Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport | Playing the Fool

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!!! 😛

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 😛


Nomadic Samuel 😛


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  1. Um I did nearly THE SAME THING going to Guatemala three years ago! Scott and I had an eight-hour layover at LAX from SF to Guat City and we were told our connection was in the same terminal so we set our alarm, found a corner and went to sleep. We woke up 75 minutes before the flight to go to the gate only to find our flight was in ANOTHER TERMINAL. if you know LAX at all, you know there is no way to switch terminals at 75 minutes before a flight and make it to re-check-in in time. So as expected, we missed our flight and had to plea with TACA to rebook us with no penalty. They did, but we had to fly through San Jose instead and miss a half a day or our vacation.

    Unrelated to that anecdote: I also flew China Eastern to Shanghai (from HK) just last week! Luckily, Hong Kong only has one airport…

    1. I definitely know about LAX! I had a nightmare situation there myself on my first ever trip to Asia. I had to RUN just to catch my flight at a far off terminal. I certainly know exactly what you are talking about. I don’t think there is anything close to a more disorganized airport.

  2. says: Federico

    I have only missed 2 flights in my life. First time was because of traffic- a road that had taken me 45 minutes to drive 3 days before took me 3.5 hours. The plane was still there when I arrived, in fact for the next 30 minutes it was still at the finger, but they never let me in. It’s why I have never flown again with Martin Air. Second time was in London., a Ryan Air flight. We arrived at the check-in gate 55 minutes early instead of 60 because THEIR previous RyanAir flight was late. And we were still not allowed to get on our plane.

  3. At least it turned out okay. I would be kicking myself too. I met a traveler who went to the wrong airport to catch his domestic Argentina flight…. and that sets you back A LOT of cash plus he missed his flight and had to book a new one for the next day.

  4. says: Michael

    Funny thing is that if that were to happen in the US, they wouldn’t care at all. I found that the airlines in China are fantastic and so friendly. I’m glad it all turned out.

    1. Michael, those are the exact thoughts I had as I was boarding the plane at the time. I felt this huge sigh of relief and felt really appreciative at the time. I know for certain in the US of Canada I would have been SOL…LOL

  5. says: Audrey

    Oh nooo! And after all that lounging around!

    I was flying out of Barcelona once and didn’t bother checking which of the city’s 3 airports I was flying out of. Of course, when I got to the train station and realized that there were 3 trains heading to 3 different airports, I was in trouble. Nowhere on my confirmation page did it specify which of the 3 I needed to be at, and I was already running late… Did I mention I had confused the arrival time for the departure time… sweet lord! Anyway, I took a chance and believe it or not, I picked the right airport out of the 3!!!! 😀 Best. Thing. EVER!

    p.s. I’m extra careful now when catching a flight. 🙂

  6. says: Grace

    I had a nasty feeling at the pit of my stomach while I was reading this. Getting left by a plane is my worst nightmare. It’s great that you were able to survive through this- I would have been in a cold panicky sweat running around like a chicken without its head. Hehehe.

  7. says: Marc Passion

    Arrrrhh the fear of missing a flight. Do think the fear comes from the missing of a flight or the post missing a flight experience where usually it’s going to burn your pocket????

    I recently payed for a full fare flight with Canada Air…actually you commented on this a while ago. I got to the airport and was put on standby which meant in theory if I missed that flight my next 3 legs were doomed! I got on but they would have heard a furios Passion had I not!

    1. Marc, I remember that situation! I’m not a fan of AC at all 😛 I could write several blog posts on the reason ‘why’ – LOL Most of the times when flights are on time and things go smoothly you don’t remember at all. I suppose these misadventures provide for some adrenaline and a chance to write about it later.

    2. That standby thing would have sent me OTT anxiety wise, as I am usually on a tight schedule when I fly. Glad you got on as planned.

      Samuel, thanks for the reply to my earlier comment. I think overall I’m pretty lucky with airlines. Last January I booked a Delta flight from Asia to the US and then something caused me to switch to (good old) Korean Air. The original ticket was through a booking site, who told me I’d have to take credit – minus a cancellation fee- fair enough. Last week they mysteriously decided to refund instead. Result!

      On that same trip I flew from LAX to the south (several places) using Delta domestic. I read too much sometimes and was quite nervous about being bumped off, long delays, luggage dramas etc. (I’m British, so had no direct experience of the company.) Overall they were really good though.

      There was one flight where I knew they’d overbooked cos the guy was real twitchy when I rolled up (early) to check in. But they hustled me onto another flight leaving earlier and I got bumped to business. That was cool. It (almost) made up for them not sending my case on the second leg of that flight until the next day!

      1. Valerie, those are some great stories! I love getting upgraded (on that rare occasion) to a higher class. I know all about arriving somewhere without my bag! I actually almost expect it sometimes 😛

  8. I am so happy that you made it in the end. My heart was in my mouth.

    The closest I’ve come to doing something similar, but not so dramatic, was when I had a flight from LAX back to Korea, booked for something like 12.50. I was sat chatting to the friend I’d been visiting, about how I had one more day etc when something in my brain pinged a warning.

    I had that same gut turning anxiety as I checked the e-ticket. It was close to 10pm and I was due to fly in less than 3 hours! Aghhhhhh. (I hadn’t even packed.)

    Lucky for me Korean Air were great, and I changed the ticket for free, over the phone. I’m obsessive about checking everything three times now!

    1. Valerie, it’s so easy to make a mistake like that! We’re human after-all. I can just imagine how you must have felt at the time. I think some airlines are known for great customer service whereas others would tell you that you’re SOL – lucky for us both we had the former! Aside from all the anxiety, I think the best thing anybody can learn from such an experience is to be a bit more careful, as you’ve mentioned 🙂

  9. says: Stefanie

    OMG, that is stressful. I thought the time I had 10 minutes to connect to my flight from Paris to Boston was going to give me a heart attack, but wow. So glad they were helpful. That’s a rarity in some places!

    1. Stefanie, that’s cutting it close! I just came to Korea a few days ago and I had to be rushed through security and customs on a connecting flight. Final boarding had commenced and they were actually paging my name for the final time before the flight took off. I was literally sprinting but luckily made it…whew 😛

  10. says: Kris Koeller

    I know that gut-wrenching feeling well. We were in Cambodia preparing to fly from Siem Reap to Singapore and realized our tickets were for July 30 but it was only June 30. We played it cool and they didn’t seem to notice, other than be curious that we weren’t in the system. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but we made it just fine.

  11. says: Abby

    Oh my gosh that feeling! I’ve gotten it a few times — once when I left my purse on a flight in my mad dash to make a connection, and once when I fell asleep to find that they’d moved my gate to the farthest possible terminal. Both times I ran, with that awful feeling, panicked… I hate just thinking about it! Made my flights though. 🙂 So happy they helped you out. And might I add how impressed I am that you’d spend the night in the airport like that!

    1. Hey Abby, I’ve had that rushes feeling when I was in the terminal as well. Actually, just on my most recent connecting flight to Korea I had to rush to get from Toronto to SF with some special assistance to get through customs and security. I was literally running onto the plane as they called my name for the last time before departure.

  12. That is hilarious. Although, I can understand the anxiety you went through at the time. It was no laughing matter then. One thing that travel teaches us is that if we keep a cool head everything will be peachy keen at the end. Sometimes we have to go through some bumps, but most predicaments like this one have a way of working themselves out.

  13. Oh man, I was sweating that one with you just reading the story. I’ve been in similar situations where I feel like I’ve got plenty of time and it’s all going better then usual when I discover I’ve got the gate or the time wrong, etc. Glad you were treated well and got another flight to Shanghai.

  14. Haha I remember a friend who got into the same situation. She arrived early in the wrong airport terminal LOL i’m glad that the traffic in Manila that time wasn’t as bad as the usual so she made it still 😀 I’m glad they were sympathetic to poor Samuel 😀 I’m leaving for KL in a few hours and it is my first time to go there solo later. I will make sure i’ll go to the right airport :=))