7 Ways to Survive a Travel Delay
Delays when flying are nothing new. An hour or so isn’t too bad. But some delays can be absolutely horrible …
For instance, this year a United Airlines flight traveling from Newark to Hong Kong made an emergency landing at Goose Bay Airport, Canada. Passengers sat onboard for more than 14 hours with a dwindling supply of food while temperatures outside plummeted to -20F.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make such an experience a bit more tolerable.
Always prepare for the worst
That means carrying the essentials with you in case you’re on the plane or in the airport for a few extra hours.
1. Prescription meds
What would you do if you couldn’t get to your insulin, blood pressure pills, or other meds you might immediately need?
The TSA has rules on what you can keep with you. For example, you must tell the officer that you have medically necessary liquids at the start of the screening checkpoint process.
You can learn more about the TSA’s rules on carrying your meds here.
If you’ve ever had to buy food in an airport, you know it’s expensive and often not the healthiest. Plus there could be a mile-long line with hundreds of hungry, impatient travelers willing to pay $15 for a greasy burger and another $7 for fries.
Worse yet … the shops could be closed.
A while back I was stuck overnight in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport. About 11:00 pm everything shut down. I mean everything. It was just me and the guy riding the vacuum cleaner for as far as eye could see. And nothing opened until 6:00 the next morning.
Sure glad I had a stash of raisins, walnuts, dark chocolate chips, cut-up apples, and granola bars with me. I suggest you do the same.
3. Drinks can be pricey, too
A bottle of water — $4 or more. So bring an empty container with you and fill up at the water fountain. You’ll save money and avoid the lines.
4. Dress in layers
Planes and airports are notorious for being warm one minute and freezing the next. So dress in layers including a sweater or jacket. If it turns out you don’t need the extra layer, turning it into a pillow could be blessing when trying to snooze in one of those uncomfortable airport chairs.
5. Toothbrush and toothpaste
Brushing your teeth can make you feel human again. Don’t forget to buy travel size toothpaste, smaller than 3.4 oz.
Otherwise it won’t get through security.
6. Phone charger
You may have to contact friends or family if you experience an unexpected lengthy delay. And a smartphone with a dead battery isn’t worth squat.
7. A real book
Yes, I’m talking about the old-fashioned paperback kind you don’t need an electronic doodad to read. It’ll relax your brain while giving your eyes a break from that handheld screen.
What Airports Offer
There might be a gym in or near the airport for you to work up a sweat while making the most of a long delay.
Sites such as Airportgyms.com, list airport fitness centers across North America. For instance, at O’Hare’s Hilton Hotel you can buy a day pass at its fitness center for $20 and use their sauna, steam room, indoor pool, weight room, and more.
The airport’s website could have listings, too.
An airport lounge could seem like an oasis in the desert when facing a long delay. And you don’t have to be a member of a special club to use one. Many sell day passes for around $50.
At first glance, that may seem expensive …
But it’s hard to put a price on free Wi-Fi, drinks, snacks, a secure place to nap, and a hostess who can help re-book flights and wake you with any updates.
In the U.S., airlines are not required to compensate you for delays or cancellations. You can receive compensation if you are bumped because the flight was oversold.
Each airline has policies on what to do for delayed passengers. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask a ticket agent if they’ll pay for meals or a hotel room. Doing so nicely may boost your chances.
However, the U.S. Department of Transportation does have rules for when you’re stranded and not allowed to get off the plane — a tarmac delay.
They include that after a two-hour tarmac delay, airlines must provide:
- A snack, such as a granola bar, and drinking water
- Working toilets
- Comfortable cabin temperature
- Adequate medical attention
They also must move the plane to a location where you can get off safely before three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights.
Important note: If you do disembark, the airline is not required to let you back on. Nor do they have to offload your luggage. So once the delay passes, the plane might take off with your bags but without you.
The “tarmac delay” rules only apply to delays at U.S. airports. You can read more about them here. Rules in other countries may differ.
Airlines that violate these laws can be fined by the Department of Transportation.
For example, the DOT fined Allegiant Air $225,000 in Oct. 2018 for tarmac delays and fined American Airlines $1.6 million in 2016 for more than 20 flights between 2013 and 2015 that violated tarmac rules.
A possible recourse is to contact your credit card company to have the charge reversed. Your case could be based on the point that you didn’t get the service you paid for.
However, if you’ve already paid the credit card statement that included the ticket, you don’t stand much of a chance.
Then you’ll have to accept whatever the airline offers … if anything. And realize that flying simply isn’t always fair.
To a richer life,
— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap