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5 Tips for Surviving Airport Delays

5 Tips for Surviving Airport Delays

by Ruby Hamilton

Every traveler’s worst nightmare, arriving at the airport the recommended 3 hours before your flight only to discover it’s now 5 to whenever.

Even worse is trying to find somewhere halfway comfortable to wait out the delay and still survive the flight to come.

We’ve put together a list of tips to help you get through a long delay at the airport as painlessly as possible.

Follow Your Flight Before Arrival

In many cases, budget airlines won’t publicize late flight information on their app or website. The best way to stay up to date on the status of your plane is by using third-party flight tracking tools.

These make it possible to see where your plane is and whether it’s experiencing any delays. When possible it’s always better to discover a long delay before you arrive at the airport.

You should always try getting in touch with the airline to find out if they’ve made alternative arrangements. It’s nice to spend the extra two hours at your hotel but you don’t want to arrive at the airport and discover your flight long gone.

Flight delayed

Check Out Your Airport’s Layout

One of the best things you can do beforehand to prepare for a flight delay is to check out the airport map. Many modern airports have separate terminals and big differences in food and drink choices before and after security.

The Lisbon airport is an exception, with the majority of its restaurant and snack choices through security. By spending a few minutes checking out the map you can find the best places to wait with access to shopping, restrooms, and other amenities.

Nothing worse than spending a multi-hour delay sitting dejectedly on the floor with a quarter mile hike to the nearest restrooms.

Keep Snacks and Drinks Handy

If you’re staring down the barrel of long airport delays having a few favorite snacks on hand can make a big difference. The first thing that’ll happen if multiple flights are facing delays is a run for food and drinks.

You don’t want to end up standing in a 50 to 100 person long line to get a bottle of water and a mediocre sandwich. Having your own snacks on hand allows you to sit back and relax without worrying about what you’re going to eat while waiting.

Confirm Your Connections

One of the worst side effects of a delayed flight is missed connections. If you’ve got a tight connecting flight make sure you speak to airline representatives as soon as possible.

Depending on the airline and how long the delay is they may be able to transfer you to a different flight either immediately or for your next flight. Even if they can’t they can make a note in your ticketing file showing that you have a connection to make and ensuring that you receive priority deplaning.

Know Your Rights

While it won’t help you reclaim the time you’ve lost to airport delays you may find you’re eligible for compensation. Depending on where you are in the world airlines may be required to pay compensation for delays.

If you’re located in the US you don’t have much hope, unfortunately. There are no laws requiring airlines to pay out delay compensation so you’ll just have to hope they feel magnanimous.

If you’re located in the European Union you have much more significant protections. EU 261 lists specific payment amounts and eligibility requirements airlines must follow. If the whole airport is shut down because of weather or another major event you’re out of luck.

If the airline forgot to do a maintenance check or it’s something else in their control you may find yourself with a significant windfall coming. In most cases, they’re also required to provide you with reasonable accommodation during your wait. This includes food, water, and even a hotel room in the case of an overnight delay.


Probably the most annoying part of a delayed flight is the sense of powerlessness. It’s one of those situations in life where you have no control over what’s happening or when you get to leave.

The best thing to do is to make yourself and your family comfortable through the delay and make sure you get any compensation you’re entitled to.