Flight delays are common, and missed connections are often inevitable. But sometimes there's a silver lining. Business traveller Eoin Carrigan explains how his unexpected layover in Chicago went viral on Twitter after it struck a comical chord with thousands of flyers.

A plane sits on snow-covered tarmac at an airport at night. Two ground-staff in hi-vis vests are standing in beside it in the midst of a blizzard.
There was a lot of weather when Eoin Carrigan arrived in Chicago © uatp2 / Getty Images

My flight touched down into a stormy, snow-covered Chicago around the same time my connecting flight to Houston was taking off. 

The connection was always going to be tight; so when an elusive piece of paperwork left us sitting on the tarmac in Dublin for over an hour, I knew I’d be spending the night in the city. I was put on a flight set to depart the following day and told to arrange accommodation with the airline that had delayed my arrival into Chicago.  

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I criss-crossed multiple terminals to get to the Aer Lingus check-in desk, along with some equally travel-weary fellow passengers. Aer Lingus accepted their culpability and presented us with a letter confirming that we’d be put up in the Comfort Inn O’Hare. We were breezily told to go outside and hop on the Comfort Inn shuttle bus. It turned out the only thing breezy about this was the polar vortex swirling outside.

Arrivals queue up at bus stops to catch courtesy shuttle buses to airport hotels at night.
Airport hotel courtesy buses are a lifesaver...if they arrive © ULU_BIRD / Shutterstock

Confusion reigned as hundreds of people, huddled together like perplexed penguins, tried mostly in vain to establish which shuttle bus was theirs. Buses came and went. People became anxious. It was so cold. I considered being shuttled to the wrong hotel just to warm up on the bus journey there.

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Eventually, I teamed up with three others to catch an Uber. I hailed one in the app and said to the three, “OK, the Uber will be here in seven minutes, but at the other side of the terminal.” Word of this alternative option spread rapidly across the flock and a mass migration worthy of Attenborough narration began, as we headed to the unmanned and similarly chaotic Uber collection point.

A queue of taxis lined up in an underground taxi rank at an airport; a stream of arriving passengers with suitcases are walking towards to head of the queue.
It's every traveller for themself at the airport taxi rank © Pradeep Thomas Thundiyil / Shutterstock

Our own March Of The Penguins led us to our cab, and finally we reached the Comfort Inn. The hotel’s parked shuttle bus sat taunting us as our icy hands hauled our cases from the car to the entrance. Inside it was basic but warm and we lined up at reception.

When it was my turn, I approached the desk. The lady behind the counter presented me with the key and cheerfully told me that I was staying in the ‘Boardroom Suite’. Though the name was obviously odd, I was way too tired to ask questions or risk further delays so I happily took the keys and headed up to room.

The lift was old, enormous and took forever to go up one floor. I lugged my cases across the carpeted hallway and muttered: “thank god”, as I put the key in the lock. When I opened the door, I keeled over laughing.

A beige-decorated room has an enormous boardroom table surrounded by office chairs in the middle of it; there is also a kingsize bed set into a recess.
Eoin's suite brought a whole new meaning to the phrase 'sleeping on the job' © Eoin Carrigan

There was just so much to laugh at! The glaring office-like lights; the huge plywood table dominating the room; the nine office chairs pointing in slightly different directions; the deluxe king lurking in the background and the fact that they’d gone with the euphemistic yet accurate ‘Boardroom Suite’ as its name. It was all just too good and weird. I immediately took a photo and tweeted it out. 

The point of the trip was to attend a conference for work and I knew some colleagues were facing some travel issues of their own. I thought they might see the tweet and find it funny. I napped and then went out in the city that night. While I was out, the tweet started getting lots of likes and retweets from colleagues.

Then some others I didn’t know started getting involved. I went to bed and woke up to thousands of notifications and messages from local and national news reporters.

That day the tweet took on a life of its own with people sharing other stories and pics of weird hotel rooms. I love that every reply is so fun and positive and I’m happy so many people got a laugh out of it.

Since then, the hotel group have been in touch and have taken the whole thing in good humour – they've even given me a voucher for a night in one of their hotels.

I said I’ll take it on condition that I get the Boardroom Suite.

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