1, which was not cheap, but it did have a sixteen hour layover in Barcelona. If you’ve been reading this for awhile, you know Barcelona is my favorite city. I couldn’t sleep on the way there, since I was sandwiched between two dudes who were fully utilizing both their leg space and communal arm rests. 

After a brief visit to BCN, a quick wave to some of my old stomping grounds and refueling with some ice cream and sangria, I headed to the Barcelona airport in the wee hours of the morning to finally get on a damn plane to Croatia. I hadn’t slept in 35 hours and hadn’t showered in about 39, but at 8:30 a.m. on June 3, I made it!


I’ve now spent a week running around Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro and having a great time. Well, I mean, it’s me, so I have a mysterious rash on both knees and have somehow managed to lose my hairbrush and break my phone charger, but I’m still having a great time. I’ll tell y’all about it shortly. Watch this space.

Moral of the story: plan to get to the airport five hours ahead of time for international flights, because you never know, and get you a friend like Elena who will pick you up and feed you a burrito in stressful situations.

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