As a seasoned traveller, making yet another routine trip to an airport – to catch a flight – is quite an underwhelming experience. It’s a cookie cutter formula of just showing up 3 hours before departure, checking my bags & killing time before boarding. I’ve never missed a flight in my entire life; however, that was all about to change on one fateful day at Taiwan International Taoyuan International Airport. I didn’t just miss my flight but I played the fool in a way that deserves a gold medal of honour in the art of travel bungled blunders hall of shame.
I remember distinctly as I arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport feeling a sense of excitement about my upcoming flight to Shanghai. At this particular point in time, I had three years of living in Korea under my belt and nearly two full years of backpacking across Asia, yet I had never set foot in China aside from the special administrative regions of Hong Kong & Macau. As a cheapskate extraordinare, colossal pincher of pennies or whatever else you’d like to call it, I arrived at the TTIA the night before my early morning departure to save a night on my hostel accommodation and get some work done editing my travel photos & videos. Upon entering through the automatic screen doors I had to figure out which terminal would be best to lounge like a lizard. I quickly found the information booth where a man checked my ticket and pointed me in the right direction.
As I worked away on my projects time flew by & as I glanced down at my watch realizing it was well past midnight. I secured my backpack & daypack against a pole adjacent to a nearby couch, set my alarm clock and drifted off into a deep slumber sprawling my entire 6’1 frame across a tiny yet comfortable sofa. Upon waking up in the morning I had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast of Taiwanese noodles at the food-court. When the bowl was finally empty and my stomach satiated, I took a glance back down at my watch and realized it was ‘finally’ time to check-in and go through security. I made my way to China Eastern Airlines booth and talked to an agent who conveyed the message that my flight would start checking bags in around a half an hour.
Thirty minutes had passed and I went to check to see if my flight was boarding. I noticed some flights with China Eastern Airlines boarding before and after my flight but couldn’t find MY scheduled flight. Suddenly my stomach was in knots, adrenaline gushed through my veins like a flash flood and my face suddenly felt flushed as I peered down at the itinerary I was holding in my hands. I had not missed my flight. I had not gone to the wrong terminal. I was in the wrong airport!!! What a fool!!!
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I had not even bothered to check whether or not my flight was leaving from the domestic airport considering it was an international flight to China. I hadn’t noticed. The man at the information booth hadn’t noticed. The ticketing agent at South Eastern China Airlines hadn’t noticed. I was in a world of trouble suddenly. My head instantly raced through all the worst case scenarios I could possibly face - from not being able to find another flight to China from being stranded in Taipei without a hostel reservation. Finally I gained composure and went to the ticket agent to explain my situation. They were surprisingly sympathetic and after waiting an hour I was put on a flight going to Shanghai actually leaving from TTIA The story ended without any cause for concern or dent in my pocketbook. Aside from possibly a few grey hairs and about 10 years taken off of my lifespan I was all set to go and arrived in Shanghai the day I was scheduled to arrive. Believe you me, I now check, confirm and reconfirm any time I’m flying somewhere to not only get there on time but to actually arrive at the proper airport