Whether you are an experienced or novice traveler, travel delays are inevitable. My career as an international flight attendant began in the late ’80s when American Airlines was known as the “on-time machine.” Even back then, I remember plenty of flight delays. Throughout the years, travel delays have been so common that I can’t imagine any airline boasting about being on time for any extended period. The recent travel delays caused by the FAA system outage were a perfect example. Almost all flights in the US were grounded for several hours, causing significant travel delays. Here are a few ways to be prepared for flight delays and possibly avoid getting trapped at the airport.
Avoid being trapped at the airport if you can by getting text alerts from the airline. If possible, download the airline App, or sign up for text or email alerts from the airline after you have booked your flight. It is not always possible, but it is much preferable to find out your flight has been delayed or canceled from the comfort of your home or hotel room. If you know before you head for the airport, you can make new arrangements in a more comfortable setting. It’s a misconception to think you will get better service at the airport. More often than not, travelers are stuck in long lines to get assistance from harried agents who advise them to call the reservations center for rebooking.
Rebook as soon as possible rather than waiting for the airlines to urge you to rebook. Even though I had the airline App and text alerts for my flight during this recent FAA system outage, I did not receive the flight delay alerts until I was on my way to the airport. However, I knew from experience to get ahead of the crowds for rebooking and immediately rebooked my flight once I learned that the issue was not an airline issue but an entire flight system issue. I could also immediately extend my stay at the hotel as I knew many airport hotels would soon be booked up by passengers stranded at the airport.
Get travel insurance. In most cases, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Travel insurance will have options for trip interruption and trip cancellation, missed connection coverage, trip delay, baggage delay coverage, and frequent traveler or loyalty plan coverage. Read your policy documents carefully, so you understand what is covered. Most importantly, keep copies of your insurance and contact numbers to help you get the travel insurance service you paid for. The insurance staff can provide you with airline numbers to call for new travel arrangements, and is also a way to document that you attempted to reschedule your travel. This can be tremendously important as the insurance will be easier to claim once you prove that you made a good-faith effort to continue your trip.
Finally, there is no way to avoid travel delays; they are inevitable. However, early morning and nonstop flights are highly recommended, as well as giving yourself plenty of travel time. You’ll travel less stress-free if you have time to get to your destination or event. Flight delays and cancellations are beyond your control, but if you are prepared for flight delays, your travel experience will always be better.