At the Wrong Departing Airport? 5 Tips to Manage the Crisis

You’re packed, organized for departure, with plenty of time for the pre-boarding ritual we know all too well. The trip to the airport is smooth, fueling excitement for the travel adventure ahead.

Until. You realize you’re at the WRONG airport. Woops. Supposed to be at  La Guardia, but you’re at Newark.  Supposed to be at London City, but you’re at Gatwick. You were SO sure, you didn’t bother to check as you left home.  It happens to (most) everyone sooner or later.

Here are some tips to manage the crisis…

1. Don’t panic

This is always rule number one when travel plans go awry. The problem can be a bit more complicated for international travel, but not all is lost.  For U.S. domestic and especially highly competitive intra-Europe routes, it is an annoying inconvenience (and you know who is to blame). Rash, knee-jerk reactions will only lead to poor (and probably expensive) decisions. Take a breath!

2. Sit down and assess the situation

I mean, literally, sit down. Maybe get a cup of tea. The reality is that airports are not next door to one another. Public transportation to the city center is one thing, but between the airports is quite another. Chances are that even with time to spare, you cannot get to the correct airport (and through security) to make the planned flight. Figure at least 2 hours, especially if you have bags to check.

In haste, don’t make the mistake of jumping into a cab without knowledge of the distance, and recognize that the traffic gods will probably mess with you. In most cases, friends, it’s a fool’s errand.  I know.

Other key questions: Is this a connecting flight? Does it involve another time sensitive activity such as a train connection, tour, or a cruise?

If so, an email to advise will probably do, but a phone call is better. Rental car companies usually allow a 24-hour window for pick-up, but if other travel plans/destinations are contingent on your arrival, let them know.

Do you need to contact friends/hosts to tell them of your delay? You needn’t reveal the exact reason (save that for drinks once you arrive and it’s a funny story, not the source of distress).

Thinking about this in terms of a ‘missed flight’ instead of ‘wrong airport’ will help clear your head and focus on the solutions and necessary next steps.

3. Do a quick online search to weigh options

Start by checking to see if your airline has options from the airport where you find yourself. If not, and you’re flying within the E.U., for example, you may simply book a one-way flight to your destination on a “bucket” airline. Of course, this is trickier on U.S. domestic trips, where last-minute flights can be pricey.  Either way, don’t forget to check aggregators such as Kayak, Skyscanner Expedia etc. As a matter of fact, it pays to have these apps on your phone. In situations like this, time is of the essence.

Expect to pay more, even if you are re-booked on your original carrier. Consider it the penalty for not double checking the airport before walking out the door.

4. Particularly in the U.S., check with your airline’s customer service

U.S. airlines in big cities with multiple airports are familiar with the ‘wrong airport’ syndrome. A sympathetic (and un-rushed, if you’re lucky) customer service representative has the authority and will often redress the mistake and get you on your way.

Full Disclosure

It’s time for me to ‘fess up.  I write this from Gatwick Airport where I am waiting for a flight to Copenhagen.  I’ll arrive in the late afternoon.  I would have arrived at noon but I went (at the crack of dawn) to LONDON CITY AIRPORT!  Upon which I panicked, grabbed a cab and pulled up to Gatwick an hour (and many £ later), missing the flight.

I was SO sure… (note departure time on featured image…)


I thought my mindless experience would benefit others, so here’s my last tip:  Find A Lounge, if you have over 2 hours to wait.  I’m pleasantly situated in No.1 Lounge which has branches at airports throughout the U.K.  None of my airline passes were of use here. For £35, it is the deal of the day.  MUCH cheaper than my cab ride!


What’s your experience?  Please add your tips in the comments section; I’d love to know if anyone has gone to the wrong airport  (come’on, somebody has….)




©2016 Three Score and More


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