Mistake Monday : The Wrong Concourse

It’s Monday again! I can’t believe how fast this week has flown by. I thought this week I would share the story of near heart attack moments on my trip to Athens, Greece this week.

My home airport is San Francisco International Airport, or SFO. It’s not nearly as large as say Los Angeles International (LAX) or New York’s La Guardia (LGA) airport, but large enough. It has two concourses to the international terminal, the G side and the A side. Having checked in the night before on the website for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, I assumed I would just need to print my boarding pass and just go straight to the gate. 

I never bothered to check the arrivals and departures board and assumed I knew exactly where I was going. You would think I would have learned my lesson after the whole jetBlue fiasco. Nope. I was overconfident and after getting off the airport train headed straight to the security line. How can I mess this up with only one international terminal. The first security guard I showed my boarding pass and passport to didn’t give me a second glance over. I thought great! The security line is short, I’ll have just enough time to grab a Starbucks and enjoy my book. 

Just to make sure I had an idea of what gate my flight would be departing from, I rolled my suitcase over to the board to check on the departures. I looked low and high and didn’t see anything departing to Amsterdam. I thought it was a little strange that two hours before the flight it wasn’t appearing on the board. I walked down the terminal and began looking at all of the airplanes they were all either Air Canada, ANA, Singapore, United Airlines planes. 

I began to worry more and more and I didn’t see anything that didn’t belong to the Star Alliance. KLM was a Sky Teams partner. Pulling out my phone, I typed my flight number into Google was saw my flight was assigned to A7. This was my lightbulb moment. I looked up at the signs and noticed that pointed outside the security exit. I stopped by the exit to confirm with the security guard, and was told there was indeed another side to the terminal.

I must have looked crazy as I ran out of the security area and sprinted to the other side of the terminal where it said gates A1-12. The security line for the A concourse was insane! It was backed up well past the the first three ticket counters that were closest to it. I really hoped my mistake of going to the wrong side of the international terminal wouldn’t make me miss my flight. I had an hour and a half to go. We would start boarding in 30 minutes!

Taking a deep breath, I tried to get myself from getting too worked up. It took about 45 minutes, but once I was though the line, I ran. I made it to gate A7 where boarding was almost complete. I hopped into the line and was one of the last passengers. When it was my turn, the gate agent took my ticket and passport asked me to step outside the line. What had I done? 

The gate agent explained I was supposed to verify my passport with an online check in. She also looked at my bag and said it was too big. Now I didn’t want to worry about having to pick up my bag in Amsterdam on my way to Greece. Normally when you are entering a country for the first time you need your bag to clear immigration. The agent told me because I was late and was one of the last people to board that there wouldn’t be any room on board.

One lesson I know is to never fight the gate agent. I apologized and told her about my connection worries. The supervisor happened to overhear the gate agent and interrupted our conversation. The flight we were on wasn’t full….it was actually fairly empty! There wouldn’t be any problems though if I did wish to check my bag in as it would be checked through to Greece. I  was handed my passport back and boarded the plane.

KLM is a fantastic airlines! I would love to fly them again in the future. They had a very warm and friendly cabin crew and a great in flight entertainment selection. Fast forward to my arrival in Amsterdam. We landed right on time, but were held on the tarmac outside of the gate area for about 20 minutes. When I initially booked the connection, I knew I would have 2 hours in Amsterdam to make the connection. It was a little tight, but doable.

After not getting much sleep, I was very irritable and impatient. We reached the gate and I sprinted off as fast as I was able to. Following the signs to the border police, I walked fast and found everything I needed streamlined and efficient. I didn’t need to rush again. I was at the connecting gate within 30 minutes.

I learned while waiting for my next flight that inter-European flights do not announce when they begin the boarding process. I assumed they would make an announcement of sorts, but when I was at the Athens departure gate, all I could see was a line of people waiting to board. The gate agent came at the 1 hour before departure mark and opened the line. She scanned tickets and thanked us for flying KLM.

Don’t let any of my mistakes happen to you! As I posted last week, always check on the departures and arrivals boards. Don’t assume you are the expert because things can change all the time. I still feel like an idiot about being in the wrong terminal. 

Lesson 2 is to verify your passport on a kiosk or with an agent when you get to the airport for an online check in. Yes the info is tied to your ticket, but it needs to be confirmed upon arrival. Lesson 3: make sure your bag is carry on compliant. I’ll be writing about this soon. And finally: make sure you have minimum of 1.5 to 2 hours to make your connecting flight. Until next time, happy travels!