Travel is wonderful for many reasons, but hiccups seem inevitable, even with the best research and planning. Being prepared for the unexpected (as much as possible) can help when those challenges arise. On my recent trip to the US my connecting flight was cancelled, and I had an unplanned night in Dallas. Having a few extra items in my hand luggage made the unexpected stopover better than it could have been. I spent an extra 16 hours travelling and thought I’d share my experience in the hope of helping others if a flight cancellation should occur.
My cancelled flight – and why you should always carry a spare undies
In mid-May I was travelling from Sydney, Australia to San Antonio Texas (via Dallas) for a conference. Storms delayed our landing in Dallas and ominous announcements were made by the captain about how much fuel we had left before we’d need to divert to another airport if we couldn’t land in Dallas. I was relieved when we finally did land in Dallas as planned and it didn’t even occur to me that the storms may affect our departure. I cleared immigration quickly, collected my luggage and handed it back over to baggage handling for the connecting flight to San Antonio. Two friends, also headed for the conference, were on the same flight and one was travelling business class, so she invited me to join her in the business class lounge (don’t worry, my third friend also snagged entry to the lounge – somewhat unconventionally). On arrival in the lounge, we were told that there was a three-hour delay for our flight to San Antonio. It was annoying but we were grateful to be in the lounge, so we settled in with some bubbly, food and I booked a shower.
As the evening progressed, we received notifications of further delays. Our original 6pm flight was rescheduled to depart at 10pm. We were all pretty tired and had reached our limit of bubbly and food. We knew we were lucky to be in a lounge, but we were just ready to get to San Antonio and our hotel. We got an energy boost as we headed to our gate, anticipating boarding and finishing our journey. At the gate my phone kept pinging with updates from American Airlines.
Nearly every 15 minutes the flight was further delayed. At midnight the crowd was growing increasingly hostile, and I felt for the poor American Airlines lady manning the counter. People wanted answers and it was finally announced that the pilots had “timed out”, which means, they had been on duty for their allocated time and were no longer legally allowed to fly. With the weather delays they’d simply run out of pilots. We were told we’d all been rebooked on a flight the following day at 10am. American Airlines would put as many people as possible in hotels for the night and provide taxi vouchers and a food voucher. Fortunately, one of my travel buddies made a break for it and was lined up quickly for our hotel allocation and taxi vouchers. There were only two American Airlines staff to process the 200 odd passengers needing somewhere to sleep for the night. I imagine it took many hours to do so.
While we were provided with a hotel for the night, we did not get our luggage. It was kept on the plane for the next day. So, this is where the spare undies come in handy. Fortunately, I had a full change of clothes in my luggage because by the time I arrived at San Antonio, my final destination, my trip had taken an additional 16 hours. I had been travelling for over 30 hours. I was also grateful to have packed my medication in my hand luggage and some snacks. At two o’clock in the morning I was happy to have a cuppa and a chocolate bar. Nothing at the airport was open by the time we were leaving. I also had a few cosmetics in my bag. Happy to have my deodorant. I’m a two shower a day gal so staying fresh is everything.
We were lucky to get somewhere to at least sleep for a few hours and another shower helped freshen me up for our forward journey. I thought that they may request that we share a room given there were three of us travelling but we were not on the same booking which is why I think we each got our own room.
The next morning we were had access to the lounge again (thanks to my business class travelling pal) so we had a good breakfast and somewhere nice to wait for our flight.
Delays, lost luggage, and cancelled flights seem more common post Covid, but I acknowledge they happened beforehand too. It’s always best to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. If you have a cancelled or delayed flight, you’ll be grateful to have a change of clothes and fresh undies. I left Sydney on a winter’s day and arrived to summery weather in Dallas. I was so happy to have a t-shirt to change into.
I know that the usual seven kilo hand luggage allowance can make it difficult to make space for medication, a change of clothes and a bit of food, but especially if you are a person who has specific needs, do all you can to have what you need with you.
When travelling with Braeden we would never book a connecting flight, in part because he just wouldn’t tolerate that long in a plane seat, but also because of the many scenarios that can go wrong. When we flew to New York we broke our journey with a few days in Los Angeles. I’m not denying that it adds to the cost, effort and logistics but it’s just what we need to do to make travel possible for Braeden.
I’m keen to hear what you carry in your hand luggage. Do you always carry your medication and a change of clothes?
As many of you will know, I am an over packer so I shared my packing essentials in this post.