I like to be on the safe side of things, especially when I travel. So, when there is a connection journey involved, I book my tickets in such a way that I have enough time between flights,. But when you have to travel on a particular date, you tend to pack things a bit too tight. That’s what happened to me last week when I had to book a connection flight with only 2 hours in between. I knew it was risky, but in my defence, I knew the transit airport very well and also I've never been delayed before by the airlines I was travelling with. And the first reason helped me from missing the connection flight in a matter of minutes.
All of this happened during my weekend trip with friends to Langkawi island in Malaysia. Since all of us had long year end holidays, none wanted to give our boss a reason to scream at us by asking for more leave. So we planned a weekend trip. In order to take full advantage of the weekend, we planned to reach the destination by Friday night itself. As with all Fridays, around one hour after reaching office - after reading newspapers - our clocks started ticking - to get out of the office. We used different methods like using the back door, setting our on-line status to be ‘In a meeting’ etc to slip out of the office early and discreetly. Somehow we all managed to reach the airport just in time before the counters closed..
When we reached the gate, I noticed a strange thing. The flight we were supposed to be on, was not there, yet. (Usually by the time we are at the gate, most people would have boarded). We checked at the counter and they said the flight is delayed for 20 minutes.
Little did we know that when they told us about the 20 minutes delay, they meant that the flight would have to come from somewhere else in the world. That reduced our transit time to around one & a half hours.
Since our only option to make it in time for the connection flight was for the connection flight to be delayed, one of my friends was suggesting a fake bomb call to the transit airport. But before we attempted any such drastic measures, the flight crew ‘assured’ us that there is a slight chance that we can reach the transit airport in time.
We boarded in a hurry, got settled in our seats, captain announced that he was waiting for the clearance to take off and started taxi. We were anxiously waiting for the take off for a long time and later realised that we are not going to take off. Instead the flight was taxied to a remote taxiway and made to wait till there is a slot available for take off.
Finally, by the time we took off, we kissed our weekend plans good bye.If we had any hope of making it, the flight attendants assured us that its not going to happen. It was also the last flight to Langkawi which means we had to resort to our back up plan, which we never had. But one flight attended did some ‘calculations’ based on her experience with the air routes and said there is a chance that the next flight also will be delayed.
Since we had nothing to loose, we decided to give it a go. We switched on our mobiles and as soon as we got a signal (after touchdown), we called our friends and we heard the words we all were hoping for, “the next flight is late and will take off in 20 minutes”.
We could easily make it, provided we are able to get to the immigrations from the tarmac (around 1 km away), pass the immigrations (as it our next flight is a domestic one), collect our bags, get out and get back in to the domestic terminal, go through the whole security process, get to the counters/kiosks, and finally go through the gate security again, in less than 10 minutes.
At that moment, I became a believer of the concept “adrenaline rush”, as I felt my senses super tuned and my muscles stronger. By that time, most passengers knew that we had to catch another flight and cooperated with us when we pushed them aside while exiting (and the rest of them, cursed us with their ‘ colourful’ vocabulary). After exiting the flight, we ran like we’ve never ran before in our whole lives, reached & passed through the immigration in seconds, split up to collect bags and to find the information counter, screamed at the top of our voice to explain the whole situation and then finally ran through the security again. I was sure that the security personnel were going to shoot down at least one of us after all the chaos we caused there. On later thought, they may have realised that a terrorist probably would like to be much more discreet than us. When we reached the gate, it was half closed and we found our friends anxiously waiting for us at the end of the queue. And so, 10 minutes later, we were on our flight to Langkawi.
Unmistakably this is one of the never-to-be forgotten experiences in my life which I will probably publish as a book titled “How I realised the existence of the adrenal gland in my body”. If it were not for a combination of sheer luck, quick reflexes & wit and a bunch of terrific friends, we would never have been in that second flight. Even though we went through a lot of adventures later - during the course of our trip - this was the one adventure we never planned, one that none of us will never forget and one that I really don’t want to repeat.