Flight delays don’t have to be the deal breaker in your perfect vacation planning. Even though most airline travelers can recount at least one travel nightmare in their time flying the friendly skies, there are ways to recover from a flight delay without breaking a sweat. Just use these tips from Long Weekend Traveling Mom on how to minimize the stress and get back on track for the trip of your dreams.
Managing Flight Delays
While I travel a good amount, I’m an average traveler and get caught in flight delays like most people. My plane trips aren’t weekly but just a few times a year. As a result, I’ve lost my preferred status on a single airline because I’m often choosing the most cost-effective flights now. However, there are a few tips I’ve learned from when I was a road warrior on how to manage an airline delay.
Remember that in 99% of flight delays, the person standing in front of you has nothing to do with the delay and is simply relaying information to you. These airline employees just as invested in getting you as a delayed traveler on your way and away from their counter. Flash them a smile even if you don’t feel like it. You might be the one bright spot in their day. There’s not a lot they can do with providing upgrades and vouchers. However, if there is something they can do, guess who will get the personal attention?
Traveling Mom Tip: If you’re angry and have a tense voice, it’s okay to apologize to gate agent when you do lose your calm. Just a quick “I’m sorry to take it out on you. I know you’re not responsible for this.”
Sign-up for Automated Information to Keep You Informed of Flight Delays
Be sure to sign-up for automated updates to make sure you have the most current information and get ahead of the crowd with flight delays. One time, I received a notice of a flight cancellation before my husband did. He was sitting in the gate area waiting to board when I called and asked what time his new flight was. That 10 minutes that he knew before the rest of the passengers allowed him to get to the front of the line with customer service and rebooked on the next flight out.
Traveling Mom Tip: Figure out the easiest way to rebook. It might not be talking with someone in person if there’s a huge line. Try calling into the customer service line or using your app to see exactly what your options are for a rebooking.
Decide If You Really HAVE to Go Right Now
If you’re stuck in the airport and facing unexpected flight delays, one of the first things I’d recommend doing is deciding if you really have to go at this time. If it’s a weekend trip that you do once every few months to see friends, you might want to reschedule for a less hectic time. The bonus is that you’ll likely recieve a refund on your plane ticket, even for non-refundable tickets.
Traveling Mom Tip: All airlines have a Contract of Carriage, which is basically the contract terms that you’re entering in when you purchase a ticket. The exact terms vary by airline. Under Rule 240: Flight Delays/Cancellations, you are entitled to receive a refund upon your request. As an example, Delta will provide the refund for any delay greater than 90 minutes.
Try an Alternate Route
If you’re traveling to a once in lifetime celebration, explore any alternative routes. When you’re in an area with multiple airports like the Washington, DC or the San Francisco Bay Area, consider using an alternative airport even if it means a layover. I’ve driven from Atlanta to Birmingham, Alabama, before just because it was an easier flight to get out on. Even with the cost of parking, it was worth it for my family of four to get on a flight to celebrate my mother’s 65th birthday.
Traveling Mom Tip: Before leaving home, call the airline and ask about any alternate routes or times in advance to make your life easier. It might be easier to drive to another airport rather than wait and hope that your home airport will get things cleared up sooner.
Join the Club
All major airports have an airline club lounge that you can buy a day pass. You don’t usually have to be flying the airline of the club lounge. Access is usually good for an adult and multiple children can come along for free. If there’s space available, buy the pass. Amenities will vary, but you will find clean bathrooms and plenty of plugs for charging your devices. It’s a bonus if they offer complimentary snacks/drinks. Most have dedicated customer service agents who will assist you with any changes in a more comfortable environment.
During a 10-hour layover after the end of a Caribbean vacation, I purchased a day pass at the Miami airport. There was a children’s room in the lounge with computers, child-friendly television shows, and child-sized furniture. My boys adored the cookies that the hostesses brought us. I treasured being able to sit quietly for a few minutes without worrying about losing them in a huge terminal.
Traveling Mom Tip: You don’t have to be flying on an airline to purchase a day pass for their lounge. Airlines will allow you to use a day pass in multiple cities. Several offer a monthly trial pass that you might want to purchase during a difficult travel season with multiple delays.