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Getting Distracted Before a Flight — Reader Mistake Story

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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about all the positive ways award travel has affected their lives. That being said, while I love hearing about your successes, I think there’s also a lot we can learn by sharing our mistakes, and I’m calling on readers to send in your most egregious and woeful travel failures.

From time to time I’ll pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy (and commiserate with). If you’re interested, email your story to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Include details of exactly how your trip went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made it right. Please offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what precautions the rest of us can take to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, I’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure (or make up for any blunders from the last one).

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Richard, who paid a hefty price for not paying attention at the airport before his departure. Here’s what he had to say:

Image courtesy of
Realizing your flight left without you is not a good feeling. Image courtesy of Tainnan Vieira via Getty Images.

I bought a ticket to fly from Nashville (BNA) to Greensboro (GSO) to speak at a conference. It’s only about a seven-hour drive or a five-hour flight, including a connection in Charlotte (CLT), so it was a toss-up between flying or driving, but I thought I would arrive more refreshed and prepared if I flew.

The second flight (out of Charlotte) was delayed due to weather. This was before I had lounge access, so I went to the gate, put in my noise-canceling earphones, pulled out my laptop and decided to get some work done. I figured that movement in the gate area would let me know when the delays were over and boarding had started. I was wrong!

I failed to notice that the gate had changed, and even worse, it had been moved to the other end of the airport. When I finally realized my mistake, I had only about five minutes until the doors closed. Despite being a college track athlete, I knew I didn’t have a chance of making the flight — the last one to Greensboro that night.

With the conference starting in the morning, my only option was to rent a car and make the 90-minute drive up to Greensboro. I was embarrassed, but little did I realize all of the implications of my mistake — missing the flight was just the start. The rest of my itinerary was canceled, so I had to make other arrangements for the return journey. To add insult to injury, my luggage never arrived for the conference, and I ended up losing the keys to the rental car.

Ultimately, my routing ended up being BNA to CLT plus a rental car from CLT to GSO, a trip to a department store to buy clothes I didn’t love and never wore again, and then another rental car from GSO back to BNA. The rentals ended up costing way more than the flight, and ten times more than it would have cost to drive my own vehicle. On the bright side, the conference turned out to be amazing despite all of my attempts to ruin it!

Missing a flight isn’t fun, but missing one when you’re actually at the airport on time is especially rough. Fortunately, there are tools that can help you avoid making a similar mistake. If you want to tune out before your departure, make sure you’re set up to receive flight alerts. For example, American Airlines’ BeNotified service can send you updates (by phone or email) about schedule and gate changes, travel delays and more. Many airlines offer similar features either online or through their mobile apps.

When you do miss a flight, don’t give up on it too easily. Richard wasn’t able to adjust his itinerary, but it’s always worth talking to an airline representative to see what your options are. A sympathetic agent at the gate, ticket counter or even in the lounge might be able to work some magic and get you where you need to go on time. If not, they can at least try to salvage the remainder of your itinerary, especially during irregular operations.

For more on missed flights, check out these posts:

Lounge agents
Sympathetic lounge agents can make re-booking easier if you miss your flight.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Richard for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his travels.

I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city or missed out on a credit card sign-up bonus, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image courtesy of Westend61 via Getty Images.

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