My Flight Wasn’t Delayed After All — Reader Mistake Story

Oct 26, 2018

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader David, who missed boarding after a series of schedule changes. Here’s what he had to say:

To preface this story, I’m a very punctual person. One of my pet peeves is showing up late, so I’m usually the first to arrive when meeting friends. Similarly, I like to arrive at the airport at least an hour before my departure, and I had never missed a flight in my life.

I booked a Southwest flight from Oakland to Long Beach with a departure time of 7:00 pm. That afternoon, I received an email that my flight was delayed until 8:30 pm. I thought “This is great; they gave me early notice, so I don’t have to waste time at the airport!” I arrived at the airport at 7:00 pm and got through security shortly after. I looked at the departure screen for my flight and it said “GATE CLOSED.” I ran to the gate, where the agent told me they were able to find an alternate plane and it just left.

Little did I know that Southwest emailed me specifying my flight was back on track. I failed to check my email as I was in transit. Unfortunately, that was the last flight available to Long Beach. Lucky for us, however, Southwest flies to multiple airports in the region, so we were able to hop on one of the last flights to Orange County.

In the end, everything worked out. We got a cheaper rental car from Orange County, and it was actually closer to our destination than Long Beach. The lesson for me was to select the right contact preference during booking. Southwest defaults to email, but you can also change it to text or phone.

Flights get delayed for all kinds of reasons, so before a delayed flight notification lulls you into unwarranted nonchalance, you should try to figure out what’s causing the hold-up. That information isn’t always easy to come by, but airlines are beginning to introduce more detailed status alerts to help passengers make informed decisions during irregular operations. You can also look to third party services like FlightAware for updates, and I recommend setting aircraft change alerts to avoid getting stuck in an undesirable seat when one plane gets swapped out for another.

Once you know the nature of your delay, you can decide how to respond. Personally, unless I’m facing systematic delays and cancellations, I prefer to just get to my gate on time and survey the scene in person. I’m fine with spending extra time in a nearby lounge and keeping an eye of my flight status if the delay persists, and I’m ready to board if it doesn’t. In any case, you should always check in and drop off checked bags before the regularly scheduled cutoff, or you might not be allowed to board even if the flight is late.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank David for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by Chuttersnap/Unsplash

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