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What To Do If Your Flight Is Delayed

Knowing what to do if your flight is delayed can make all the difference when traveling. Start by avoiding certain airports, knowing your rights, researching hotels and car rentals at your destination, and following these other tips below.
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No one likes delays, but they’re inevitable. The worst part about delays is their unpredictability. The airline wants to take off just as quickly as you do, but there can be a variety of reasons why your flight is still delayed.

The best way to deal with the situation is to have a plan. You may be entitled to certain benefits, and the airline may give you some compensation to keep you happy.

Here’s what to do if your flight is delayed:

(more information included below the table!)

Avoid the worst airports for flight delaysThe worst airports for flight delays are:
SFO, MIA, FLL, DFW, DEN, LGA, LAX, and MCO.
(*see cities below)
Find out what you’re entitled toIf the delay is less than 3 hours, don’t expect anything (but food vouchers are possible). 
Figure out what will happen to your connecting flightIf you purchased a single ticket, the airline will put you on the next available flight to your final destination.
Check out your travel insuranceYour insurance should kick in after a 4-hour delay.
Call your insurance provider.
Try to get a lounge passIf the flight delay is the airline’s fault, you should ask for a lounge pass.
Do researchTake the time to research your destination, try looking into car rentals!
Grab something to eatWouldn’t you rather have a restaurant meal than wait for plane food?
Have some fun!Many airports now have yoga rooms, spas, and kid’s play areas.
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Why is my flight delayed?

If you’re at the airport, the gate agents should be transparent about the cause of the flight delay. If not, ask.

If you see a delay prior to your airport arrival, you can (usually) check on the airline’s site to see if the incoming flight is delayed. A common cause of delay begins with planes leaving behind schedule earlier in the day.

If there is bad weather at your departure or arrival airport, you’ll be able to find this information by checking the airport’s websites. Most airports post notifications of bad weather that delays arrivals/departures. 

Other reasons for delay? Crew members calling in sick last minute requires the airline to find a replacement, unforeseen maintenance requirements, paperwork issues, and more. 

1. Avoid the worst airports for flight delays

According to data from the Department of Transportation, the following were the top 10 worst airports for flight delays in 2017*:

  1. Atlanta (ATL): 3,918 cancellations
  2. Chicago (ORD): 3,505 cancellations
  3. Houston (IAH): 3,481 cancellations
  4. San Francisco (SFO): 3,057 cancellations
  5. New York (LGA): 2,886 cancellations
  6. Newark (EWR): 2,875 cancellations
  7. Boston (BOS): 2,541 cancellations
  8. Orlando (MCO): 2,510 cancellations
  9. Fort Lauderdale (FLL): 2,371 cancellations
  10. New York (JFK): 2,047 cancellations

The worst airports for flight delays are based on the lowest percentage of on-time departures between January and December 2017. You’ll notice that these airports are all major hubs, so delays should be expected due to the number of passengers they see.

2. Find out what rights you’re entitled to

What you’re entitled to is up to each individual airline. Generally speaking, if the delay is less than 3 hours, you shouldn’t expect anything at all.

Airlines aren’t legally required to provide you with anything, but many will give you food vouchers or even a hotel room if the flight is delayed until the next morning.

There is one major exception. In the EU, when your flight is delayed for a minimum of 3 hours, you *are* entitled to compensation. This compensation also applies to airlines based out of the UK, such as British Airways.

3. Figure out what will happen to your connecting flight

Knowing what to do if your flight is delayed is especially important if you have a connecting flight. If you purchased a single ticket, then the airline will put you on the next available flight to your final destination.

However, if you’ve made two separate bookings, you won’t be compensated for missing your second flight. It’s almost always better to book your connecting flights as a single ticket since the airline will be able to make adjustments if there’s a delay.

*Search Below* if you need to re-book your own flight: 

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4. Check out your travel insurance

If you purchased travel insurance, then figuring out what to do if your flight is delayed is easy. Your insurance usually kicks in after a 4-hour delay, so call your insurance provider as soon as that time passes.

Most policies will allow you to book a hotel room and provide you with a set amount of money for meals and entertainment. All policies are different, so make sure you’ve read the fine print.

5. Try to get a lounge pass

If your flight is delayed because of the airline, you should ask for a lounge pass. Airline lounges will have hot food, free drinks, comfortable seating, and free WiFi, which is perfect while you wait out your delay. Your airline may be hesitant to give these passes out, so just ask nicely.

6. Research about your destination

Delays seem to always take longer than expected. A 30-minute delay can quickly turn into one hour, so take this time to research your destination. Look into renting a car for a day or two to explore outside the main areas!

The delay would have already thrown off your schedule, so maybe you need to adjust what you plan on doing. Alternatively, why not read up about the history of where you’re going?

Is your delayed flight taking you home? Use the Skyscanner App to start dreaming of your next destination!

Try “Explore Everywhere” to find the cheapest destinations for your next trip!

7. Grab something to eat

Even if your airline isn’t providing you with a meal voucher, you might as well grab something to eat if you’re hungry. Yes, food in airports tends to be greatly overpriced, but wouldn’t you rather have a restaurant meal than wait for whatever your airline serves you? Who knows how long the delay will be!

8. Have some fun!

Delays suck. But you can try to make the most of it and enjoy yourself.

Many airports now have yoga rooms and will even provide a yoga mat for you to find your zen. Beyond restaurants, it’s not uncommon to see spas and nail salons in airports these days.

Are you traveling with your kids, but all their toys are packed in the checked luggage? Airports including Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco, Boston Logan, Orlando, and Portland have kid-friendly play areas.

If you’re really itching to do something new, head to the bookstore in the airport and see if they have any books where you can learn a new hobby (mixing drinks, knitting, cooking).

Knowing what to do if your flight is delayed starts before you take off. Always check your flight status at least 24 hours before your scheduled departure time. The best place to get the most updated information is directly through the airline you’ll be flying with. If your flight ends up getting delayed, keep your cool, and know what you’re entitled to.

Search for cheap flights now. 👇

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