How to handle a flight delay: what to say, do and when to sit tight

Mar 31, 2022

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.


Flight delays can happen to anyone, no matter what your airline’s elite status is. It could be a short delay that doesn’t affect you too much, or a longer stoppage that causes you to miss a connecting flight.

It’s also even more of a possibility in the coming months with travel ramping up for summer. Industry data-cruncher Cirium recently revealed that international departures from the U.K. for Easter weekend especially are up 716% compared to 2021, and down only 17% on 2019. This comes as more and more airports are struggling with staffing issues brought about by the last two years of pandemic woes — exacerbating crowd-related delays.

Related: Travel is back but are UK airports actually ready?

Delays can be extremely frustrating to all parties involved, but when does it become an actual issue you should address? Here, TPG takes a look at when it’s appropriate to speak up about a flight delay.

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(Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

When you should speak up really depends on the circumstances. Weather delays are different from mechanical delays, and flight diversions are in a category of their own. And those inconveniences can be layered on top of the extra hoops you may have to jump through while travelling during the pandemic.

Related: Should you book your 2023 holiday now to avoid skyrocketing prices?

Here are some things to keep in mind once you’ve heard your flight has been delayed:

  • Consider contacting the airline via social media (i.e. Twitter or Facebook) with your questions or requests. Some airlines are more consistent in responding than others, but it still doesn’t hurt. Gate staff may already be dealing with a long line of frustrated customers.
  • Even if your flight is only delayed by a little to start, it doesn’t hurt to start looking at alternative options in case the situation gets worse. If the airline you’re flying has an app, you can research other options on your own, so you’re prepared to find an alternative flight should it be necessary.
  • Bad weather can only last so long, so start your search by looking for flights later that day or even the next day.
  • If you have a late-night flight that’s delayed, start looking both for morning flights and overnight accommodations.

Related: Will my travel insurance cover a holiday?

It’s important to add your email address and mobile number when checking in for your flight — this way airlines can keep you updated in the event of a delay and you can immediately start searching for alternatives. Also, familiarise yourself with each airline’s compensation and accommodation policy in the case of a delay.

Talking to the gate staff about your frustration solo may seem intimidating. You may not be the only one feeling confused or irritated. If you do have the opportunity to talk to fellow passengers around you, try to determine if they share the same concerns. That could make you feel more at ease before starting a conversation with an airline employee.

When you do decide to speak up about a flight delay, make sure you know what to say, if compensation is appropriate and how to get that compensation if applicable. Additionally, many credit cards offer trip delay insurance, so you may be eligible for compensation from your credit card.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Make sure to hold onto any receipts, tickets and vouchers to document your expenses. It can also be helpful to ask for the official reason the flight was delayed. Each airline also has a specific delay and cancellation policy that you should look into for possible compensation. Some airlines offer on-the-spot compensation to passengers, while others make you fill out forms.

Related: The best card to use while travelling abroad

Bottom Line

Airport delays can have numerous causes, so remember that every situation is different. If there is severe weather, there is little the airlines can actually do about it. Be sure to look for alternative flights before everyone else on your flight beats you to it. If you stay calm, gather information and plan out your options you will be back in the skies before long.

Additional reporting by Caroline Blair.

Featured image by kieferpix/Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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