Missing a flight could be a good thing. OK, here’s the rider – ‘if you have a connecting flight, the onward flight is of the same/partner airline and the missed connection is not your fault’. Allow me to elaborate.
After a holiday in Thailand with my husband and daughter recently, I am in a taxi to Phuket airport for a flight to Mumbai. Along the way, rain drops begin to fall on the wind shield, sliding down in a wet trail before the wiper banishes them. Having been through several notorious Mumbai monsoons that make you wish you were waterproof, small showers don’t bother me any longer.
At the departures lounge, the glass wall that’s a natural kid magnet on account of a fascinating view of planes taking off and landing shows a greyish-blue sea meeting a decidedly grey sky. Unconcerned, we have a delicious meal aboard the aircraft and enter slumber land. We wake up to find the flight is behind schedule, whether on account of the weather or not we have no idea.
Butterflies begin fluttering in my stomach. I know we won’t be stranded or incur an additional cost for the flight back home as the airline will take care of it. Silk Air, on which we’re flying from Phuket to Singapore, is the regional airline of Singapore Airlines, whose connecting flight we are to take to Mumbai. But we need to get back at the earliest because my daughter’s exams begin just two days later. A flight attendant we speak to informs us that ground staff would help us when we get off. Her unruffled attitude should help my nerves, but it doesn’t.
We never do this, but this time we have one hand on our seat belts, somewhat like James Bond set to pull out his Walther PPK handgun, prepared to rush ahead when the plane lands. It isn’t much use – amid urgent clicking of seat belts and luggage compartments snapping open, we find ourselves stuck behind the usual queue of people who believe in getting up at the speed of lightning the minute a plane touches down only to wait and wait for the gates to open. I swear I could hear time ticking away.
When we finally deplane at Changi Airport we’ve missed the 6.55 pm flight, but Singapore Airlines ground staff hand us boarding passes for an alternate flight, a voucher for stay and dinner at Capri Hotel, and immigration forms along with a letter saying why we need to stay over in Singapore. Such a relief! On the airline’s directions, a taxi to the hotel is also paid for by hotel staff when we arrive. It’s good to have these little things taken care of. Obviously, a customer not expecting to land at an unscheduled destination won’t have its currency, but these gestures go a long way in establishing goodwill. I had a harrowing experience with Spice Jet a few months back when I missed an onward Air India flight due to a delay in the former’s flight. Anyway, that’s a story for another day.
Post dinner at the hotel, whose staff exude genuine warmth not often encountered in the hospitality industry, we consider our options. Sleeping isn’t one as we won’t be able to wake up in time for the flight. We don’t have enough time to take Changi Airport’s free ‘City Sights Tour’ or do Singapore Zoo’s night safari (7 pm-12 midnight). Gardens by the Bay shuts at 10 pm, so that’s out too. So, after withdrawing some cash, we point to a picture of the Merlion on a map to a taxi driver who doesn’t speak English, a common phenomenon in Asia, and set off for Merlion Park.
One might question the wisdom of a journey to see a mythical creature’s statue, but the Merlion is an iconic symbol of Singapore and I don’t want to miss it.
Besides, the Esplanade has a terrific skyline and we’re able to watch Marina Bay Sands’ light show. At that time of the night (around 10.30 pm), there aren’t too many tourists.
Couples sit on steps basking in the warmth of each other’s undivided attention, visitors snap selfies at multiple angles, workmen walk with an urgency not felt by tourists, photographers wait patiently beside tripods capturing time lapses of the skyline, and food vendors do brisk business.
I overhear a few Gujarati (an Indian community known for its commercial instinct, with flourishing enterprises in several countries ) travelers discussing their experience in Singapore so far and think of how strong business communities have built cities like Singapore and Mumbai. I ponder over how similar the two cities are and yet, how different.
Things to keep in mind on a layover –
- Check if you have to change terminals for the connecting flight – if you do, find out how much time it will take and how to get there before you do anything else. Here’s a picture to help figure which terminal you need to get to at the Changi airport in Singapore
- Each country has its own rules for passengers transiting its airports. During a layover, you might be allowed entry into a country without a visa or you might have to get one, so it’s best to check on the tourism department, airport, or airline’s website what the rules are. Indians do require a visa to enter Singapore. If you have around 6 hours before check-in time, you could take Changi Airport’s free ‘City Sights tour’ – it’s a 2.5 hour tour – read more here
- During an unscheduled layover, what an airline will provide you with (meal voucher, accommodation etc.) is determined by airline policies as well as the cause and length of a layover. Visit the airline’s website to find out what it can offer. If you have a short connecting period, do inform airline staff and see if they can help you disembark quicker
- Some countries, like Singapore, offer conveniences from shopping to massages and beauty treatments at its airports, so make the most of your time while waiting for the next flight. Don’t lose track of time though and reach the boarding gates well within the specified time
- Changi offers a 20 SGD (Singapore dollar) voucher to each transiting passenger that can be spent on food or shopping. To get the voucher, visit the iShop Collection Centre near the GST Refund counters in the transit areas of Terminals 2 and 3 (click on link here). The voucher can be used at all retail, food and service outlets in transit and public areas of Changi Airport (exclusions apply), or can be redeemed for one-time access to the Ambassador Transit Lounge in the transit areas of Terminals 2 or 3 for up to two hours. This lounge provides shower facilities with basic toiletries, light refreshments, and other amenities (See link here )
- If you’re planning to do some sightseeing during your layover, don’t forget to pick up a map at the airport and withdraw some local currency before you set out
- If you don’t have any idea of what to do with your time, visit the Information and Customer Service Counters at the airport for suggestions
I would love to know what you do during a layover. If you wish, leave your answer as a comment.
Oh yes, here’s a link to an article that tries to find an explanation as to why people try to rush off airplanes.
Here are some helpful links regarding layovers –