CODASPY23: passing the night at the NY JFK airport

This trip was a real mess. CODASPY23 was held in Charlotte, to which there are no flights from ZRH. The best option I found was by making a stop at JFK in New York City. My flight was to depart from ZRH at 1:30pm and land in JFK at 4:25pm; then, my second flight was to depart at 7:29pm from JFK and land in CLT at 9:49pm. The trip to the hotel should have taken 20 minutes: if everything went smoothly, I could have managed to get dinner somewhere—that is, “somewhere” in Charlotte (and not at JFK). Oh, I was so wrong.

Everything went relatively well until I landed in JFK. The flight was 9h long, but I had done it before. After I landed, I was met with a loooong queue at the border control—so long, in fact, that I worried I would not be able to make it for the second flight (~2:30h later). Once I connected to the airport’s WiFi, however, I received an email from Delta: the second flight was delayed by 40m. Yay! …or rather, “nay”, because this would have meant that my chances of having dinner in Charlotte disappeared completely.

I waited in line for more than 1h. Then, right after I went through, I received another email. My second flight was canceled, and I was automatically rebooked to another flight—scheduled to depart at 2:59pm of the following day (and land at 5pm). Great! Screw dinner: a no-show to the hotel with no prior warning would have led to a fee. More importantly, however, I had an important (remote) meeting the following day (a Sunday) at 11am, so I had to be in my hotel room before that time.

I went to Delta’s customer care, asking for explanations and whether they could put me on another flight—anything that would allow me to reach Charlotte earlier. No dice: everything was already full. Even by making another stop in the USA, there was no way I could reach CLT on that day. There was, however, one solution that enabled me to be in my hotel room within the next day’s morning: a flight that departed at 8:10am, and landed at 10:30am in CLT. It was already 6pm, so I took that option. That’s when my 13h, overnight stay at JFK began—or, to be precise, when my brain acknowledged that I would have to pass the night there (to be even more precise, in Terminal 4).

At the very least, I was able to have a close one call the hotel in Charlotte and tell them that I would not come for the first night, which prevented me from being automatically charged.[a]There was no contact email I could use to contact the hotel. The only way to reach out to them was by phone: however, my SIM card does not allow calls in the USA. The other relief was that I would have at least been able to have my meeting (provided that no more cancellations followed). I tried getting information about why I was stranded there: according to some personnel, it was due to bad weather; however, there were flights which were leaving that day, so I truly had no clue. Unfortunately, EU policies do not apply for US domestic flights, meaning that I was going to get no compensation whatsoever for this mishap.

The good news is that I am writing this piece, so I was able to survive that experience. Frankly, however, I do not recommend it to anyone. I was already quite tired: I had many trips the previous days, and I was not able to get much rest on the plane. The idea of having to stay 13h in such a place was annoying—not because of issues such as uncomfortable “couches”, but rather because of being alone. Indeed, falling asleep in an airport when you have luggage is not ideal when there’s no one else that can look after your stuff. Had it been with a friend, it may even have ended up being “fun”; but just by myself it was quite bothersome.[b]I did, however, take the opportunity to try a burger at Shake Shack. I wish I didn’t.

Nevertheless, my flight the following day was on time and I arrived in my hotel room right when the meeting was starting.

For the return trip, I also had another delay of ~30m on the first leg to JFK, but it was largely inconsequential—albeit I almost perceived it as a mockery by lady luck, given what I went through for the first trip.