How to Handle Airline Flight Delays
See that lady with the sad face to the right?
That’s Carol after we learned that our flight from Phoenix to New York was significantly delayed causing us to miss our connecting flight to Paris, thereby making us miss a whole day in Paris. 🙁
Just like any vacationing traveler, we were very excited to be spending four days in Paris followed by a wonderful river cruise in the Bordeaux region of France. Our imaginations were filled with Parisian sidewalk cafes, visiting the iconic sites of Paris, and the wonder of traveling from chateau to chateau sampling famous French wines. Ooh la la…
However, when we approached our departure gate, we noticed that our flight was delayed. In fact, because of storms in New York, our late-morning flight didn’t leave until nearly 5:00 p.m. Sadly, that meant that we were going to miss a full day of adventure in Paris.
When planning a trip, you should realize that airlines don’t guarantee their flight schedules. With weather problems, air traffic delays, and mechanical issues, it is important that you have a strategy in place should a flight delay come your way.
Travel Tips to Handle Airline Flight Delays
- If your destination is absolutely critical from a time perspective, a wedding or cruise ship departures, consider leaving a day or two early to avoid possible delays or cancelations.
- Understand your airlines’s policies for delayed passengers at the airport. There are no federal requirements for this, and each airline will have its own policy. Airlines are only required to give you compensation when you are bumped because of overbooking. However, most airlines will rebook you on their next available flight if your flight is canceled, or provide you with a bit of comfort if your flight is delayed. Because of our significant delay, Delta Airlines brought us snacks and drinks after two hours, and pizzas for everyone after four hours.
- Have a plan to avoid the mad dash. When we were notified that our flight was going to be significantly delayed, there was a stampede of anxious travelers running for the customer service counter. There were literally hundreds of people standing in line worried about their travel plans. See that red sign in the background of our photograph? That is a bank of six telephones that Delta provided that connected us directly with a person that could help us. While many folks chewed their nails waiting to get their turn in line, we were talking to a customer service representative within minutes. If that isn’t available, know your airline’s help desk phone number before you head to the airport. Trust me, this will save you a lot of grief.
- Plan for possible chaos. In our case, we knew that we were flying into a very busy airport that was shut down for over six hours. That meant that thousands of travelers would be descending upon JFK with missed connections and in need of a hotel for a night. We called and booked an airport hotel prior to arriving to JFK. When we got to JFK, all of the hotels were sold out and hundreds of poor folks were literally camping out in the airport with no place to spend the night. It was a very ugly scene!
- Be prepared. As I learned many years ago in Boy Scouts , being prepared for the unforeseen is a good thing. As I mentioned above, there are a great many things that can foil even the best of travel plans. Therefore, when one of these inevitable airline delays comes your way, have a plan of action in place. You’ll be glad you did.
While we were very sad to have lost a day in Paris because of a massive storm system on the eastern coast, I can’t tell you how grateful we were not to be stranded in JFK airport at 2:00 in the morning.
It is our hope that these few tips will help you avoid unpleasant circumstances as you make your way to a fabulous vacation. Bon voyage!
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