What to do when you miss your flight - in New Zealand??
It always happens when you least expect it. It doesn’t matter who was at fault or what really happened. You missed your flight - and now you have to deal with it. First comes disbelief, followed by a string of bad words, then comes the minor freak out, thumping heart, racing mind… “what can you do?”. Honestly, I never thought it would happen to me, but when I found myself in this very unfortunate situation - I definitely did have a wee panic attack. Because I had no idea what to do, it’s never happened to me before - so the best I could do was simply trial and error.
This article is basically a summary of my trial and error. Some things worked, others had the potential to work, while some simply lead to unaffordable dead ends. I wanted to share this experience in case it ever happens to you and I hope they can help save you time, hassle and mental stress. Without further ado, read on for my tips and tricks if you ever (but hopefully never) miss your flight.
1. CALL THEM
My first reaction was to call AirNZ and see if there was anything they could do. Perhaps a $100 fee to transfer on to a later flight? I explained the entire situation but I definitely felt like they couldn’t really be bothered and just kept telling me ‘NO’. While calling can often be helpful, in this case, it led to a dead end. One lady passed me on to someone else and they both recommended me to simply book a new flight - at full cost.
Since I booked through a third-party website (Travel Smarter - which I would NOT recommend by the way) all the way from Frankfurt via Shanghai and Auckland to Christchurch, they said the process was more complicated and more expensive than if I simply purchased a new ticket… hmmm I wasn’t so sure about that. But it seemed like he was very unwilling to help, so calling lead to a dead end. Time for Plan B.
2. FIND CHEAP LAST MINUTE TICKETS
In NZ, there’s this thing called Grab-a-Seat where they list a certain number of cheap flights for very low prices (both domestic and international). So if you’re quick (and lucky), you can score yourself some pretty sweet deals. Unfortunately on the day I wanted to fly, prices were sky rocket high and I wasn’t able to find anything (Jet Star or AirNZ) for less than $300 NZD.
Back in the days, people used to be able to fly ‘Standby’ - where you just show up and hope to score yourself a cheap last minute seat. It was a win-win situation in essence, but then when more and more people started doing it, AirNZ ended their Standby Flights as they were losing a lot of potential profits. Nowadays, they have a new but similar concept/product called Gotta Go Fares but not to every destination (eg. not Auckland to CHCH). You can find out more information and the little catches of these cheap fares in this article: AirNZ Gotta Go Fares Explained.
Conclusion: Not overly helpful, but good to have a ballpark of how much flights will be and how much you’re prepared to pay to get to your destination. It also made me realise I was better off at the airport where I could potentially score myself a discounted last minute seat.
3. GO TO THE AIRPORT ASAP
I cannot stress this enough: GO TO THE AIRPORT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!! Honestly, it makes your life SO much easier because you are already there and able to hop on a flight last minute if somebody else did a no-show. You can enquire at other airlines to see if they have any last minute seats left. No matter what, it makes the most sense to go to the airport asap.
You can search for cheap flights while you’re there (or on the way), and it also saves you having to waste time calling people because the people you need to talk to are already there! Plus, real personal interactions make a huge difference. When it’s over the phone, it’s just not very personal. They can’t see you, they can’t feel your energy or the desperation - and so people tend to not go out of their way for you.
Worse case scenario: you spend a night at the airport and fly out the next day. Can you live with that? Most likely - yes.
4. FLY STANDBY and Cross your fingers
Of course, it depends on your luck and the person helping you. I was super fortunate to have been approached by a friendly AirNZ staff who asked about my situation. I told him the whole story while he typed in random things on the computer. A few minutes later, he presented me with a boarding pass and said, “I couldn’t get you on the earlier flight because it was all booked, so I hope this one is ok”. Wow ok. “And umm… how much will that cost??”- I asked hesitantly, fully prepared to pay up to $250 NZD. He simply waved his hand downwards and gave me a wink. “Don’t worry about it, there was a spare seat left and I’m glad I could help”, he replied.
I was speechless. Just baffled at how he went out of his way to do that for me, with zero incentive for himself. I can’t even tell you how grateful I was, just really really lucky to have been approached by such a kind person and walked away with a boarding pass at zero cost.
Moral of the story is: keep trying until you find someone who listens and understands you, and is willing to help you. Don’t listen to the people on the phone who tell you ‘NO’ without having exhausted all possible options.
5. OTHER ALTERNATIVES
If you are flying within the island (eg. Auckland to Wellington), then you have other options such as taking a bus or hitch hiking. You’d get there within a day. Since Auckland to Christchurch would take me (at least) two days to hitchhike or bus, my best option was to try my luck at the airport.
Best Advice: Stay Cool and Calm
But not too cool that people think you’re pulling their pants though. Just don’t throw tantrums, no one wants to help a crying, sulking, raging adult child. Imagine if you were the airline staff, what kind of person would you want to help? Always treat people with respect, even if they can’t help you - what you send out, echos back :)
Have you ever missed a flight before? What did you do and what happened in the end? Are there some other tips you found useful and would like to share? I look forward to reading them in the comments below! :)
This article is not affiliated with AirNZ. All opinions are my own.