Up until recently, I had never, EVER made a mistake when flying as far as flight times, gates, departure and arrival times were concerned. Well over a million miles worth of error free travel, a bit of a badge of honor.
On my recent trip to Vienna where I decided to fly aboard LOT to enjoy their 787 I finally made that one, embarrassing rookie mistake: I didn’t know how to tell time.
My travels originated in Grand Rapids (GRR), with a flight to Chicago in order to catch LOT’s LO2 to Warsaw and then to an Austrian flight to get to Vienna the following morning. Leaving GRR was fine, I knew what time it was, no problem.
In the air to Chicago, I spin my watch back an hour to account for the difference between Eastern and Central US time zones…..I’ve done it perhaps a hundred times without error.
Then I make the biggest mistake in my travel ‘career’ and basically ruin a day.
Aboard LO2 from Chicago to Warsaw, I spin my watch forward 6 hours, thinking that was the appropriate time zone difference from the USA to Central Europe time. It would have been had I boarded the ‘daily’ Lufthansa flight between Grand Rapids and Frankfurt. But with the central time zone involved, I forgot to account for the extra hour ‘gained’ when I flew to Chicago, and therefore didn’t account for it when I lost it flying eastward. I set my watch forward only 6 hours, when it should have been advanced 7 hours.
So what happens next?
I arrive in Warsaw where on paper I had about 1 hour and 20 minutes to make an easy connection at an airport designed for easy connections. But what happens? I look at my watch, and in my bizarro world, I think I have 2 hours and 20 minutes before my Austrian flight. Great. Plenty of time to visit the LOT lounge for the fantastic polish fudge and some breakfast.
I actually leave the lounge having what I thought was nearly an hour before my flight so that I could walk around the terminal since it was my first time transiting WAW. I get that covered in about 15 minutes and go back to the lounge again (at the behest of a certain Swabian friend in my What’s App chat group). All of this because in my beautiful mind I think I still have over an hour before boarding.
So I sit down to another Coke and a few pieces of fudge because I want to catch Diabetes, pass 30 minutes and decide to finally head to the gate and get myself to Vienna and onward to the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m on my way to an F1 race weekend.
I arrive to the gate which is mysteriously empty and look at the display to see that my flight is ‘CLOSED’. WTF? It’s not supposed to leave for at least another 30 minutes (So I thought). But then I look at the gate clock and see that time had somehow moved 1 hour ahead of where I thought it should be. As I look out the terminal onto the tarmac, I see the bus I should have been on pulling up to bird I needed to be on. No gate personnel left at the gate, it wouldn’t matter if there was. I missed a flight due to my own screw up for the first time in my life. The pit that my stomach acid etched into me was palpable as I was overcome with this sense of helplessness and the thought of ‘Now what? How can I get to Vienna now?’ Dammit. Then I think to myself that I must have walked right past my flight while it was boarding, but I was more concerned about Polish Soccer souvenirs inside a gift shop. Nice going moron.
All was not lost as I was able to rebook (and pay the appropriate penalties) to a later flight and I finally arrived in Vienna at 7:30p with my tail between my legs after my self-induced 7 hour delay in Warsaw.
The lesson to learn from all of this?
Know where you are flying from, and more importantly, know what time it is where you land. Or buy a GPS-enabled watch that removes the risk of idiocy. Another lesson? enable location services on your phone and ALSO enable auto-update for time zones. That would have been a handy safety net had I enabled ‘auto-update’.
My only ‘lame’ defense is the fact that my last 10 or more flights to Europe did not have an onward connection once I got there. I’d usually fly directly to my destination so knowing what time it is was less of an issue.
Also, keep in mind if you fly an itinerary ‘out of order’ by missing a flight, you run the risk of having the rest of your itinerary canceled. How great would it have been when I got to Vienna for my flight home only to be told, sorry, you and your itinerary do not exist. Make sure if you miss a flight that the rest of your flights are kept intact.
Stupid is as Stupid does I guess……