The 10 Laws of Airport Delays

Murphy’s law dictates that flights only leave on time when you’re running late, and when the departure board flashes “delayed,” this seems to set off an avalanche of bad travel luck.

Here are the 10 laws of airport delays and how to handle them:

1) Shouting won’t make your plane take off any faster

If angry passengers had the power to make a plane fly, there wouldn’t be a single flight delay. Ever.

No one wants the airline’s schedule to be disrupted, least of all the airport staff who have to deal with disgruntled customers. You can try screaming, even crying, but it won’t make a difference, so don’t do it.

Be the smile amongst the crowd. Photo by CoreForce.

2) Your airline won’t cough up a five-star hotel

Sadly, the delayed traveler has few legal rights beyond those offered in the airline’s conditions of carriage.

Get a copy of these conditions and read them. If the conditions state that the airline must treat you to a five-star hotel and a Rolls Royce tour of the city, then the airline must supply it.

More likely, most airlines will be bound to put you on the next flight or offer a refund, but it’s worth checking if you’re entitled to more.

3) Every other flight will be running on time

Some airlines’ conditions give you a right to switch to another carrier if you’re delayed. This is known as Rule 240 because of historic regulation and is mostly available with the older airlines.

Don’t hold your breath if you’re flying with a low cost airline. Check the conditions and ask.

Switch airline under Rule 240. Photo by philipshannon.

4) Your airline won’t shout about upgrades

Perhaps you’re not entitled to an upgrade or meal vouchers, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Obviously it won’t help your situation if you’ve not spent the last hour ranting at the staff member you’re appealing to. Remain polite; more than one first class seat has been given off the back of a smile when everyone else is yelling.

5) Insurance is your savior

Your fate may not be in the hands of your airline if you have travel insurance that covers delays. Check your travel insurance as there is usually a minimum period before the insurance kicks in as well as a maximum cost allocation.

That Rolls Royce tour could be yours after all, or at least a bed for the night and an allowance for meals.

Better options may be yours under travel insurance. Photo by Alan Light.

6) Hotel rooms and airline seats will disappear

Airport Wi-Fi goes into overdrive when flights are delayed. You need speed and a plan to have the upper hand in these circumstances.

Get online quickly and book a hotel that has a small/no cancellation fee, just in case, and check if there are any last-minute flight deals with other airlines.

Hit the web with speed. Photo by carolyn.will.

7) You’ll never look at airports in the same way again

The blizzard outside predicts a long delay, so you have two choices: scream your way through every hour, or accept it and move on.

Remember that angry passengers can’t make a plane takeoff, so you’re better off taking advantage of the available time.

Go for a pedicure, get your haircut, do your accounts, learn to meditate or try to spot the passenger most likely to implode from stress. You’ll never view airports in quite the same way again.

Make the most of the dead time at the airport. Photo by Smoobs.

8) If faced with a night on the floor, you will be wearing white

If all available hotel rooms have evaporated, the prospect of a night at the airport is a real travel low and the time to consider buying access to the airport lounge.

Some lounges have reclining chairs, most have showers and almost all offer food, drinks and web access included in the price. Plus, you’re on site if a seat does come free.

Check yourself into the airport lounge. Photo by adactio.

9) You won’t be on the tarmac forever

You’re on the plane but going nowhere fast. Fortunately new airlines rules limit the time passengers can be kept on the tarmac—three hours for U.S. flights, four for international.

Also, you should be fed and watered after two hours on the tarmac. Although you’re idling on the runway, take heart, it’s not forever.

They gave us peanuts for our delayed flight. Photo by juicyrai.

10) You’ll still feel bitter even after you get home.

Sometimes the experience of a delay stays with you even once you’re home. Whether it was badly implemented procedures or unfair treatment, it may be worth venting your complaint directly, but calmly, with the airline.

Customer satisfaction is high on all airlines’ agendas and a travel discount or partial refund might be offered for your inconvenience.

What’s your longest delay at the airport? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments below.

If you liked this, you might also like: 15 Ways to Fly Like a VIP (Without Paying VIP Prices).

Main photo: Inner peace, as Kung Fu Panda might say by hypercatalecta.

6 thoughts on “The 10 Laws of Airport Delays”

  1. Buy a lounge pass is bad advice. I’ve never seen or read about or heard about one that stays open all night—when you need it most. Usually, they close at 9-10:30 at night.

  2. Love it. Might I also just add that Sod’s law dictates that whenever a backpacker decides to splurge on a flight to save them the hassle of travelling overground – and the long bus/train ride that entails – the flight will invariably be delayed or cancelled.

    I found this out the hard way recently in Vietnam, choosing to dessert my backpacker routes for one flight and save me the hassle of three bus rides and one train. Naturally, after five hours of waiting around at a freezing cold airport I was seriously regretting my decision to travel “the easy way”!

  3. My last trip was delayed, not by the airlines, but by the incredibly long and cumbersome immigration process. I watched the clock as my boarding time approached and then my departure time passed. Three hours in a line and then a room where one felt like part of a herd of cattle certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to begin my trip. The answer for me: Avoid the lines and go through immigration at my local airport with only a connection at the larger one.

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