By Brendan Moyle 05/10/2015

Many hours ago, I’d raced across Munich airport to make my Lufthansa connection to Hong Kong. The arrival of my flight from Vienna left me with just enough time to make it.

If I’d known what was coming, I might have taken it a bit more slowly.  I was on NZ80 to fly back to Auckland on 3rd October. If I’d missed the Munich connection to Hong Kong, there were actually a lot more options to get back to NZ.

As was widely reported, the flight NZ80 was cancelled and many of us had to sleep in the terminal. Flight cancellations are a bit of a risk with air-travel. I accept that. Nonetheless, the Air NZ response was not optimal. It must have been clear on the 2 hour wait on the plane, that finding alternative accommodation was futile. Yet they seemed to persist with this tactic, while we grew hungrier, thirstier and more exhausted.

Anyway, here are some tips to surviving such a stranding.

  1. Seats at airports are designed to discourage travelers using terminals as a free hotel. There’s usually a rail between every two seats. But if you are slim enough, you can slide your feet and lower legs under this rail, and make an impromptu sleeping platform. Be alert for the airline if it brings out blankets/pillows. Don’t expect them to distribute them to you. I wasn’t alert enough by the way.
  2. Bring a sleeping-mask. Airport terminals don’t dim their lights at night time, the way aircraft do. Lights stay bright all the time. An eye-mask will help you sleep, and is easy to pack.
  3. Don’t forget food-bars. I almost always have 1-2 food-bars with me when I travel because sometimes meals are widely spaced and the airport food is unappealing. Alas, while I’d maintained this habit to Vienna, I’d opted not to on the leg back. That was a mistake. It’d had been a long time between the breakfast I’d had on Lufthansa and the food I managed to forage late that night. We’d hung around the service desk for too long, anticipating imminent news on hotel accommodation.
  4. Bring charging cables. I’d packed both lightning cables (iPad) with micro-USB (phones, power bank).  I was even able to lend one out to a fellow-traveler who needed to recharge her phone. Hong Kong at least, has lots of charging points. Many of which are spare from 10pm onwards…
  5. Bring a power-bank.  I travel with a power-bank that has enough juice to recharge my iPad. It’s better security for one.  You suffer much less anxiety leaving a power bank to charge, than a phone or tablet.  Once it’s charged, you can then charge your devices from where you sit.  This is important if you’re stuck somewhere for 19+ hours.  You’re going to use your tablet or smart-phone a lot.
  6. Bring a traveler’s mug and Chinese tea (or similar). When traveling in China I almost always have these with me. All airports have boiling water dispensers. It’s quite soothing sipping a cup of green tea or the like.  Alas, this trip I’d opted not to, because I didn’t think I’d be in Hong Kong long enough to justify it. Oops.
  7. Bring USB chargers for all of your destinations. Again, a mistake on my part. I’d brought the European adapter plug for my USB charger, but not the UK/Hong Kong one. I ended up buying an extra one at one of the airport shops.
  8. Spare socks, some wipes, and some basic toiletries can make you feel slightly more human.

It is actually supportive to be able to connect to others via social media and email, when you’re stranded.  Also from the time I checked in at Vienna to when I cleared customs in Auckland, the trip had taken 49 hours. That’s a new record for me.  Still, currently it feels like a hive of wasps has taken up occupancy in my brain.

The view from my “bedroom” window, Hong Kong airport, 4 October.

Hong Kong Airport 2