When it's good to miss your flight

When I travel my rule is no checked luggage. I spent two weeks in America recently with just carry-on bags. This rule gets broken when I travel with my family.  

Here’s what we took on our trip up to the Daintree last month.  

And we managed to miss our plane.  

Our taxi got lost finding our house, there was an accident on the freeway, it was raining and the dog ate my homework. The plane was closed by the time we got to the airport.  

I was at the service desk working out our options. What was a three-hour direct flight to Cairns, became an eight-hour ordeal with a layover in Sydney for a couple of hours. With a six-month old baby who needed sleep, and a four-year old to entertain. And Scarlett doesn’t have a lot of tolerance for travel delays.  

It was a disaster. But then something interesting happened.  

Standing next to me at the service desk was another family – there were also six of them (my parents were with us too), and they too missed their plane to Cairns. The main difference was that thanks to my recent USA trip my status had been upgraded and I was now platinum. Which meant changing our tickets didn’t cost anything.  

But I overhead that it was going to cost the other family $6,000. Ouch.  

The interesting thing was the difference that knowing their situation made to our day. Suddenly instead of the day being a disaster, we had saved $6k. Our reference point shifted from us catching our flight, to that other family. 

Which is interesting. Nothing actually changed in our experience.  

But the human brain is set up to make comparisons rather than calculate absolute value in a vacuum. Most of the planet would love to be in the position of missing that flight, of having to spend a few extra hours in order to get to an amazing holiday.  

Here we are enjoying it:  

There are a couple of things that I find work well to shift the context and change my experience when things are going wrong.  

The first is to consciously change my reference point, what I’m comparing my situation too. In this case the shift happened for me, but of course I can do that without needing to see someone else’s misfortune.  

The second is to change my time frame. To consider my goals or outcomes in terms of the whole quarter, or the whole year, or the decade. No single thing matters that much when considered from ten years in the future.