missed flight japan
Japan Misadventures

Missed Flight in Japan: Misadventure

Last updated on March 3rd, 2022

Missing your flight is something you do not want to do. Even though we often daydream about being stranded in paradise, it is quite a hassle to experience delays, cancellations, or any interruption to your travel schedule. 


Today we were leaving Japan to continue onward to the Philippines with a long overnight layover in Taiwan. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful winter day to travel. Having spent the past three days having a great time exploring Tokyo, we weren’t ready to leave, but we knew that we would return in a few weeks for a couple more days before heading home to Canada. 


We were excited to be flying off to visit another new country on this trip. 


After breakfast, it was time to head to catch a train in Minato, Tokyo. While waiting, we took photos with our luggage to show our families we were travelling again. 

The train arrived. It was an express train headed to Narita airport. The train ride is approximately 1.5-hours to get to the airport from Minato, so we settled in knowing that we were on our way. 


All was going well. Looking out the window, you could see the city skyscrapers fading away in the distance as we left Tokyo. 


Then suddenly, partway to Narita airport, the train stopped. It wasn’t moving anymore.  


What was going on? This wasn’t part of the plan. 


Maybe we are just stopping to let people on or off the train? We didn’t know what was going on. 


Still seated, it was puzzling to know when the train would continue on its journey. Someone came and informed us that we would have to exit the train as there were mechanical issues. Our express train to the airport broke.


Concerned, we exited the train and boarded another train already waiting on the other side of the tracks to continue taking us the rest of the way to the airport. 


We were still quite far away from the airport at this point. 

tokyo train

When everyone finished boarding the new train, it began moving. Okay, we thought about how we are back on track to the airport. We started to settle in again for the long ride.  


A few minutes later, the new train slowed down and stopped. Oh no, we stopped again. People got on and off the train, then it resumed moving. The next stop, once again, we stopped. And the next stop after that one also. The train pausing was becoming a pattern. 


But it would be okay, right? After all, we were on our way to the airport, and there was still time. Or so we hoped. 


After quite a few stops, we began panicking at how frequently we were pausing. Watching the clock became more of a concern. We had to make it to the airport on time. There was no way that we could miss our flights. 


We were stopping too frequently. This train was stopping at almost every stop along the way, and there were many stop locations. These stops were increasing our travel time to the airport. It wasn’t looking good. Too much time was passing, by this replacement train pausing at every stop.


We never aim to be at the airport this close to takeoff. But we can still make it. Of course, we can, remaining hopeful.


The moment the train came to a halt in the airport terminal, we rushed off the train, running through the airport as fast as we could. Our luggage was bashing into each other, and we were waddling with all the weight on our backs. We kept going. 

inside narita airport tokyo

We raced to the check-in counter, but no one was there. Panicking, we had to find someone who could help us. Running around and searching other various check-in desks, we managed to find an employee from the airline. 


Bad news. 


The airline then said we couldn’t check in as we had arrived past the final check-in time. We assured the airline employee that we could rush through security and still make our flight, as there was still plenty of time, and the airport was not currently busy. It wasn’t working. It was no use. The airline wasn’t going to let us even try to catch our flight. They explained how it was against their policy. 


The only option now was to sit in the airport, wait around, and miss the flight. All because we couldn’t check-in for our flight. We knew we could make it as we’ve had tight flight connections before, but the airline wouldn’t even allow us to try. What a bummer! We had missed our flights due to a mechanical train issue, so sad.


After a few minutes, we began to think of solutions. Our next thoughts became a discussion with the airline employees about how to catch up with our flight in Taiwan before it flew to the Philippines tomorrow. 


But then it got worse… 


While trying to discuss another way to fly to Taiwan, we found out some even worse news. The airline cancelled the rest of our flights which included: flights to Taiwan, from Taiwan to the Philippines, from the Philippines back to Taiwan, and from Taiwan back to Japan, as part of their policy for when you miss a flight. 


Their flight policy was if you missed one flight, ALL remaining flights would be cancelled. We attempted to convince them not to do it, but they would not listen and continued to cancel them.


They explained it didn’t matter if we could catch up with the flight in Taiwan because all consecutive flights had been cancelled. There was nothing they could do for us. 


And just like that….we no longer had flights to get to Taiwan or the Philippines. 

Were we now stranded in Japan?


But wait, there was some good news. 


It turns out, we still had plane tickets to get home from Japan as that was a separate airline and was separately booked, so that ticket was still valid. Thank goodness we at least we had flights to get home, but we wanted to go to the Philippines, and not miss the wedding. 


This is where I should probably mention that we had a family wedding to attend in the Philippines in two days. And now we had no method of transportation to travel to the Philippines… What a difficult situation we were in.


We had a decision to make: either stay in Japan until our return flights and miss the wedding or buy new tickets to the Philippines.


In two days, we needed to be in the Philippines, we could not be late. We were not going to miss Patrick’s family wedding over some extra money needing to be spent on plane tickets. Especially when we are only a 4.5-hour plane ride away from the Philippines. 


The next step was to call my travel insurance and see if they would cover the purchase. Buying replacement plane tickets and spending extra money could be risky without knowing if we would have guaranteed travel insurance coverage.


Finding a pay phone, we called our travel insurance phone number. The phone number was listed on the back of my credit card. There was no answer, so we redialed. 

narita airport pay phone tokyo

There was still no answer, just an automated message stating the limiting operating hours of the travel insurance company. It was tricky to try and reach the insurance company due to international calling fees and the time zone difference. They were closed and asleep back in Canada.


With no answer, we would have to buy the new flights without assuring travel insurance coverage. We would have to deal with insurance when we could get in contact with them. 


Now we had to make sure we could afford the flights with my credit card limit. Looking at the flight prices for today to fly to the Philippines and the amount of available space on my credit card, it wasn’t going to work. The ticket is too expensive. We began to worry. 


Checking the flight availability for tomorrow, there were plane tickets I could afford to purchase. We would have to wait until tomorrow to fly out of Japan. 


As we were staying another night in Japan, we needed to figure out where to sleep tonight. We had limited money and didn’t want to venture too far from the airport. 


We began the hunt for accommodations. Checking the accommodations at the airport first, they were out of our budget. I kept looking. I found a hotel near the airport that included a shuttle and was affordable.


We ended up staying the night in Japan near the airport. The hotel was a 10-minute free shuttle ride to the airport. No way we were going to miss our flights a second time.


Good news. We ended up catching those new flights and making it to the Philippines. 

We attended the wedding, and it was all as if nothing wrong ever happened. Even though we didn’t end up visiting Taiwan for the 1.5 days we had planned on our layovers, we made the most of our modified vacation and enjoyed our extra time in the Philippines and Japan.


The best part is, our travel insurance is astonishing, and the additional flights we had to purchase ended up being covered.  


Everything worked out in the end. Hopefully, we won’t miss any flights again. It looks like we will just have to plan a separate trip to visit Taiwan. 


How to Avoid This From Happening to You:

  • Always aim to arrive at the airport early. It is recommended to arrive at least 3 hours before an international flight.
  • Have backup method of transportation ideas to the airport, in case one fails. 

Our crazy story about missing our flights out of Japan ended up all working out. We didn’t miss the wedding, and we got to explore more in the Philippines and Japan. 

Have you ever missed your flight? I would love to hear about your experience. 

Not ever missed a flight? Share your tips for not missing your flight in the comments below.

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