How to survive a flight delay...
Bored and frustrated passengers enduring a delay. Photo Flickr/Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuno
A long flight delay is a heart-sinking ordeal: fraught with frustration, jangled nerves, and expense. Fear not though - with the right attitude and a little resourcefulness, there are ways to improve a bad situation. Here's how you can come through a delay unscathed.
Before the airport: add your contact details to the booking and download the airline’s app to get SMS alerts in case of a delay. Unless told otherwise, check-in for the original scheduled departure time, as airlines switch aircraft around and a delay can suddenly shorten. Arriving at the airport in good time helps, as passengers arriving first get rebooked onto other flights first, before they fill up.
Keep your cool: stay calm and be nice to airline staff and you’ll have more chance of help anywhere in the world, but in Asian and Middle Eastern etiquette it’s essential not to loose your head.
Make the most of the airport: if you are delayed in Singapore’s Changi Airport, you can take a stroll in the butterfly garden, swim in a rooftop pool, or catch a movie in a 24-hour cinema. Wherever you are, ask about facilities at an information desk or search the airport’s web page. You’ll probably have to stay airside (the part of the terminal past security), but shop browsing and a nice meal can help.
One of several relaxing garden areas at Singapore's Changi airport
Packing: pack essentials in your hand luggage as you won’t have access to hold luggage once it’s checked in. Toiletries and a mobile phone charger are good to have handy, and n array of diversions if travelling with children. If it’s a long delay and your carry on bags are bulky, use left luggage.
Speak to your airline: ticket desks become besieged in a bad delay, so try speaking to your airline by phone and follow it on twitter too.
Buy lounge access: many airports have pay-to-use lounges, and Priority Pass lets you use 1,000 of them for £15pp per visit (plus £69 annual fee). Or try Plaza Premium Lounge, Executive Lounges, and No 1 Lounges.
The Premium Plaza Lounge at London's Heathrow Airport. Photo Premium Plaza
Leaving the airport: it’s not advisable to leave an airport during a delay because the delay may be unexpectedly reduced. However, if airline staff give you the go ahead (and have your phone number) a nearby attraction or meal can be a godsend. Munich airport’s Visitor Park has a viewing mound overlooking the runways, historic aircraft and a children’s playground, and Hong Kong has a nine-hole golf course a short walk from the terminal (nine-eagles.com).
Catch up on sleep: in an overnight delay, your airline might pay for accommodation. With shorter delays, you can book airside hotel rooms by the hour at some airports – like Dubai, London Gatwick and Heathrow – while Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Delhi, Dubai and Hanoi have high tech sleeping pods. See sleepinginairports.net for useful tips on the best places to nap across hundreds of airports.
A room in the airside Aerotel at Singapore's Changi Airport. Photo Premium Plaza
Insurance: check that your travel insurance covers expenses incurred on a long delay before booking into the swankiest airport hotel. If flying in the European Union and you experience a non-weather related cancellation, or delay of three hours or more, you may be entitled to compensation of between €250 and €600pp. EU Claim simplifies the process and takes a commission from successful claims.
Avoiding delays: early morning flights tend to have better punctuality, as the aircraft has probably overnighted at the airport. Plus weather type delays that effect a number of flights build up through a ‘ripple effect, which can amplify through the day. Beware of the last flight of the day: if it is cancelled there's no chance of a later one.