How to Handle Holiday Flight Delays


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The next time you find yourself stranded in an airport, don't take pity on yourself – take action. Seize the next available flight while making the most of your time on the ground.

There are few feelings as frustrating as encountering a flight delay or cancellation, especially during holiday travel. Your anguish can be compounded by poor communication and a lack of customer service from the airlines. First, try these 6 Tips To Avoiding Flight Delays. But if delays and cancellations do occur, realize that you’re not powerless in these situations.

Take these steps to reach your destination as soon as possible – while making the most of the situation when you can’t…

  1. Arrive armed. Not with guns, with knowledge. It’s the greatest weapon against airport delays. First, check the status of your flight before leaving home. I once found out that my 8 a.m. flight was going to be delayed two hours, so I slept in an enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at home. When I arrived at the airport, it was clear that most of my fellow passengers had been waiting at the gate since sunrise.
  2. Plan alternates. As a pilot myself, I know never to take off without a back-up plan in case I encounter a problem en route to my destination. As a passenger, I practice the same technique. If it’s critical I get there that day, I do some research before my traveling to find out what other flights I could take if mine is delayed or cancelled. I investigate alternate routes on the carrier I’m ticketed on, as well as other airlines with service to my destination. I might even look for flights to another airport that’s not too far from where I’m going. In the event of a delay or cancellation, I can quickly propose these alternate plans to the airline’s customer service – speeding things up for me while making their job easier.
  3. Stay away from lines. I’ve seen hundreds of people in the gate areas lined up to get what’s called re-accommodated when airlines start delaying or canceling flights. By the time these passengers reach the front of the line, it’s likely they’ve already missed the next flight or lost out on the remaining available seats. So the moment you’re aware of a lengthy flight delay or an outright cancellation, call the airline and ask to be confirmed on a new routing. Some carriers, such as Delta, even offer the ability to do this at an airport kiosk or online. If you can’t get through on the phone or their website, use any other means necessary to speak with a representative as soon as possible. This can mean exiting security and going back to the check-in counter – or even paying for a business lounge day pass to promptly speak with an agent. Some travelers have received immediate assistance by tweeting their airline with their problem.
  4. Get out! The only thing more depressing that watching people try to kill the day in an airport is seeing people who are spending the night there. Once you know you aren’t going anywhere for a while, try to make the best of it. If you have a few hours to kill, go to a decent sit-down restaurant and have a nice meal – one of my favorite Alternatives to an Airport Lounge. If you have longer, leave the airport. Nearby hotels may have a free shuttle and offer a reasonably priced day pass to their pool and fitness club. Some airports have observation lounges or even aviation museums, such as the Smithsonian Air and Space annex at Washington Dulles. When you must spend the night, get a room. If your airline won’t give you a hotel voucher, be sure to get a distressed-traveler rate or try these 8 Tips to Save at Any Hotel.

Stacy Johnson

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