Airplane Travel Tips

A Delayed Flight Survival Guide

While I try to keep this blog focused on the wonderful and glamorous aspects of travel, the fact of the matter is that sometimes things do go wrong. One of the most common things to go wrong while traveling is delayed flights, and I’ve had quite the string of bad luck with delayed flights recently.

For me, the airport is the most stressful part of traveling, so when my flights get delayed it makes it so much worse. While I don’t think there is any way to completely rectify a delayed flight situation, there are some things you can do to ease your anxiety and make sure you don’t miss any connecting flights and of course, make it to your destination on time!

Why Do Flights Get Delayed

  1. Late Arrivals
    Aircrafts arriving late are usually cause by jam-packed close scheduling by the airlines in order to cram the most flights (and most money) into every day. I’ve found that budget airlines usually have quicker turn arounds and try squeezing more flights into each day. Naturally this causes more delays as they’re running on a strict schedule. Keep this in mind if booking with a budget airline and make sure you have enough time to catch any connecting flights. Or if you’d rather pay a little more, I’ve found larger airlines such as Air Canada have flight delays less often.
  2. Mechanical Issues
    Just like your car runs into problems every now and again, so do planes. Although this situation is frustrating, just remember it is better to get there safe than to not arrive at all.
  3. Weather
    Weather is the main cause of flight delays and unfortunately completely out of your control. If you can foresee bad weather such as rain or snow storms, keep an eye out for online alerts regarding your flight status. If you’re flight gets delayed due to weather after you’re already at the airport, try to stay flexible. Often times airlines can compensate you for the inconvenience in the form of vouchers, hotel stays, or alternate trips.

How to Kill Time at the Airport

  1. People Watch – easy enough and we all know you’re doing it already anyway
  2. Read a Book – I always bring a book with me while travelling and delays are the perfect time to get in some reading time; if you don’t have a book on you, check out the airport’s bookstore.
  3. Write a journal or blog about your experience – I make the most out of delays by working on blog posts from my trip, if you don’t have a blog already, what a great time to start one!
  4. Get some exercise – many big airports have full service fitness centers, but if they don’t you can just get some steps in by walking around the airport.
  5. Clear out your laptop or phone of old photos – we all have gotten that dreaded “out of storage” message on our iPhone’s but never seem to have the time to clear any space, but now you have the time!
  6. Chat up a stranger – everyone at the airport has a story to tell, I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations with strangers I’ve chatted up waiting at an airport gate.
  7. Shop duty free – some extra time before your flight gives you a perfect opportunity to do some shopping!
  8. Watch a movie – some of the larger airports have theatres for travelers to catch a movie in between flights, if you’re going to be delayed for a few hours you might as well check it out.
  9. Check out the airport lounges – many lounges allow access to those not flying first class for a small fee which can be well worth it if you’re going to be stuck at the airport for a while and need a shower or a nap before your flight.
  10. Plan your next trip – the airport is the perfect place to get some inspiration for your next trip, have a peak at those departure boards and start dreaming of your next destination!

What Are Your Rights?

The most important thing you can do to save yourself a lot of stress and money is to know what your rights are in the event of a delay.

Typically, the airline doesn’t “owe” you anything if the delay is under three hours, unless you’re already on the plane. If you get delayed on the tarmac the flight crew will usually offer passengers free food or drinks during the wait. However, if you haven’t boarded yet and your plane is only delayed a couple hours, you probably aren’t getting anything other than an apology.

If your flight is delayed more than three hours most airlines will compensate passengers with a meal voucher, and some will even offer to rebook your flight free of charge.

While being delayed in itself is an inconvenience, being stuck at the airport overnight is incredibly stressful on even the most seasoned travelers, and airlines know this. If you’re flight is delayed more than eight hours the airline should provide you with meal vouchers as well as hotel vouchers and transportation back to the airport to catch the rescheduled flight. Many airlines at this point will also offer to cancel and refund your trip if you wish to do so. Anytime your delay involves an overnight stay the airline should be taking care of your hotel accommodations.

Keep in mind these rights usually only apply to delays within the airlines control, so if you’re delayed overnight due to bad weather don’t expect a free hotel stay. Also remember when booking through a third party website you’re not necessarily entitled to these rights, as they usually only apply to passengers who book directly through the airline. If you’re booking through a third party be sure to read up on their own individual policies for delays and cancellations beforehand.

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