Whoa! Stuck at the Airport for 80 Days?

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Boy looking at an airplane through terminal window (Photo: Mikael Damkier/iStockphoto)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on November 4, 2011. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, airport, Christine Sarkis.

There's something about the airport that messes with the clock. Terminals around the world seem to have the magical ability to truncate time when you're rushing to catch a flight, and then stretch it way out when you're impatiently waiting out a layover.

Today we bring you three tales of being stuck in airport time. These stories are all pretty different—one involves a voluntary stay, another a person trapped by baggage fees, and a third that will give you second thoughts about flying with pets—but all have happened very recently, maybe at an airport near you.

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80 Days at the Vancouver Airport

Airports are a gateway to destinations around the world, but for Jaeger Mah, the Vancouver Airport was a destination in itself, reports Harriet Baskas for msnbc's Overhead Bin blog. After winning a contest to mark the 80th anniversary of the airport, Mah became a citizen reporter whose sole job was to live at the airport for 80 days and 80 nights. Lucky for him, there's a Fairmont on-site, so his evenings were comfortable. He spent the daytime roaming the airport, talking to people, getting a behind-the-scenes look into the workings of the airport, learning the ropes from pilots, and eating a lot of airport food. Along the way, he shared his experiences via video, Facebook, and Twitter. Now that he's finished the gig, he's hopping one of those planes he's been watching take off for the last few months and plans on making Hawaii his new home. Aloha, Vancouver!

Baggage Fees Claim Another Victim

Teri Weissinger's fresh start was delayed when the woman spent her last dollars on an airline ticket that would take her from San Francisco to Idaho, where she was planning to begin a new life. Unfortunately, Weissinger didn't account for the added expense of baggage fees (she should have downloaded our Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees), and when she couldn't pay the $60 US Airways required to transport her two checked bags, it set off a chain of events that led to her being trapped in the airport for eight days. ABC reports that she spent the time wandering the airport, and she was finally sprung from transit-hub purgatory by the "Airport Church of Christ," whose parishioners paid her baggage and rebooking fees and allowed her to continue on her way to Idaho.

Jack the Cat

By the time he was found, seven weeks after escaping into the American Airlines baggage terminal at New York's JFK Airport after his kennel fell and opened, Jack the Cat had a Facebook following of more than 15,000 people, writes ABC. A few days after Jack the Cat Awareness Day on October 22 spread the news about the missing feline to more than 37,000 employees, Jack was found in the customs room.

Update November 7: Sadly, Jack has died. His owner hopes to take the large following he gained on Facebook and use it to bring greater awareness to the risks of putting animals in cargo.

Bonus: Tarmac Delays? Weren't We Done With Those?

New rules and steep penalties have reduced the number of long tarmac delays passengers suffer due to adverse weather, but with this past weekend's pre-season East Coast snowstorm, JetBlue passengers at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut sat on the tarmac for between seven and eight hours. According to CNN, the scene in the plane sounded pretty miserable, with limited food and water, fighting passengers, a medical emergency, and crying babies. An image like that makes the inside of the terminal seem like the Ritz.

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