Surviving Airport Delays: What You Need To Know

There’s something about airports that just capture my heart. Maybe it’s the promise of adventure and escape from everyday life. Maybe it’s the allure of unheard of destinations. Often when at the airport, my wandering heart finds itself staring at the information boards dreaming that I was on one, if not all those planes, heading off to more unknown destinations. But, as much as airports are one of my favorite places on earth, being stuck there is not fun.

A few months back I found myself stranded at Doha International Airport for over three hours. A flight back to Beijing that was expected to board at 1 am had been delayed without further notice. Chaos soon ensued. The attendee desks were flooded with mainland locals arguing and screaming in mandarin. Thirty minutes later, there was another announcement. I grasped a few of the mandarin words I knew and pieced together than we would only be leaving at 5 am. Crap. That meant the flight had been delayed further.

So what do you do when you find yourself at an airport facing a long delay? Here are 11 tips to help you along.

  1. ASK QUESTIONS

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask the flight attendees what’s going on and to provide you with regular updates especially if they do not make public announcements in English. This will allow you to find out whether the delay is weather related or just an airline or aircraft related issue. If the problem is restricted to your flight only and you are in a hurry, then it may be a good idea to change your flight to a different airline although you most likely won’t be compensated for extra incurred costs.

 

2. CHECK YOUR FLIGHT STATUS ONLINE

Besides checking the information boards at the airport, it’s also a good idea to check your flight status online. This is especially helpful if you are in a smaller airport where the official language is not English.

 

3. LET YOUR LOVED ONES KNOW

Always keep the contact numbers of your friends and family with you, especially those who will be meeting you on the other side. This way you can let your loved ones know about the delay. It’s also a good idea to keep the contact details of the airlines customer care desk. Should the ticket counters become too chaotic and you can’t get the answers you need, this gives you a second option of calling the airline counter or airport directly using your phone. It also means you may be able to request for an English speaking operator and get the answers you need without having to deal with the other angry passengers.

 

4. BE MINDFUL OF CONNECTING FLIGHTS

If you have a second flight to catch, check with the airport officials if they can place you on another connecting flight or if they will compensate you for missing the next flight.

 

5. SOCIAL MEDIA

Posting updates on social media pages sometimes gets you a quicker response from airline companies. Use Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram if you need too.

 

6. BE STRATEGIC WHEN BOOKING FLIGHTS

When booking, direct flights are usually the preferred option as this will minimize the chance for missed connecting flights or even multiple delays. If you are booking a flight with a layover, be mindful about where these layovers will be. Cities with quieter airports and calmer weather patterns are less likely to have flight delays.

 

7. HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel insurance is one essential item that every traveler needs. Not only does it protect you after arriving at your destination but some will also cover airport delays, missed flights and even lost or delayed luggage. Check with your bank when booking flights using your credit card. Many banks will offer some form of travel insurance which will save you from having to purchase it separately.

 

8. CHECK THE WEATHER

Keeping an eye on weather patterns a few days and even hours before your flight, will give you a better idea about possible flight delays or cancellations. This way, you may be able to re-book or reroute your flight over the phone instead of arriving at a chaotic check-in desk.

 

9. KEEP SOME ESSENTIAL ITEMS IN YOUR CARRY ON

Having personal essential items in your hand luggage helps a lot. Always ensure that you have a travel sized set of toiletries, a change of clothes and a USB charger with you. This way should an airport delay occur; you can freshen up, change your clothes and charge your electronic devices at the airport.

 

10. COMPENSATION

While you are waiting it’s a good idea to check if you will be compensated for your delay. Depending on the duration of your delay, some airlines may issue you with a meal voucher or even a discount on future flights.

 

11. FIND A MONEY CHANGER

If the airlines don’t provide you with a meal voucher and you don’t have any major international currencies with you, find a money changer. Here you should be able to change some of your money into more commonly accepted currencies like, euros or dollars and still get something to eat.

 

12. LOUNGES

If you’re in for an extremely long delay, you may want to consider getting a lounge pass. This way, you can relax, shower and wait in comfort until your flight is ready to leave.

 

Have you faced a long airport delay? How did you make it more bearable? I’d love to hear your tips!

 

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Posted by

Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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