Flight delays can affect travel plans, but there are things you can do to minimize the impact on your vacation.
Finding out that your flight has been delayed can make you feel as if the travel gods have been working against you and suddenly you’re in a helpless situation.
Well, don’t panic! If you act quickly, there are steps you can take to lessen the pain. Here’s how to get your travel plans back on track the next time you encounter a flight delay
Find out why your flight was delayed
Flights are delayed for a variety of reasons. So first contact your airline (talk to an airline representative at check-in, or call if you haven’t arrived at the airport yet) to find out why you can’t leave on time. Under federal law, major U.S. airlines must report the cause of flight delays. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are five types of flight delays:
Aircraft carrier. Delays are due to circumstances within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, aircraft cleaning, baggage loading, or refueling.
Extreme weather. Tornadoes, blizzards, hurricanes, or other severe weather can cause flight delays if the airline deems it unsafe to fly.
National aviation systems. These delays are issued by the national aviation system and include non-extreme weather conditions, airport operations, heavy traffic volumes, and air traffic control.
Late aircraft. A plane that was previously behind on the same aircraft.
Security. Such delays are caused by evacuation of terminals or concourses, re-boarding due to security breaches, malfunctioning screening equipment and long lines in screening areas exceeding 29 minutes.
While there is no federal law requiring airlines to provide monetary or other compensation to passengers when a flight is delayed, knowing the cause can help you act accordingly. For example, you may have a short delay if your flight is delayed because the plane is refueling, but if there is a tornado in the forecast, you may have to wait longer or even have your flight canceled.
Tap your smartphone
If you haven’t already, download the airline’s mobile app. You can use it to check departure status, and some apps allow you to change your itinerary without having to contact an agent in person or by phone, which can save you a lot of time.
Also download AirHelp – this is an app that allows you to check if you are eligible for delay or cancellation compensation.
Check the status of connecting flights
This may be obvious, but it’s still a critical step. If you’re trying to catch a connecting flight, you’ll want to know what the status of that flight is. In some cases, your airline may have to put you on a different route in order to get you to your final destination.
See if your credit card offers travel interruption coverage
If your flight is delayed more than 12 hours or you need to stay overnight in a hotel, your credit card company may reimburse you for some expenses, such as meals and lodging, if the airline doesn’t pay. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can cover up to $500 of airfare for you and your family, including meals, lodging and toiletries, as long as your flight is not delayed in your city of residence. (Of course, you must have paid for your flight with a credit card.)
File a complaint on social media
If your flight isn’t the only one being delayed – which often happens in extreme weather conditions – your airline’s phone lines and airport staff may be at a loss for words. The result: if you complain on Facebook or Twitter, you may get a faster response. To increase your exposure – and, in turn, improve your chances of getting a quick response – include appropriate hashtags in your posts and see what’s trending: for example, if there are a lot of other flyers posted on twitter # jetbluefail, then follow their lead.
Stay calm and collected
Taking a friendly, calm approach can go a long way when you’re talking to any customer service agent, but it’s especially important when dealing with airline representatives. If you lose your temper, the agent will be less inclined to give you a hotel or meal voucher. And remember: It’s not the person’s fault that your flight was delayed. So keep a calm tone, avoid using vulgar language, and avoid personal attacks. (“Why are you doing your job so poorly?”)
Find fun ways to spend your time
Sure, no one likes being stuck in an airport, but you don’t need to sit there feeling sorry for yourself. Many airports in the U.S. and abroad offer a variety of activities and special food. O’Hare International Airport, for example, offers an interactive play area for kids with child-sized model airplanes and control towers. Meanwhile, art lovers can enjoy Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s permanent exhibit, “Zimbabwean Sculpture: A Tradition of Stone,” which includes 20 stone sculptures from the country of South Africa.
Facing a long delay? Get out and do some sightseeing. Just make sure you get back to the airport with enough time to get through security; after all, the last thing you want to do is miss your flight and then have to wait longer to get where you’re going.