My Biggest Travel Mistake and Most Embarrassing Moment, Plus a Review of the Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel

I’ve always said if you’ve never missed a flight you spend too much time in airports. Usually the cost to miss a flight is relatively low but if you’re showing up early, each and every trip, you need to add up all that time… it’s a lot.

And yet I really don’t miss flights. I do my best not to spend a lot of time waiting for them, but I make it just fine.

There are times when the cost of missing a flight can be much greater — like when you’re trying to fly from Australia to the U.S. and there just aren’t a lot of flights. And when you’re doing it on an award ticket in business class. You really do want to show up on time.

Previous installments:

  1. Introduction: Virgin Australia and Delta Business Class, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney
  2. Concourse Hotel LAX, a Hyatt affiliate
  3. Virgin Australia Check-in and Star Alliance Business Class Lounge
  4. Virgin Australia Business Class, Los Angeles – Brisbane
  5. Virgin Australia Brisbane Lounge and Business Class, Brisbane – Cairns
  6. Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas
  7. Virgin Australia Lounge, Cairns and Business Class, Cairns – Sydney
  8. Park Hyatt Sydney

I left the Park Hyatt in plenty of time for my 2:40pm departure. I arrived at the airport, went inside, and started looking for the Virgin Australia check-in desks. Only there didn’t seem to be any. Virgin Australia wasn’t listed on the board. My flight wasn’t listed on the board. How could that be?

How is it possible that Virgin Australia flight 1 wasn’t up there?

And then it hit me. Virgin Australia flight 1 from Sydney to Los Angeles is a morning departure. I know this, I’ve helped plenty of people book it.

When I made my award booking it was a 2:40pm flight, but some months earlier Virgin Australia had updated its schedule. And somehow I looked only at my original itinerary. I’d love to blame Delta for not emailing me about the change, but goodness knows I’ve made plenty of reservations for VA1 and I know what time it departs. Only on this day somehow I didn’t. All I knew was the printout I had that said 2:40pm. And that had me at the airport long after the flight had departed.

What to do? What to do? I started wondering. Ok, I needed to find Virgin Australia. But there weren’t any Virgin Australia check-in desks at all, since the didn’t have any flights checking in within the next several hours. So I went upstairs to the airport offices and started looking around for Virgin Australia.

First I found their employee cafeteria, and was then directed to the back office. I knocked on the locked door.

A helpful woman came out, I explained the situation. She took my printed itinerary and went inside. She came back a little while later with some suggested flights, including sending me through Honolulu late that night and connecting over to Delta. I pointed out we were in business class, and she said “oh, well we don’t have any business seats available on that flight.”

I suggested that there were still some business class seats open on the next day’s flight (five, if I recall correctly). She went back inside. Awhile later she came out and said that she had spoken with Delta, since it was their ticket they were going to put us on their own flight the next day Sydney – Los Angeles. But “not to worry because we’ll get you set up with a hotel for the night” and she sent me on my way to the Rydges hotel directly across from the international terminal.

No fight at all, no disagreements or pushing over whose fault it was that I missed the flight. The woman in the back office spoke with her counterpart at Delta and they opened a business class award seat on the next day’s flight (I had hoped I would get booked into revenue business, no such luck, but we did get two of the last three business seats for sale on the flight). And we were even given complimentary hotel.

I still felt absolutely idiotic. I’ve cut it close for flights, but I’ve never gotten my flight time wrong before (in a material way). I probably let my overconfidence get the better of me. I didn’t need to check the flight time because I know the flight time, yet somehow that knowledge didn’t connect up with the time I was looking at on my piece of paper to know it was wrong.

I’d have the next 18 hours or so to stew over it if I wished, or I could let it go, and fortunately my wife was understanding. Granted this was worse than the time I booked an overnight at the Bangkok airport Novotel for the wrong month back in 2008 or when I showed up to check in at the wrong hotel, but she was willing to accept that my batting average on these things is pretty good.

The Rydges hotel is directly across the street and couldn’t be more convenient.

The property is fairly basic, but it’s clean, the staff are friendly and I had a room overlooking airport operations so I had few complaints at all.

The room was compact, but immaculate.

The views were pretty good as well.

Since we were really ready to be home at this point, and didn’t want to go far off airport property, we ordered room service and settled in before our flight home the next morning on Delta.

I was actually excited, I would get to try Delta’s long haul business class, that’s not something I really had planned for. After a good night’s sleep, it was back to the terminal.

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, 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. […] Showing up at the airport in the afternoon for a morning Sydney – Los Angeles flight Virgin Australia had changed the flight time months earlier, which at some level I knew, but Delta (who issued the award tickets) hadn’t notified me of the change. Delta re-booked me onto their own non-stop the next day in business class (revenue inventory) and Virgin Australia gave me a hotel room for the night. […]

  2. […] Showing up at the airport in the afternoon for a morning Sydney – Los Angeles flight Virgin Australia had changed the flight time months earlier, which at some level I knew, but Delta (who issued the award tickets) hadn’t notified me of the change. Delta re-booked me onto their own non-stop the next day in business class (revenue inventory) and Virgin Australia gave me a hotel room for the night. […]


  1. why are you not using an app like flight update pro? If you had input the flight details etc at time of booking if the info changed you would have been alerted. I use it all the time when I book flights

  2. Same exact thing happened to a friend earlier this year only he was flying out via TG from Syd. Unfortunately TG wouldn’t do anything for him and neither would US (ticketing airline). He ended up booking a new award to get home the next day and paid for a hotel that night in Sydney.

    I’ll ask you the same question I asked my friend. Didn’t you check in online 24 hours earlier?

  3. No worries. I once went to pick up a friend at the airport and I couldn’t find her particular baggage carousel number. I was on the phone with her trying to get directions and then she goes: Wait, you’re at FLL, right?” “No, I’m in MIA”. Oops.

  4. I was waiting for the details on what happened here since you posted the initial story a number of weeks ago that you missed your flight. Here is a case where your status with Delta didnt seem to matter and things worked out. Mistakes can happen to anyone. I have made a few other the years myself. A few years ago in Kyoto I did not book the correct night in a Ryokan because I was confused over many emails and dates which they wrote in a different format . I try to double and triple check everything now and use Tripit etc to prevent major errors. I am sure the schedule change was considered as they accommodated you. I think that Delta should have also emailed you since you booked the ticket using their miles for the trip anyway.

  5. TripIt is also pretty good for itinerary organization. Just forward your email itinerary to them and they put it all together and ping you updates. You can also get TripIt Pro free with Barclays Arrival card.

  6. My embarrassing moment was when I looked at my printout while still at home and confused the arrival time of the flight with the departure time. Needless to say the flight had departed, but was still at home so arranged a later flight without too much trouble.

  7. @Gary;

    Glad it had a successful resolution. Did they have any obligation to rebook you?

  8. Major schedule changes are one hazard of booking award trips 11 months in advance. I’ve overlooked a schedule change and missed a flight once, too. It could have been very costly but it worked out OK.

  9. On your award ticket If they booked you into a revenue ticket — wold have received award miles for the flight?

  10. On your award ticket If they booked you into a revenue ticket — would you have received award miles for the flight?

  11. Gary, they had no obligation to rebook me, but I was flying Southwest Airlines and they rebooked me for no additional fare.

  12. I sympathize: while visiting an ex-boyfriend and his wife in LA, his wife picked me up at the airport in Long Beach, but was unable to drop me off when I left. So…my ex-boyfriend kindly offered to take me to the airport. I confidently walked up early to the Air Canada check-in desk and showed them my ticket. With great consternation, they pointed out that I was at LAX. When I explained what I thought must have happened, we all had a good laugh at the revenge of ex-boyfriends!

  13. Should have been Beachfan instead of Gary. “Gary, they had no obligation to rebook me, but I was flying Southwest Airlines and they rebooked me for no additional fare.”

  14. Agent made an error , this coming January I am booked on an award ticket in “J” class – booked with UA on LH flight – can I safely switch my frequent flyer number from UA to my LH number and collect the miles — or do not look for trouble and leave as is

  15. It happens to the best of us. Booked a 12:20 flight out of LAS once. We get to the terminal; about 10:30am and southwest politely explained the flight was for 12:20am (we were 10 ours late). It was Sunday and the Vegas airport is a mad house on Sundays. Anyway, got onto a later flight and all ended well. My wife still loves to embarrass me with this story.

  16. @Harry switching you frequent flyer number shouldn’t cause any issues, but if you really are booked in a revenue class you should also be able to earn united miles if you prefer

  17. Gary,
    You have a wonderful wife. Many spouses would not be so understanding. Especially of one who does so much travel arranging. I am always so paranoid about my travel work. Especially when it is my own. As usually I have friends and sometimes family with me, I don’t want to screw up someone’s hard earned vacation. But, sh*t happens! That Rydges Hotel is kinda of nice. I mean room service? There are so many hotels that don’t have room service anymore.

  18. Hahaha, does anyone else see the irony in the airport sign that says “good going” right outside his room! 🙂

  19. I have a different view. I used to cut the timing close, but came to realize that that was creating more stress, especially when something went wrong in getting to the airport. I have lots of memories of running through airports trying to get to the gate on time. And though I only occasionally missed a flight, dealing with it when I did was still very stressful. Now, most of my flying Is for business, where being a day late is a real problem, but to me, missing a day of vacation or being with family is still a disappointment. So I do allow lots of time, and just relax about it. I like it much better this way. Also, I use lounges most of the time, and get some work done on the laptop. I particularly don’t mind having some extra time to be in one of the nice international lounges. Over the last two weeks I have probably spent about 6 hours in the Concorde Room at LHR for example and I would not count it as wasted time.

  20. Thank god you made it to LAX in Bizzz class for 2 people! I am assuming you n your partner has 25,000 50,000 75,000 125,000 miles status with Delta? You were extremely lucky! Cuz normally Aussie -USA flight in Biz class always sold out.I wish they had put both of u at the Park hyatt:(((
    Gary – did u get a meal voucher too?

  21. @Cutejoshflyingjr – no meal voucher, but this was my fault! No Delta status. There were 3 seats for sale, we got 2 of them 🙂

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