What to do if you arrive at the wrong airport

What to do if you arrive at the wrong airport

I was packed and organised for departure, with plenty of time for the pre-boarding ritual I know all too well. The trip to the airport on public transit was smooth, fuelling excitement for the travel adventure ahead. I got to the airport, looked for the gate and realised I was at the WRONG airport.

Taking a short flight to Copenhagen from London, I was at London City Airport, home base for many intra- Europe carriers. I was supposed to be at Gatwick. I was SO sure I was heading out of London City, I didn’t bother to check when leaving home. In haste, I compounded my mistake and jumped into a cab without knowledge of the distance between the airports. It was a fool’s errand, and an expensive one at that. Here are five tips to manage the crisis, should it ever happen to you.

Read more: How to get your luggage off the plane first

1. Don’t panic

This is the most important thing to remember when travel plans go awry. The problem can be a bit more complicated for international travel, but not all is lost. Yes, it is an annoying error but not a fatal one. Rash, knee-jerk reactions will only lead to poor (and probably expensive) decisions. Take a breath!

2. Sit down and assess the situation

I mean, literally, sit down, perhaps with a cup of tea. There is a lot to think through. Framing this in terms of a ‘missed flight’ instead of ‘wrong airport’ will help clear your head and focus on the solutions and necessary next steps.

The reality is that the multiple airports serving a large metro area are not next door to one another. Public transportation to the city center is one thing; between the airports is quite another. Chances are that even with time to spare, you cannot get to the correct airport (and through security) inside of two hours, especially if you have bags to check. Consider the following:

  • Is the missed flight connecting? Does it involve another time-sensitive activity such as a train connection, tour, or a cruise departure?
  • If so, an email to advise will probably do, but a phone call is better. Rental car companies usually allow a 24-hour window for pick-up, but if other travel plans/destinations are contingent on your arrival, let the appropriate carriers or tour operators know you’ll be late.
  • Do you need to contact friends/hosts to tell them of your delay? You needn’t reveal the exact reason (save that for drinks once you arrive and it’s a funny story, not the source of distress).

3. Do a quick online search to weigh options

Start by checking to see if your airline has options from the airport where you find yourself. You may possibly simply book a one-way flight to your destination on a budget airline. Don’t forget to check aggregators. As a matter of fact, it pays to have these apps on your phone. In situations like this, time is of the essence. Expect to pay more, even if you are re-booked on your original carrier. Consider it the penalty for not double checking the airport before walking out the door.

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4. Check with your airline’s customer service desk or ticket counter

You’re not the first person to be at the wrong departing airport. Airline staff in big cities with multiple airports are familiar with the “wrong airport” syndrome. A sympathetic (and un-rushed, if you’re lucky) customer service representative has the authority and will often redress the mistake to get you on your way.

5. Find a lounge to wait it out

With a flight re-booked, find a lounge if you have over two hours to wait. There is no use in sending yourself to the purgatory of a gate waiting area. None of my airline passes were of use, so I bought a day-pass to sit in relative comfort. It was MUCH cheaper than my cab ride! And next time? Even though you are super-sure, check the ticket for the departing airport before heading out! Bon Voyage.

Have you ever ended up at the wrong airport? What did you do? Let us know in the comments section below. 

This post originally featured on travel blog 3 Score & More

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