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What to do when You Have a Flight Delay

Unfortunately, flights are delayed all the time. If you travel a lot, then the chances are at some point you will experience a flight delay. But, what should you do if your flight is delayed? Here are a list of tips and tricks to make flight delays less stressful and more manageable.

First of all, Chill!

It’s not the end of the world. Delays happen for all types of unforeseen reasons. Overreacting is not going to help anyone. Keeping calm and focused will make managing the delay a lot easier and much more pleasant. So, take a few deep breaths. You’re going to get through this. Now, grab your stuff and head to the airline counter.

There are two important questions you need to ask at the airline counter:

What are you entitled to?

If your flight is delayed for less than 3 hours, then the chances are you won’t receive anything. However if you are delayed for more than 3, it is definitely worth asking this question. The compensation offered varies from airline to airline. It could be in the form of food or entertainment vouchers, city tours, hotel vouchers or financial compensation. There is no obligation for the airline to provide compensation to their passengers if there is a delay (with the exception of EU flights), however most airlines try to keep their passengers happy.

If you are delayed for more than 3 hours in Europe, or on a European flight (ie. flying to or from a city with in the EU), then legally the airline will have to pay you compensation for the delay. I recently flew from London, England to Vancouver, Canada and experienced an 8 hour delay. As a result, airline had to pay me $870CAD in compensation (which was actually more than I what I paid for the flight).

What are your options?

To determine your options, you will need to ask yourself, and the airline, a few questions. Questions may include; how long is the delay? Does the airline have a new and confirmed departure time for the flight? Will/Can you be put on the next available flight? Can you fly to your destination via another route?

Another important point to consider is whether you have a connecting flight. Is it with the same airline or booked on the same ticket? If it is, then the airline will have to sort out your connecting flight. No? Then you will need to sort this out yourself.

Pro tip: Call the airline while you stand in line. The first thing everyone on your flight is going to do is head to the airline counter. You’re likely to get a faster response by calling the airline to discuss your options.

Check your insurance

Check what your travel insurance covers. The airline might not provide a complimentary night at a hotel, but your travel insurance might cover it, along with any entertainment or meals you pay for during the delay. You will also want to bear in mind, your excess amount and check any policy exclusions. If you are unsure about these, the best way to find this information out is by calling your travel insurance provider and asking them directly. Also, check what documents and records you will need to keep for making the claim/s.

Make the most of it

How often do you have free time, to do with what you like? You’re not going anywhere, so you might as well make the most of it. Most airports have lounges, complimentary WiFi, airport hotels, restaurants, shops, massage parlors and spas. Some airports even go the extra mile by having casinos or offering free city tours. Many have children’s play areas or offer free activities for kids. Use this extra time to relax, do some last minute duty free or souvenir shopping, grab a meal, read a book or just to rest.

The Guangzhou Premium Lounge is a great place to spend a layover if stuck in China.

Speaking of lounges, we can’t stress enough how valuable a lounge club membership from Priority Pass really is. In the three months Aaron has had his, courtesy of his Chase Sapphire Reserve, he’s already made about a dozen lounge visits. Of course, with the CSR, guests are complimentary. So you’ll be sure to win some favors with your traveling companions by getting them away from the busy terminal. Other cards that get you in the door include the Amex Platinum and the Citi Prestige.

Other Things to Think About

  1. Check your flight status at least 24 hours before departure for any last-minute changes or delays.
  2. Sign up for airline flight updates. These are usually sent via email or text message.
  3. Be prepared and plan for delays. Delays are common. If you do make plans at your final destination, make them flexible and easy to change. If you have an important engagement to make, try and book your flight with at least a day leeway. This way in the event of a delay, you will not have to fret or worry about your plans or commitments.
  4. DON’T FORGET CHARGERS and battery packs. Aaron personally uses the Jackery Giant 12,000 mAh USB Portable Battery Charger, available on Amazon. It can easily recharge an iPad and/or several phones. A near invaluable commodity for the times lounge access(and their power outlets), aren’t available.
  • Brie B.

    Great advice! I remember one time when I was going from New York to Chicago, which is a short flight, it got delayed by 11 hours. This was only the 3rd time I had ever flown so I was a mess! I panicked. It was late at night so I thought I would have to sleep in a chair in the lobby. Thankfully I did ask the right person, I was able to stay in a hotel free of charge for the night. Darn winter storms!

  • Nicolle Dan

    Flight delays can be frustrating, most times when my flight is delayed I get so angry and pissed at everybody, but I must say with the advice here, I now know that I can do a lot of things when my flight is delayed. Thank you