Airports used to really stress me out but I reached a point (after a crazy trip that is a story all of its own) where airports didn’t stress me out anymore. The reason I stopped being stressed is because I have accepted that things will go wrong. This is a pretty pessimistic view (or realistic, if you have traveled a lot) but I’m also optimistic about it. Something will go wrong, but everything will work out in the end. Optimistic pessimism.
So when Jessica and I arrived at the Wellington Airport for our flight back to Auckland at 7 am, I wasn’t too worried. We checked in, found our gate and settled in. Before long it was clear that things were going off track. The absolutely absurd winds (which we later found out were category 3 cyclone, which I don’t really know what means) were preventing planes from coming and going. Our plane arrived from Auckland, was unable to land, and headed back to Auckland. Understandably, the flight was delayed and before long, cancelled entirely.
Technology seemed to be our savior as we quickly got on our phones and rescheduled for a 1:30 pm flight. No big deal, we would just spend some more time in the airport.
When 12:30 rolled around and none of our airline’s planes had successfully left yet, we became a little worried. Sure enough, a few minutes later our flight was cancelled. This time there was no way to reschedule online so we had to book it to the airport counter. Unfortunately, we were stuck in line with the people from at least 4 other flights who were also cancelled so it was a very long and very slow-moving line. Things just seemed to be getting worse when a worker came on the overhead announcement system to inform everyone in line that there were no more spaces on flights that day or the next day. This is when the worry really set in because in two days, Jessica needed to be on a flight back to the US from Auckland. It was starting to look like she might have trouble getting back in time for that flight.
Deciding to divide and conqueror, Jessica went to investigate other airlines that might have flights to Auckland and I remained in our Jetstar line, waiting to rebook (while also on the phone with their call line). Finally, getting through on the phone, we were able to get tickets for a 5 pm flight the following day (despite them saying that there were none left).
Looking at the forecasts for the continuing bad weather, we were very concerned that this flight still might not happen, and it was only giving us 12 hours until Jessica’s next flight so any delays and we would be cutting it quite close. This led to us purchasing some cheapish tickets on another airline (one which had been able to get planes out during the storm) that would leave at 6 am the next day. We figured even if it was delayed, there would be more time to potentially get out and the other airline had been having success leaving, versus our original airline which never managed to get a flight out that day. Feeling relieved that we had a plan and a backup plan, we settled into the airport. At this point we had been at the airport for 5 hours…it was only 2 o’clock…we just had 18 hours till our next flight. Due to being poor recent college graduates, we weren’t willing to shell out for a hotel. Even if we had been willing, the storm outside had been intermittently closing the one road to the airport, the buses weren’t running well, and we didn’t want to potentially get stranded somewhere else and not be able to make it back for our flight the next day so we committed to spending the night at the airport.
Throughout the afternoon, evening, night, and wee hours of the next morning, we explored the entire airport (that we could get to outside of the security zones). We weren’t the only ones staying the night in the airport so it didn’t seem that strange and at one point, airport workers even brought bottles of water around for everyone.
Things I learned during those long hours:
- 23 hours in an airport feels like ETERNITY
- The Wellington Airport isn’t very big. You can walk the whole thing in like 10 minutes. However, we never found Gollum so maybe we just missed a whole section…
- People also trapped in the airport overnight are very friendly. I think that humans in general are quite friendly but there is an extra level of wry smiles and comradery that comes with being stuck in the airport overnight.
- Baristas will give you free hot water if you bring your own teabag. As someone who always carries tea bags in her backpack, this was a fun discovery. It was also especially useful as the airport was very cold and a warm beverage felt amazing without having to sell my kidney for an airport coffee or tea.
- If you have a favorite bathroom in an airport, you have been there too long. But really, the one on the far side just had the warmest water, best hand dryer, and even a shower (which I was tempted to try but never actually committed to).
- If you know where every outlet in the airport is, you have been there too long. After our initial 5 hours in the airport, the next 10 were basically spent bouncing between outlets and places that served hot beverages, meaning we have been to every cafe and ever outlet in the Wellington Airport.
- Sleeping in an airport is hard. This was mostly because it was very cold in the airport. There were actually quite comfy squishy booths that we managed to snag so we weren’t laying on the cold floor but it was still very chilly. Luckily for Jessica, she managed to get a blanket from a man who wandered around giving them out. He ran out, and I was off wandering when he was giving them out, so I didn’t get one.
6 am rolled around and we were horrified to see that the weather was still terrifying. Luckily, our flight wasn’t delayed or deterred and we were off, completely on schedule. I think it was probably a bumpy flight but I have no idea. I fell asleep before we even left the gate and I woke up as we pulled into the gate in Auckland.
It was a crazy 23 hours in the airport, filled with stress, excitement and quite a bit of boredom. I feel no overwhelming desire to go back to the Wellington airport but overall it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. If nothing else…it makes for a pretty good story.