web Musings of The Global Traveller

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The downside of tight flight connections and complex itineraries

I do have a crazy schedule - flitting here and there across the globe, sometimes spending several nights in a row in the air as I try to get the most of my limited time available.

Small things have the potential to create significant disruption to my travel itineraries. I try to allow for contingencies as best I can, but there are limitations. There is no point in an overabundance of caution because that certainly means missing out on lots of fun & interesting stuff - the cost of the "insurance" is too high. Nor can every contingency be allowed for - no one anticipates being caught up in New Zealand's first and only hijacking attempt, or on another trip being stranded in Invercargill. So I attempt to achieve a balance - having somewhat risky itineraries (risky in the sense of having tight connections and complicated sequences of flights across multiple tickets) but also have worked out there are somewhat acceptable options available to me if things go wrong.

The easiest way to deal with this I have found is to be prepared and to be prepared to change.

In my recent trip I was very lucky. Things went relatively smoothly but it could have easily ended up missing out on half of it.

First, the British Airways strike was called off. If it had gone ahead I would potentially have been stranded in Spain, United Kingdom or Cyprus. While that isn't bad in itself (more time to enjoy those places) it would mean ditching a significant portion of the next part of the trip (ie not going to Cyprus or missing my southeast Asia legs) and also time wasted on rebooking flights and accommodation across multiple airlines, hotels and countries spread halfway around the world.

Second, through sheer luck I avoided the travel chaos in Europe (and particularly to London Heathrow) caused by the snow and cold this winter. Indeed I travelled through Europe without even carrying a heavy coat.

Thirdly, I managed to limit disruption caused by immigration computer failure to an inconvenienced transit instead of being stranded for days.

I have an upcoming trip I'm currently in discussions with the airline about. A cancelled British Airways flight means my booked itinerary is now impossible - the alternative later flight arrives too late to take the connecting flight, the alternative earlier flight means a risky 60 minute connection at London Heathrow (BA to BA but still high risk) which I'm not prepared to accept and there are no other airlines that fly the route within my time window. Due to the complexity of my itinerary and incredibly tight timeframes this one flight change will affect anywhere from 3 to 7 or more flights, across 3 continents. Some of the places I'm visiting only have 1 flight a day so coming up with a new routing is proving challenging. However, there are options open to me and I can choose the best one for my needs.

Despite these travel inconveniences I won't change my hectic approach to travel because compromise means missing out on great experiences, sights and learnings. I still have many to meet, and much to see and do. That means I'll keep on going full paced with no regrets.


Anonymous said...

I apologize for asking a somewhat personal question but would you mind sharing whether your travels are for work, pleasure or a combination of both? I love reading your blog and have taken away many useful tips from it but am always amazed at how you are able to balance your job and your hectic travel schedule (assuming of course that you travel on leisure).

Do keep up the updates!

-- Rich

The Global Traveller said...

Mostly for pleasure.