Missing a flight can be a dreadful experience that comes in various stages. Anxiety: as you try to rush to the airport, time appears to run so fast, making your heart beat faster like trying to watch your team’s basketball game decided on the last second. Frustration: when you realize counter is closed, you plead to be allowed check in. Once the attempt fails, that highly-enjoyable trip you have been imagining for weeks is off to a disastrous start. Anger: you reason out justification as you appeal the decision of airline staff to declare you a non-show on your scheduled flight and fails miserably due to “airline rules.” Even when you get past check in counter, but find immigration counter too long, or security check too cumbersome, you might still miss out on that final call. Dilemma: you miss the flight but you can still salvage the holiday: buy buying new business class priced economy class seats. Should you take it and enjoy the rest of your vacation? Should you ditch it and cancel hotel bookings and tour reservations to save you from further burden?
So how must a passenger — traveling for business or pleasure — increase chances of at least getting to the departure gate?
1. Understand how security checks are done
Many passengers spend longer time in security checks than they should. That’s because they fail to anticipate regulations that have been imposed in the past. They carry liquids above prescribed volume, wear extra jewelries that need to be removed, or layers of accessories that should be removed during inspection — wearing belts, shoes with shoelaces that need to be tied, or burying laptops inside carry on bags when they should be taken out for x-ray machine to scan.
If you’re proceeding to security, be mindful and anticipate what will happen: wear minimal accessories, take more important items near the top of your bag.
If you wish not to take off shoes, laptops, belts or limit liquids, TSA Precheck for US citizens might be worth considering.
2. Be aware of flight changes.
Sometimes flights adjust their terminal number, gate number, or departure time. Failure to get notified isn’t necessarily a passenger’s fault but must now become his or her responsibility for his or her own sake to be ready at the right place and time.
You can be especially watchful on displayed flight information and read the signs and directionals within the airport, especially for large ones like Hong Kong, Atlanta, Dubai or Chicago where getting from point A to point B can take several minutes should your departure gate be relocated. You can also download the airport or airline’s mobile app, if any, to get notifications of any last minute changes.
3. Be aware of time.
Sounds cliche but time consideration is something that has been taken for granted by many travelers who have plenty of time to spare yet missed their flights.
- Check your watch – if traveling on different timezone, dealing with scheduled flights and referring to another timezone can be deceiving.
- Ensure time format is correct – lack of rest can distract a passenger reading a 17:00 (5:00pm) as 7:00pm.
4. Be clear with departure airport.
In most cases travelers assume that in a city there is only one airport. Unfortunately, it’s not the case all the time (Orly and Charles de Gaulle in Paris are 45 kilometers apart and London’s Heathrow is 40 minutes away from Gatwick). Also airports can have multiple terminals whose distances are quite far for those who are catching flights on short notice. Beijing Capital International Airport’s Terminal 3 is worth 2 miles walk, for example.
So it makes perfect sense to be certain which airport name (not just city) and terminal the flight departure gate will be.
5. Fight boredom but focus on your departure.
Airports have installed multiple features to beat passenger boredom. Sleeping quarters, cinemas, gardens, shower facilities and endless array of shopping options were made to make the airport more than just transit point but part of the journey.
Sometimes it’s so easy to lose track of time just going on a window shopping spree so it’s good to get notified by alarm on your phone, or play safe by staying close to the boarding gate.
6. Bring your own food and drinks.
Besides the hyperinflated prices at airport restaurants, they might also be located on the far end from your departure gate, experience long lines or not the type your appetite is craving. You can prepare homemade sandwiches or packed meals and be assured of quality, cleanliness and nutritional value.
Enjoy your holidays, and it always starts with making your scheduled flight.