Last week, I took a flight that had a 15 hour layover in the Hong Kong International Airport. As I entered the airport after a 6 hour flight from Mumbai, I had a list of things in my mind that I could do in those 15 hours : sleep, read my book, buy a journal, FaceTime my friends and parents, and walk around if I was bored out of my mind.
After spending the majority of those 7 hours napping on top of my backpack, I decided to walk to the help desk to find out which gate my flight was on (they announce the gates 2 hours before the flight, and I had 8 hours left). I took another look at the screen, after a long nap, to see the flights and to my horror I saw that 90% of the flights on that screen had CANCELLED written next to them in bright red. ‘What’s going on?’ I thought to myself. I was aware that there were protests going on the week before but I never suspected that the situation would get this bad.
So I walked to the help desk and asked the lady about my flight to San Francisco and she said in the most casual tone ever “Oh yeah, your flight’s been cancelled.”
Now, I am a 17 year old teenage girl who’s travelling alone for the second time in my whole life. I’ve never been to the Hong Kong airport, my mom books my flights, and I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to do in this situation.
So the first thing I do is call my mom since she booked my tickets and would tell me what I should do now. But she lives in California and is obviously sleeping right now (It was 2am in California when I called her). So I call my dad, and he obviously freaks and goes on about how I should’ve taken a different flight and how he knew the protests would create a problem and this and that and “DAD CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT I SHOULD DO NOW?”. I’m stranded at this airport, I can’t leave because I don’t have a Hong Kong Visa, literally all the flights are cancelled, the restaurants and stores at the airport are getting shut, people are lining up at 7 Eleven to get water and food in case things get even worse later. Seriously, I think to myself, I should have taken a different flight.
So now it’s decided that I’m going to spend the entire night stranded at the HKI airport and I prepare myself by buying all the snacks you won’t find outside Hong Kong, the biggest water bottle I could see, and a portable charger because I literally couldn’t find any charging spots at the airport.
I slept for a total of 2 hours that night; most of the night was spent listening to a lot of music, walking around, and looking at the announcement screen to see that most of the flights were still cancelled and the situation was clearly not improving.
I called my mom a good amount of times that night and she said that I would be able to catch a flight by 6am and that everything would be okay, but it wasn’t until 9am that my mom finally called me and told me that she’s rescheduled a flight that leaves within two hours. At this point I’d been standing in the longest queue that I’ve ever been part of for literally close to two hours and I was exhausted.
Luckily I got on my flight after spending another hour in line to check in, crying because the lady at the desk said she wouldn’t give me my boarding pass because my luggage was going to be sent by another airline (she literally gave my boarding pass because I freaked and started crying in front of everyone. You best believe I wasn’t going to spend another minute on that airport let alone wait for a whole day to catch another flight), and actually running to my gate because of the delay. I mean, I was literally sprinting across the airport with my bright neon pink VS bag and all these papers in my hand. I must’ve been a sight to see.
Overall, my experience was pretty crazy but it was also a lot of fun. I was so thankful to have entered that plane and spent the next 8 hours completely knocked out on my seat. I absolutely love being independent and I love to travel by myself (this was like my second time, but still, I mean I like being on my own) and I think I handled myself pretty well, excluding my mental breakdown at the check-in counter. Also, I saw a bunch of cool people, slept on the floor – it’s no wonder I only slept for 2 hours that night – and listened to some really good music the whole time I was there.