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I’m accidentally in London thanks to a ticket that didn’t exist

I had been manifesting adventure for a pretty long while now, and it looks like the universe answered my requests. When I got on a plane Saturday morning, this was not at all how I envisioned my day, or even my week, to go.

After sending in an article about an EU project in Malta, I was invited by the European Commission to join an aspiring-journalists programme in Brussels. And how excited I was! I had been looking forward to this for months.

That was until I received the message a that the programme would not be taking place because of Covid. Fair enough – I was actually confused they hadn’t decided that earlier on. But the opportunist in me didn’t want to lose a free trip to Brussels, so I asked whether the flights and hotel would be cancelled.

After I didn’t receive any response, I did what any sane person would do: I figured I’d try. My best friend and I went to the airport together, as she was catching a flight back home after my birthday weekend.

I was, as usual, the last person to board. It took about four staff members to figure out what was the issue, minutes before the plane was meant to leave. Several people frantically typed onto the computer and made calls, after which they decided to let me on board.

The Maltese steward conjured up an empty boarding pass and scribbled down a seat number. Wearing sweaters and a jacket while awkwardly carrying my overweight hand luggage, I ran towards the plane that was bound to leave.

I felt pretty confident about the whole situation. Despite the fuss at the gate, I made it to my first flight. From here on it shouldn’t be too complicated. I snoozed away on the three seats I had to myself and woke up right before landing at Heathrow, where my stopover was.

I passed through the UK border and made my way to the departures. As I tried to check in on the machines, a lady came over to help me. The machine didn't work, so she directed my to the check-in counters for Brussels Airlines. The guy at the check-in counter referred me to the ticket counter. The lady at the ticket counter said I should call the travel agency. The travel agency was unavailable.

Rather than being fed up of being sent around, I decided to give it a go anyways. There wasn’t much reason not to. The electronic gates decided my ticket was valid and I could make my way through the security check.

I made it that far – I felt like I should be able to hop on my plane. But when it was time to board, the scanner detected an issue with my ticket.

Regardless of how nice the stewardesses were, they couldn’t help but send me to AirMalta’s help desk, where an uninterested, profusely rude Eastern European lady had to deal with my issue. She asked me why I missed my flight (“I haven’t, but I’m not allowed to board”) and why I was late (“I’m not, there is an issue with my ticket”).

I walked from this help desk to the boarding gate and back several times, finally begging the stewardess if I could please just hop on board five minutes before it left. I could not.

So that was that – I got stuck in London. Not because of the pandemic, not due to anything dramatic, but because I decided to take a flight that was already cancelled and because AirMalta let me.

I shared the adventure on my Instagram story and got in touch with some friends from the UK. I figured I might as well enjoy my time while I’m here.

A good friend knew someone who was renting out their apartment, and now I’m staying in Southeast London for a couple of weeks.

That’s how I flew to London for free, with a non-existent ticket.



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