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Regards from Fukuoka

Fukuoka, Japan

Flying is often a hassle, especially when you need to fly a lot and there are no direct flights between the places that you want to go to. During my current trip I already had my fair share of problems. On the way to Phuket my flight from Bangkok to Phuket was cancelled, meaning that I had to spend 3 hours in Bangkok at the airport and missed the beginning of Stream Asia. I was not the only one that had that problem, several Stream Asia participants had planned their arrival on Phuket with not much time to spare, so we all ended up at the same later flight. That flight was pretty empty, which led me to believe that the original flight was simply cancelled to save money because there were not enough enough people on it.

Fukuoka, Japan

On the way back to Shanghai things got even worse. The flight from Phuket to Bangkok was on time, but the on the leg between Bangkok and Phuket we were notified by the captain that we might not be able to land in Shanghai right away because of heavy fog. We circled between Nanjing and Shanghai for about an hour until the fog finally started to clear and we started our descent. I was a bit worried that we had to stay in the air longer than planned because I only had a few hours in Shanghai quickly go home, say hi to my wife and kids, pack my suitcase and hop on another plane to San Francisco, but with just an hour delay I would be fine.

But no, things turned out a bit different: suddenly the pilot came on the intercom and started a long story in Thai (I am on a Thai Airways plane) from which I could not understand much, but from his tone I figured it was not a good message. And indeed, when he finally translated his story into English it turned out the fog had gotten worse and the plane was rerouted to Japan… While writing this we are on the approach to Fukuoka. The islands below me are beautiful, but I am less than thrilled. I have no idea if I can make it back to Shanghai on time to catch my plane to the US, and I certainly won’t be able to see my kids for 2 hours (my original plan) before going on another weeklong trip.

My plan is now to call my wife to pack a suitcase for me for the US and then send the driver to the airport. In case I make it on time back to China I might still be able to check-in and make it to the US later today. I have important meetings planned both tonight and tomorrow (some people are even flying in to meet me), so postponing the trip by a day is not a real option. The uncertainty about whether I will make it or not is actually worse than the delay itself. Anyway, can’t change it. Flying is a hassle. Regards from Fukuoka…

Update: After spending some time at Fukuoka airport, Shanghai opened again and we got permission from air traffic control to fly back to China. We landed around 11:15 AM at Pudong airport and I rushed through the large airport and customs to the exit gate. I had called my wife from Japan and she had come to the airport with our driver with my suitcase and a set of new clothes. I quickly repacked part of my suitcase and ran to the United Airlines to check in to my flight with just 45 minutes left before departure. I was the last (and only) person to check in and I was glad they still let me do so. Then I freshened up a bit, changed to a new set of clothes and then literally ran through customs, realizing that I had only been in China for about 15 minutes (my shortest stay ever). I bought a sandwich for on board and then boarded the plane to San Francisco with only minutes to spare. I made it! I am now in San Francisco where I need to change to the last part of my journey, a flight to Austin, TX. I have been traveling for close to 30 hours already and feel incredible tired and jet lagged, but I still have a whole day ahead of me. Starbucks will hopefully get me through it!

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