It only happens to other people. But damn … it sure ain’t funny when it happens to you.

After queuing at the drop-off counter at the airport, the woman at the check-in counter asked where I was heading.

Alarm bells started going off in my head – was the website I booked through dodgy? I’m never sure when the air ticket is not booked directly with the airline, but through a third party provider.

She showed me my passport and I stopped breathing for a few seconds.

Sometimes, you get the dates wrong if the flight is past midnight. Some people forget their passports. A friend of mine managed to travel all the way to Europe on his wife’s passport before they realised the mistake. This was the days before digital coding and finger scanning were in place, and my friend did kinda have long hair so … (the immigration officer probably thought the passport picture looked much better).

Me? I didn’t get that far. I had smugly brought a passport, yes, and even checked that I had it in hand during the ride to the airport. But it turns out I had brought my son’s passport instead!

Visions of my entire holiday going down the drain floated before me. Forking out big bucks for a last minute one-way ticket; embarrassingly trudging back to office the next day; bawling my eyes out on the airport floor. None of them were pretty options.

But I had three hours in Singapore before my connecting flight to Zurich at 10.45pm, so if I could just make my way there somehow, there was still hope.

Assuming I could get someone to deliver my passport by 7pm, I begged the staff to allow me on the flight but she refused as it would be just 25 minutes before the flight took off.

The only other flight to Singapore was too late, at 11pm. She patched me through to the ticketing counter which was quite useless as all the person said was, “Sorry, no other flight. Dunno – go information counter.”

Grrrrr! Typical Malaysian attitude to service, I thought, fuming.

Thank God, it was a world of difference at the information counter. Nurul, bless her, found no other Malaysia Airlines flight, BUT checked for alternatives. She found Malindo Air which was leaving at 7.40pm, just 15 minutes later than my original flight. She made the necessary checks to ensure the connecting flight was possible and made calls to ensure that my second sector would not be cancelled (as I had checked-in online and since the first sector was no show, normally the airlines would have cancelled the whole journey).

On top of all that, she personally walked me over to MAS and Malindo Air counters to explain my situation so that I could purchase a new ticket and check in. I thanked her profusely and she told me to thank Malindo’s staff instead for being on standby.

Indeed, I am truly grateful to them for waiting, with just about enough time for me to get my passport through and run to the gates just as they were about to board.

Getting my passport was another miracle as I had called my BFF’s husband, Kok Hin, who happened to be home. Being the aspiring F1 driver that he is, he sped to my home, grabbed the right passport from my son, and dashed to KLIA, arriving within the hour despite the rain and traffic jam!

However, I wasn’t home-free yet.

Did someone sign me up on Amazing Race and forgot to tell me? In Singapore, I had to get through the Immigration; collect my luggage; and then, check in again to Swiss as Malindo couldn’t send my bag through to my final destination. I ran for 20 minutes with luggage in tow from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2, catching the train ride in between, only to find the MAS counter closed.

I was closed to tears and begged for someone, anyone, to help me – surely, I hadn’t come so far for this?

I was told to go to MAS’ office and once there, I saw them leaving for the day – it was already 9.15pm. One gentleman saw my distressed state, and how I was huffing and puffing so badly I looked like I was having an asthma attack and heart attack, both at the same time. He checked and said I had more than an hour to go before my connecting flight so the counter should still be open.

He assured me I needn’t run anymore and took me to the right counter. After checking in my bag, I was FINALLY on my way.

If you’re ever in the same boat one day, here’s what you could do:

No. 1: Get the ticketing staff to help with another flight to your destination.

No. 2: If you’ve missed your flight but already checked-in, inform the airline staff to get your luggage out.

No. 3: In case you can still travel, ensure your baggage is checked in correctly as it can easily get lost after all the confusion.

No. 4: Reconfirm with the airlines so that they don’t cancel your other flight sectors, especially the return journey.

No. 5: If it was the airlines’ fault that you missed the flight, check if your insurance covers this.

What a rousing start to my big fat Spanish adventure, but that’s a different story.

Again, a huge THANK YOU to Nurul from MAS and to Malindo for going the extra mile, and Kok Hin, my passport saviour! Now I can look back and laugh, but this is one experience I wish you never have to go through!


Missed a flight and live to tell? Share your tale with star2@thestar.com.my