Flight Delays and Mix-Ups: Survive them

What happens when it all goes wrong….

busy airport, Flight delays, www.theeducationaltourist.com


Our trip to Palm Springs, CA from Austin, Texas flew turned into the craziest adventure I have experienced yet. American Airlines showed off the worst possible customer service at every turn. From the moment I arrived and tried to check my luggage where the clerk actually threw the tickets at me demanding I go elsewhere for help, lost luggage, flight attendants cursing at a passenger, and a flight that 10 hours later still hadn’t left…. It was not a stress free or easy trip. Part of our travel party didn’t receive their luggage for 4 DAYS.

The funniest part, and shouldn’t we always at least try to find a funny part, was on the last leg of our flight.  American Airline flight attendants tried to coax us into signing up for their credit card to get miles. “You’ll earn 50,000 free miles and that is a free flight!” they chirped. I could hardly keep from laughing. Considering I wasn’t sure I was EVER getting home – never mind with my luggage, American Airlines was the last place I would go for another flight at that moment- even a free one.

But stuff happens….

Flights can be cancelled or delayed for lots of reasons:

*weather *technical issue *scheduling issues

Check for delays on this cool website: flightstats BEFORE you leave for the airport. Knowing that delays are happening before you leave can give you valuable time for making a plan B for your journey.

How do you make the best out of journey with a cancelled/delayed flight?

Surviving Flight Delays: Be the first one to know.

Sign up for alerts from your airline so they will text you changes or delays. If you fly a lot, you might feel like the $49 a year for a travel app TripIt will be worth it. I hear that TripIt is even faster than the individual airlines.

Surviving Flight Delays: Act Fast

By fast I mean FAST – the very first moment you realize you will be delayed.

If there is wifi on board:

While STILL on the plane start researching the next flight. Sights like kayak and expedia can show you your options. Choose and book online.

Use perks if you have them. If you have a gold star type membership you may do better contacting the airline directly.

Tweet and Facebook your problem….your friends can help you! Also, some airlines have people monitoring twitter for problems. The squeaky wheel gets the grease!

If there is no wifi on board:

As soon as you land, turn on your device and get started with the search for plan B. Realize that a LOT of people around you who are struggling to get their bags out of the overhead bin and standing in line are competition for the plan B seats on flights. Get started before they do!

Surviving Flight Delays: Make a bee line.

Head straight to the help desk with your airline. (If you don’t know where that is, ask the flight attendant while you are STILL ON BOARD) Even if you have rebooked your flights you’ll need to print your new boarding pass.

Go fast! Do not stop for a drink or go to the restroom. The lines at the help desk are VERY, VERY slow (OMG, the American Airlines help desk at DFW was like the cast of Dumb and Dumber and were not even as funny.) and you do NOT want to be at the end of the line.

Surviving Flight Delays: Have the entire party stand in line at the help desk.

Resist the urge to have part of your group sit with all the luggage while you stand in line at the help desk.  We made the mistake of having just one member of the entire group stand in line. When he reached the front of the line, he was not able to book for anyone but himself and his wife. The rest of us had to then get in line (which was very long now) because the agent would not allow us to book together – even though we were a group traveling together and the guy who stood in line originally made all the reservations for the group.

Maybe this was just a fluke from that one particular agent who was having a bad day, but maybe it wasn’t!!

Surviving Flight Delays: Go to baggage claim.

Sadly, customer service seems to be dead. So, resist the urge to explain your whole story. Don’t bother discussing your frustration. The clerks don’t really care and you are wasting valuable time that you need to get to plan B for your adventure.

So, cut to the chase. Tell the clerks you are not traveling further and need your bags back.

Do not explain the long sorid story…the baggage claim clerks don’t care and might argue with you about how they will send your bag on another flight to meet you at your destination. (If you believe this, I’m pretty sure there is a salesman of ocean front property in Montana who would like to make your acquaintance.) Insist that you are NOT continuing on, that you changed your mind and will not be traveling further.

GET your bags.

Surviving Flight Delays: Start over.

Now that you have your bags safely in hand head to the ticket counter and start over. Check the bags yourself to your final destination. Then, you’ll know for sure that your bags will be on the plane WITH you instead of worrying about buying a new toothbrush and wishing you had remembered to put new undies in your carry on.

Being stuck without your luggage is not a fun thing. It is worth the extra bother of this step.

Surviving Flight Delays: Through security.

You have to empty your pockets and take off your shoes one more time, but it is SO worth it because you know you have a seat on a plane and your luggage is going with you!! Woohoo! Happy dance all the way to the gate.

Surviving Flight Delays: Sit back, relax.

Now, you just wait and hold your breath. Hope that the next plane is on time….and it is not overbooked.  Ah, airline travel..it can be complicated! Always remember though how miraculous it really is to cram 100+ people in a giant metal tube and then FLY!!!

Enjoy the layover. Some airports are really cool! You can get a massage or visit the bookstore. Have a drink and a decent meal while you wait. Catch up on your reading. There are worse things than waiting a little while in an airport. Vane airport has information on all the cool stuff you can find in airports.

If you have a very long layover consider purchasing entrance into a first class lounge. The lounges are nice and quiet and offer amenities like snacks, computers, and luggage storage. The price is often a great deal if you have to spend a lot of time in an airport. Think of what you’ll spend on snacks, etc. anyway and it might not be that much more.

If the kids are with you that will add an extra layer of interest to your layover. Don’t despair! Just read this post on kids and  ideas for surviving a layover.

Surviving Flight Delays: Once home it is payback time! 

Keep your flight information, boarding passes, and baggage claim tickets. Though the airlines are required to compensate you they make this process as tricky as possible.  Every airline is different on the procedure. Airfare watchdog has a great list of airlines websites on traveler’s rights.

The Educational Tourist and kids on lava in Hawaii, Flight delays, www.theeducationaltourist.com

Happy travels without a hitch,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The Educational Tourist logo, flight delays, www.theeducationaltourist.com

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18 Responses

  1. Yikes! I can hear your frustration, Natalie. I’ve been there, too. But fortunately, not for a long while. Air travel had really become an endurance test for travellers, hasn’t it?

  2. Erin says:

    Great tips for a time when you may not be thinking straight! I know I can get in panic mode vs. action mode, so this is very helpful!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      It is easy to panic! Or, perhaps worse…just follow along with what the airline tells you. If you don’t jump on it fast you could miss out! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Lauren says:

    It’s hard to keep a level head in such frustrating moments – great list! I enter full panic mode in these types of situations, lol!!

  4. daehder says:

    oh lord been there done that and followed all your advice and none of it worked. Attempting to fly out of LaGuardia in the US whose reputation is apparently horrendous. Our flight was actually cancelled out of Toronto because it “might” rain – airport staff told us that the two worst airlines were American and WestJet to Canada….grrr it was months ago and still frustrated…lol

  5. Cut the crap – TRUE no need to waste your time to tell a story – just go straight to the *urgency* so you don’t waste your own energy. In general explaining your whole furstration never really works unless you get asked of your situation in detail

  6. Melanie says:

    I think every traveller has been there! It’s no fun, but some helpful tips on dealing with the situation! I’ve pretty sworn off of American Airlines after a horrible Customer Service experience last year but… if I keep swearing off of airlines I’ll have no one left to fly… so I may just have to grin and bear… 🙂

    • NatalieTanner says:

      LOL! Great way to look at it! We can’t swear off too many!! I’d still rather a bad flight than no flight!

  7. Oh man, that sounds like a nightmare. I try to never check a bag because of horror stories like this but unfortunately that’s of course not always possible… Thanks for the tips! Good stuff.

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Yes, the more you can keep with you the better! Though honestly….they do keep up with GAZILLIONS of luggage and the vast majority of it gets where it is going. That certainly is no help if yours is the one that gets lost or delayed though, is it??

  8. Janine Good says:

    You are so right that customer service has taken a nosedive. reiterating the issue and explaining the story just doesn’t get absorbed anymore. Delays are annoying for when you are getting connecting flights, but sadly they are reality if you want to travel.

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Isn’t that the truth? I find that everywhere…restaurants, hotels….customer service just isn’t what it used to be. I wonder if we’ll swing back the other way one day and treat customer service as the valuable resource it is!!

  9. Abigail says:

    I’m so lucky I haven’t had this kind of experience with any of my travels so far. But it’s good to know what to do in case it does, especially since this can be a highly stressful moment and it is easy to lose your cool!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Never? Wow! I want to travel with you! You have wonderful experiences!! 🙂 I hope your luck holds, but if not….now you know what to do!

  10. Nuria Vidal says:

    Wish I had read this two weeks ago. Such a helpful post 🙂

  11. Kassie says:

    Flight delays are literally the worst, especially with USA based airlines as we don’t have the same advocacy groups as the EU. I experienced this earlier this year on United. They booked us a 35 minute layover at Newark even though Newark airport security was taking almost 2 hours at the time. Needless to say we didn’t make it. These tips will help next time for sure!

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