Losing My Situational Awareness.. at the Gate

I usually pride myself on how well I travel, soup to nuts, from booking to sailing through the airport and handling irregular ops. I sweet talk hotel check-in agents for upgrades, game my flights to maximize upgrade changes, and generally maintain strong situational awareness.

I love reading Lucky’s blog because it seems like he’s sharing a stupid move he’s made on almost every trip. It makes him a far more entertaining read, I think, than I’ll ever be. I tend towards a far more analytical approach which best suits my personality.

But sometimes I do something stupid. Or come off like a total newbie traveler. Like this past Thursday.

I was flying up to New York and I was looking at a short delay. I sat down near my gate, at National airport’s round tables near just past the gate area and closer to the restaurants. I could see the screen at my gate.

The 1:05pm flight was supposed to depart at 1:39pm. I couldn’t get the airport wireless connection to function properly so I was online using my Verizon MiFi. And I was just totally plugged in, churning out a ton of work.

All of a sudden I looked up and it was 2pm. I googled my flight, since I didn’t want to get up from my seat to look at the departure monitors, and it showed the 1:39pm departure. I looked up at the departure board by the gate and the flight was no longer listed. Dang, I thought. How could I have done that?

I mean, I know that I get pretty focused sometimes but I imagined I would have heard the announcements. And to miss boarding and departure entirely, when I was sitting right beside the gate area, I’ve never done that before!

I walked up to the gate agent.

    Me: I think I’m going to be your dumbest passenger of the day.

    Agent: Oh, I doubt that!

    Me: Well, you just wait….

    Agent: What can I do for you?

    Me: I was supposed to be on the 1:05pm flight. I see that it’s departed, in fact my computer says it’s minutes away from landing in New York. I’ve been sitting right there, I can’t imagine how I did that… so I’m wondering if there’s any space at all on the next flight?

    Agent: Your flight will be boarding in just a couple of minutes.

    Me: (averts eyes, ducks head) Ok, thank you!

And with that I knew I wouldn’t miss my evening appointment…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. And, please don’t start adding endless pictures of glasses filled with water just because you like Lucky’s blog. I know what a water glass looks like.

  2. Thursday was a very bad day to travel to NY. Bunch of delays. I switched up my flight which was supposed to land in EWR to LGA because EWR had an average 1hr26m delay. Ended up getting on an earlier flight which was delayed 3 hours.

  3. Gary – what I really enjoy about your blog and your presentations at the Chicago DOs has always been your humble and self-deprecating approach to travel and in particular when you encounter difficulties. Your first words to the agent in the story above reminded me of one of your first comments at the Chicago 3010 DO about treating the ticket agents on the other end of the line with respect even if you know the rules 10 times better than they do. The fact that your flight hadn’t actually left yet is probably due to some good karma given how you’ve handled situations in the past when the shoe was on the other foot.

  4. I did the same thing in DTW. I was sitting at the gate, engrossed in an email, and despite being paged by the agent, missed my flight. I didn’t realize the plane had left until I looked up and noticed that all the people were gone.

    It’s nice to know that I’m not the only person that’s ever done it. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  5. @Scott – my original flight hadn’t left yet, sorry if I wasn’t clear, I did not miss my flight — it was delayed further albeit without updates to passengers

  6. Confess! You weren’t working on your laptop. You were reading 50 Shades of Grey! =^..^=

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