Pre-Flight Brain

LX1885 OTP -> ZHR, 2014-12-12

So it's a bit of a thing with me that I get to airports early when I fly, especially when travelling internationally. Part of it is the relaxation of being through security and just sitting down and plane/people-watching. Most of it though is that I'm a nervous knot of stress and anxiety before I'm through security. It's not at all related to the "flying" part, I actually really enjoy being in a tin can hurtling through the air at 900 km/h. What gets me really nervous is the prospect of not making it through all the steps of the dance that lead to the actual flying. For today's flight, I relaxed my strict "3 hours before departure" rule, and we instead aimed to be at the airport "just" 2 hours beforehand. That's pretty much the limits of my comfort zone, but I'm usually okay with it in Europe, especially at smaller airports. This was a mistake. Firstly, it took around 30 minutes to get a taxi, where it would usually take no more than 51. Once we were finally in a cab, about 40 minutes behind schedule, traffic was absolutely horrendous. My 2 hour cutoff came and went, and we were still traffic in the middle of the city. Google Maps was estimating we'd arrive with an hour and a quarter to spare, which was ramping up my stress considerably.

I looked up the Swiss Airlines online check-in, partially to reduce the time required at the airport and partially to distract myself. I found the mobile page, put in my First Name, Last Name and Ticket Number.

Please enter a valid booking reference or ticket number

I work in IT, and have for years. I write web applications that do form validation. I KNOW that this was either a typo (long sequence of numbers, copied in the back of a moving taxi) or some formatting peculiarity that I was missing.

NOPE. BRAIN SAYS THERE'S A PROBLEM WITH YOUR TICKET. YOU CAN'T GET TO ZURICH TODAY.

Eventually my brain realised that a five character booking reference would be a far more sensible thing to use in this circumstance, so I swapped out my incorrect ticket number for the booking reference.

Could not match name to booking details.

NOPE. YOUR BOOKING NUMBER ISN'T ACTUALLY YOUR BOOKING. HOPE YOU CAN STILL CHECK IN AT THE AIRPORT, IF YOU EVEN EVER ARRIVE.

Wait, maybe the booking was in Andy's name, because she is the primary name on the itinerary that came from the travel agent.

Could not match name to booking details.

NOPE. NICE TRY THOUGH. GUESS WHAT? YOU'RE BEING TROLLED BY A WEB FORM! HOW DOES IT FEEL?

Needless to say, I was getting quite a bit stressed by this point. I did then realise that anything travel related is usually very specific, particularly on names. So I tried again, with the exact case, formatting and full name.

Victory! Because why wouldn't you put all given names into a field explicitly labelled First Name? I was finally able to check both of us in through to Zurich and onwards to Newark after our 24 hour layover2.

I'd like to say that at this point I started to relax a bit. NOPE. Google Maps now had us arriving at Otopeni airport just over an hour before departure, and traffic was still awful, although our taxi driver was making a valiant effort to progress faster than the other vehicles around us. "Eventually" (around 1 hour 20 minutes before departure) we arrived at the aiport and went to our check-in desk. It was in the shiny new wing of the departure area, and there were exactly 2 people being served by 3 open counters, with no queue. We walked up, dropped off our bags, confirmed they would go all the way through to Newark and that was it.

Unfortunately, it isn't as simple as just flicking a switch and being relaxed again after being wound up so tight. Maybe there's a chance that this experience will help me in the future to realise that I can be a little bit later to the airport and still be completely fine3.

A surprisingly good (albeit absurdly expensive) coffee and 45 minutes of eavesdropping on a mind-numbingly dull pair of English businessmen eventually let me relax and then it was time to say "la revedere" to Romania, and head onwards to the rest of our holiday.

p.s. I'm really enjoying the pen and paper travel journal this trip.

A photo posted by cassian (@xeyr) on


  1. Funny, because I have a note to write up a post about how much better taxis are in Romania compared to Australia. 

  2. Bonus: We'd been planning to just leave our suitcases in a locker at Zurich airport, and just have our backpacks with a change of clothes while we were in town. As this is one journey with a stopover, as opposed to two individual journeys, we were able to check our suitcases all the way through to Newark, so Swiss Air stores them for us for free. 

  3. NOPE. 

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