Bumped, delayed or just plane stressed…
Going back only a few years, if your flight was delayed by even an hour or two the airline, if it was half decent, would have a snack voucher for you and be ready to help out with any questions. Overnight delays were promptly taken care of, in most circumstances, and quite soon you would be on your way.
Oh how times have changed.
Find a fellow traveller and share the wait
We fly more now, on average, than any time in the past. Cheap airlines have meant that getting on a plane to an exotic destination is not just the birthright of a few but now the expectation of the masses. With the advent of these budget carriers old airports have been expanded and new regional airports have been created all over Europe and much of the world. This has led to a crunch in both time and space, airlines are cutting frills and shortening turnaround times, staff are expected to deal with the flying public less and less – online check in and bag drops are becoming the norm.
The number of aircraft in this equation is critical, a big organisation like British Airways or Lufthansa, United or American Airlines can more easily bring online a spare aircraft or reroute existing flights to cope with any timetable disruption. Smaller operators simply do not have the flexibility to do this and lacking an interline agreement, where operators accept one another’s passengers in an operational necessity, will quite often have their passengers waiting a long time for a rescheduled flight.
Which brings us to the point of the matter, what do we do with ourselves during these enforced delays and what recourse do we have?
There is no “one size fits all solution” here, a lot depends upon your travel status and the airline you are flying with. For business class passengers the carrier will almost certainly make arrangements for all their needs, coping with onward connections and extending lounge access. This does sometimes fall down in practice and some of the tips later on may well come in useful should your airline dispose of you in a less than helpful manner.
Delays aren’t always air travel based…check your route and plan to minimise risks
Major airlines are normally the easiest to deal with although with staff cuts you will end up waiting in line for information and updates. Budget carriers are a mixed bunch and the help you receive varies across not only the airline but also the location, so the treatment you receive in one airport by airline X may be widely different from the same airline in country B. These effects are felt most often by families with children and other passengers with deadlines to meet; having to stay overnight if a flight is cancelled or delayed brings added stress and complication.
If the airline you are travelling with looks after you then all is fine, if they claim no fault then often you are on your own. So what can you to in these circumstances and how can you make the best of a bad situation?
- The first rule is DON’T PANIC! Most things can be sorted with time and a little patience but screaming and shouting won’t help anyone. If the delay is going to be substantial then you need to regroup and go through the options available to you.
- Some travellers carry lounge access cards and for around $15 dollars can get access to a private area with showers, food and refreshment – check out Priority Pass for an idea of what is available. If this is not an option find a location near enough to the service desk but far enough away not to be overflowing with other passengers, one preferably with an electrical outlet for your laptop or charging a mobile phone. Grab some space for you, your travelling party and your belongings and make camp. If you are on your own find another passenger or two in the same boat and group together, this will give you a sense of community and also ensure you belongings are looked after on food or toilet breaks.
- If the delay is due to the weather you may be looking at camping out in the airport or getting a room, check with the airport staff information desk as to closures and weather delays. A room close to the airport may be expensive and go quickly so you may need to make some fast decisions.
Make sure your insurance is up to date and covers all modes of travel
Assuming it is going to be a short delay food and drink need to be sought out, smaller airports shut their restaurants and shops early so be sure to stock up with necessities in advance. If you don’t have access to a mobile telephone check out calling cards if you need to make travel arrangements, running out of change would not be good.
- If you have children, or a fidgety travel partner, distractions are essential so pre-plan where possible with games and books. Laptops and DVD’s are a great help to pass the time as are mp3 music players and Internet access wherever possible can aid planning and serve as entertainment.
- Pack a small blanket in your carry on if possible, they are light and can help ward off the chill if you are stuck in a less than comfortable environment.
- If you have travel insurance then some of these costs may be reimbursable, aside from this be polite but firm to your airline agent and be flexible, they may offer an alternative flight to a nearby airport and a coach or other transportation.
There will always be complications and hiccups while travelling, making the best of a bum situation is the best travellers spirit.