We are in the height of holiday travel season and for many that means zig-zagging across the country to spend time with loved ones or getting away for a holiday adventure. Even when you are the best planner and have double checked your flight status before leaving home, sometimes the inevitable still happens— flight delays. They can turn even the jolliest of travelers into Mr. Scrooge in a heartbeat. But the inevitable is just that. However, there are a few tips and tricks of the trade I’ve picked up over the years that are important reminders and just may come in handy while you’re traveling this season.
Know you’re rights: Every airline is different and they will have their rules and regulations spelled out in small print so it can’t hurt to know what it is that you are entitled to—and what you are not. Most of the time you are entitled to be put on the next available flight or given a refund. Some of the older airlines, however, do have a stipulation where you can be placed on another carrier if you’re delayed.
**did you know** weather related cancellations exempt the airline from compensating passengers. Inclement weather is considered a force majeure or an act of god, and airlines are not required to pay for food / transport / lodging. Exceptions are sometimes made, but should not be expected.
Closed mouths don’t get fed, so ask for free stuff nicely: A free meal can always make a situation a tiny bit better. Make sure you ask to see if you are entitled to meal vouchers or possibly a hotel stay.
Make the most of it: These days, many international airports can also double as a spa resort if you just ignore all the other frazzled travelers around you. If you have time to kill, why not treat yourself to a nice little spa getaway and pamper yourself with a manicure, a nice massage, or a little retail therapy??
Act Quickly: All those other passengers stuck in the airport because of weather? They’re going to need to spend the night somewhere as well, and are also trying like mad to get booked on another flight. Don’t waste your time standing in that 3 hour line at Customer Service. Get on the phone and try and figure out things that way. Also, check hotels that possibly might have little to no cancellation fees and book yourself a bed before they all fill up. You will thank yourself.
Travel in Style: So you aren’t traveling first class… that doesn’t mean you can’t act like it at the airport. Buy yourself a day pass to the airport lounge. Seriously, it’s SO worth it if your delay is going to be lengthy. Free wifi, comfortable chairs, food and drinks, peace and quiet, and sometimes even showers to freshen up.
Travel insurance is your friend… and possibly your savior: Many times travel insurance covers delays. Check your coverage to find out what the time stipulation is and the maximum allocation.
Be nice: Shouting doesn’t make a plane take off any faster. It doesn’t make weather suddenly clear up. And it certainly doesn’t make airline employees more sympathetic to your plight. The fact of the matter is, they deal with angry, disgruntled passengers all. day. long. They are far more likely to notice and appreciate the smiling passenger in the sea of screaming ones.
Still want to complain?: Wait til you get home: Oftentimes a legitimate complaint about procedures or unfair treatment can get you some sort of compensation because airlines are in the customer satisfaction business. You will get a lot more bang for your buck this way.
I can still remember my longest flight delay... almost 24 hours in Paris and 10 of it stuck at the airport. I am still kicking myself for being such a novice traveler that I didn't take full advantage of it and go enjoy another night in the City of Love. Don't repeat my mistakes...sometimes you just have to make spiked eggnog out of eggnog!