Stranded In Singapore

My excuse was that I’m fuzzy-headed from grief. The travel agent had no excuse — she should know that October has 31 days.

So our “booked through to Chiang Mai” flight turned into an epic 44 hour adventure.

It never occurred to me to check the calendar or even count things on my fingers when the travel agent handed me our booking. We had gone through so many flight and airline options over three days that I didn’t take a second look at the details we’d finally decided on — leaving Brisbane at 2pm on Sunday, arriving in Singapore at 5.40am the next day, then a three hour wait for our flight to Chiang Mai. We’d be back in our apartment by lunchtime!

Except, it wasn’t a three hour wait. It was arriving at 5.40am on the 31st of October and flying out again at 8.50am on November 1. This, I discovered only at check in. The check-in dude handed me our boarding passes and said “your bags are checked to Singapore”. I said thank you and turned to leave. Then, some dazed part of my brain flared for an instant. I turned back and asked why our bags weren’t checked all the way to Chiang Mai. Now it was his turn to look confused — didn’t we want to leave the airport?

The check out dude and I faced each other with matching frowns. What?

I looked at the printed itinerary. I looked at the printed e-ticket. “Is there an October 31?” I said. And then I didn’t say a whole lot of swear words.

We were sent down to the service desk. They couldn’t help. There’s no Singapore-Chiang Mai flight on a Monday. And we didn’t have any way of getting from the airport back to Mum’s, which is more than an hour away. It was already after 9pm and we were already tired. It didn’t seem that we had much of a choice. A 27 hour stopover in Singapore it was.

After clearing customs, my head cleared a little. I called a friend in Singapore and asked if we could stay with him for a night. He said yes, and we were sorted.

Darling Man and I started discussing how we could spend our unexpected stopover in Singapore. A friend has a new baby. We could meet other friends, who’d only recently farewelled us. We could go eat our favourite foods. I felt a strong urge to return to our old neighbourhood, Katong.

Our Singapore Airlines flight was full because a day earlier Australia’s flying kangaroo, Qantas, the national carrier, grounded its domestic and international fleet in a bid to end a long-running industrial dispute. Flights out of Australia were as full as the flights out of Bangkok.

I think we snagged one hour of sleep each. Miss M was a dream. She fell asleep on takeoff and woke up just before we landed, stirring only a few times during the night. I couldn’t believe she slept so soundly, squashed into the too-small bassinet, bent awkwardly, or with her feet sticking up in the air, resting on the sides.

We arrived in Singapore exhausted. Why oh why do airlines think people want to eat at 4am local time? Then we picked the slowest customs queue.

Luckily for our Singapore friend, the supposedly efficient Singapore airport was incredibly inefficient. We arrived at his place at a reasonably godly hour, instead of the ungodly predicted ETA of 6am.

Unluckily for us, our Singapore friend has a three year old. With toys, lots of toys. We were to sleep on a mattress on the floor in the lounge room because the spare bedroom AC was on the fritz. The mattress was next to the toy boxes. The toy boxes were full of noisy toys. Miss M was in heaven. We were in hell.

Finally, thankfully, oh-so-thankfully, she agreed to drink some milk. And halfway through a bottle, her eyelids fluttered shut. A millisecond later, our eyelids slammed shut like heavy dungeon doors. Bam — alseep, finally.

Miss M stirred several hours later and I discovered I was still wrecked. I took another, longer nap, while my friend’s lovely wife herded two screaming toddlers around the lounge room. Darling Man basked in front of the TV. It was a rest day that we sorely needed.

And so we didn’t see the new baby. We didn’t see all our Singapore friends. We saw a select few at our old pub on the corner, mostly invited by our gracious host because we were too zonked to think to do it ourselves.

And the moral of the story is — check your tickets! Don’t get stranded like we did, in an expensive city, because we didn’t double check what our travel agent told us.

The travel agent, when contacted, was horrified with her mistake and offered to pay for us to stay in a hotel. But by the time we got her message we were already settled into our friend’s place. We’ve asked her to pay for taxis and drinks and dinner for us and our hosts. We’re waiting to see what she says.

*This post was brought to you by Antler, the quality cabin bags specialist.


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12 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Amy says:

    That is terrible! I would have been saying all those swear words that you didn’t say!

  2. Well, good on you for at least getting the travel agent to admit their mistake. Thought they might have tried to weedle their way out of that one. Hope you get your taxis and dinner paid for!
    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Fethiye Winter Preparations – It’s November

    • The Dropout says:

      Would you believe I didn’t actually ask for anything from the travel agent? I just told them we were stranded in Singapore and they offered to pay for accommodation, which I thought was really nice of them.

  3. Oh, you poor thing! At least your friend came through for you and you all got a bit of rest.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Halloween Photo Fun with Foto-Ruta

  4. Andrew says:

    What a horrible thing. I guess it might have been nice if you had planned it that way, to have some time wandering around the city, but to be informed upon checkin sounds awful.

    My wife is playing with flights across the date line and they can get confusing too. You arrive before you leave or arrive a day later after an hour flight.

    Glad you made it through and it was indeed nice of the travel agent to offer to help.
    Andrew recently posted..Ups and Downs of Montmarte

    • The Dropout says:

      If we planned it … I think we still would have slept most of the day. I just can’t do overnight flights, I’m useless for about a week afterwards, which is really difficult with a toddler.
      I think it was a genuine error on the part of the travel agent. I should have picked it up, but my brain just wasn’t working properly. She said it was a three-hour stopover and I never thought to check the dates.

  5. i am so glad you had somewhere to go rest (with toys!)…cripes!!
    wandering educators recently posted..Where do your journeys take you?

  6. Snap says:

    Hope you get some sort of compensation…even though you should have checked the dates, the travel agent should have pointed it out. I like to book all of our flights etc. myself and have done so for years now with very little kaffufle.

    HOWEVER, while booking our first leg home from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, I falied to click off the ‘Departure’ city and drop down box moved to ‘Chiang Rai’ as my mouse moved.

    Air Asia is NOT a forgiving airline to deal with and after pointing out the numerouse flights booked with them throughout the year, they conceded and gave me a credit.

    Wishing you much rest and peace back in your Chiang Mai Apartment.
    Snap recently posted..From Chiang Mai to Australia

  7. Singapore is my dream place, i always stop at the beach and visit that bar with jacuzzi and pool, just amazing place if you ask me, but pretty expensive. Singapore is for me the best place in Asia, beside Bali recently posted..Fuji Restaurant Chain Bangkok Thailand

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