Traveling to your destination by air can often be challenging and frustrating. Airlines have reduced the number of flights, loaded planes to capacity, and left little room for adjustments when weather or other factors cause delays or cancellations. However, with some careful planning and patience, you can navigate the unexpected, and arrive at your destination in a timely (and relaxed) manner.
Tips to avoid flight delays:
• Whenever possible, fly on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, which are typically the lightest days for air travel.
• Book non-stop flights, or as few flight segments as possible, given air schedules and ticket prices.
• Choose your airline and your airport carefully. Many airlines work hard to maximize their on-time departures and arrivals, but not all. And some airports, especially smaller ones, provide a much better experience with better on-time records than their big-city counterparts—look for alternatives that are served by the established airlines.
• Make sure your reservation is issued in your legal name and that the name on your ticket matches your passport exactly. Verify dates and times, and note if your flight is a code share or actually operated by another airline.
• Morning flights, especially early ones, have the fewest delays. The later in the day you fly, the more delays are bound to occur, which can snowball into a mess.
• If joining a cruise or group tour program, plan to arrive at your destination a day early if possible. This gives you a cushion in case of delays, and also allows you time to rest, recover from jetlag, and perhaps even spend extra time in a new city.
• Read up on the delay and/or cancellation policies for the airline(s) you plan to fly. Know your passenger rights for any types of events that occur—weather delays, mechanical issues, air traffic issues or overbooking situations. Read up on the Passenger Bill of Rights and what responsibilities airlines have under various circumstances.
• Load your airline’s travel app onto your cell phone and make sure you have their 1-800 number handy as well. Set the app to notify you of any alerts or news that may impact your flight(s).
• Purchase travel insurance, including coverage for flights and trip interruption/cancellation.
The day before your flight:
• Check into your flight (usually 24 hours prior), ensure you have a seat assignment(s), and print your boarding pass(es) (or save the electronic boarding pass(es) onto your phone/device if checking in through the travel app).
At the airport:
• Arrive at the airport with plenty of time before your departure—2 hours for domestic and 2 ½ -3 hours for international flights. If you haven’t checked in yet, visit the airline’s desk or kiosk to check in and print your boarding pass(es).
• If alerted to delays, stay close to your departure gate and listen for updates. Flights that are delayed can be “un-delayed” with only a few minutes notice.
• If your flight is cancelled, call the airline 1-800 number immediately—while you wait in line along with everyone else. The customer service representatives at the airline’s phone center may have more information, and may be able to help you faster than gate agents.
• Be polite, but firm—polite passengers get much more assistance than grouchy ones. Insist the airline help you get to your destination, on their airline or another. Let them know of specific arrival needs for your cruise, tour group.
If the unfortunate occurs and you are stuck waiting around at the airport—spend your extra time exploring. Many major airports have completed extensive renovations/expansions and now have considerable amenities, restaurants, and places to shop. Download the GateGuru app, which explains the various facilities that major airports have to offer.