What to do When your Flight is Delayed

Usually on travel blogs (including my own) you’ll read about all the wonderful, glamorous things. The delicious food, the beautiful views, the fun things to do… but rarely do you read about when things go wrong. I’ll cut straight to it – things do go wrong for me on my travels. A lot.

One subject I haven’t covered yet on World of Wanderlust is what you should do when your flight is delayed or even worse, when you miss your flight.

This topic also allows me to share my top tips for how to avoid missing your flight, especially after my travel plans have been thrown into disarray on a number of occasions thanks to missed connections, weather woes or just simply not leaving enough time between flights. So here we go… how to avoid missing flights and what to do when things go wrong!


Main Reasons Why You Get Delayed (And How to Cope)

Weather – The main cause for flight delays is one that is completely out of your control: weather. Storms, volcano eruptions and all sorts of sporadic occurrences have left so many travellers’ plans up in the air (or quite the opposite if you’ll pardon the pun!)

How to cope: Weather is completely out of your control so its important to first of all stay cool, it will all work out in the end! Try to be flexible as airlines often offer alternative travel plans, like a compensated trip elsewhere or delaying your travel date a couple of days. Although its not ideal, you should always remain calm and remember it will all work out in the end!

Mechanical Issues – The second highest cause for flight delays are those that are the fault of the airline: starting with mechanical issues.

How to deal: Remember it is better to get there safe than to not arrive at all! These kind of issues must be dealt with and are out of your control. Consider booking with airlines who don’t have a bad reputation for delays as the result of mechanical issues (I can think of one airline I won’t fly with in Australia!!!)

Aircraft arriving late – Another airline issue is often caused my close scheduling, or even due to air traffic control being disorganised with arrivals and departures (again, I can think of a great example in Australia!)

How to deal: I have found the budget airlines often have quicker turn arounds and fit more flights within the same day. Naturally this means more delays from them as they’re running on a strict schedule. Thus I prefer to pay a little more and book all of my domestic flights with Virgin Australia as they’re almost always on time.

Luggage not loaded on time – A few years ago I was travelling through Abu Dhabi and my bags were lost in transit by Etihad. This resulted in a missed flight and 24 hour wait overnight for the next flight out to Moscow – not ideal!

How to deal: Try and be positive + always insist your airline hosts you with accommodation, meals and transfers for your layover. This has always been provided to me without fail! On a positive note, its almost like a free mini-holiday in a new destination!

When your Flight is Delayed: 15 Things to Do

Sometimes you just can’t help it and your flight is delayed for hours or even overnight. What to do?

  1. Head to an airport bookstore and buy a magazine or book to dive right in to
  2. Write a blog about your previous trip (if you don’t have a blog, what a great time to start one!)

  3. Shop duty free (or just spray the perfume for free)

  4. Clean out your wallet and handbag

  5. Find a cozy bench to turn into a bed (usually helps to have a thick jacket on hand as a makeshift mattress)

  6. Download the flag app and brush up on your knowledge of flags

  7. People watch and make up stories for stranger’s lives

  8. Go to the destination board and plan an idyllic holiday to an idyllic location (even if its just for pretend)

  9. Walk around for an hour to burn some calories (and make more room for more snacks)

  10. Text someone you haven’t spoken to for a while (its easy to lose touch when you travel)

  11. Carry a phrasebook with you to learn a new language

  12. Delete old photos & files on your phone/laptop to make room for new ones

  13. Find a quiet corner to do some stretches

  14. If you can score free wi-fi, netflix is your new best friend

  15. Make friends with a stranger or two


How to Avoid Delays Costing You Money

And then for the worst part of delays: when they cost you money, even when (most of the time) they’re not your fault and completely out of your control.

To make sure you get what you are entitled to, here are a collection of solutions to avoid delays costing you money:

1. Buy Travel Insurance

I’m a huge advocate of travel insurance and always will be, because I once read (and took as gospel) “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. No truer words have been spoken. With travel insurance you have another back up plan if the airline chooses not to cover your costs for food, accommodation or even new transport when the delay is the fault of the airline.

For delays like missing luggage and aircraft delays, usually this will be covered by the airline (as it has been for me in the past). You should always request accommodation if required to stay overnight, food vouchers if waiting in the airport due to a delay (if it is more than a couple of hours delay), and transport to/from the accommodation if you are required to stay overnight. As a golden rule, the airline usually covers this.

For delays like weather conditions or missed connections, I have always sought compensation from travel insurance when the airline refuses to cover it (usually they won’t cover weather delays unless it is a catastrophic event and they treat it as a PR response that hinders their public image). For example, when I missed my ongoing flight to Australia due to a missed connection and had 3 hours between flights at LAX, the travel insurance covered my accommodation, meals and transport for the connection time until I could get on the next flight. Just be sure to keep all receipts and spend within reason. I have been purchasing a one year multi-trip policy through Southern Cross Travel Insurance for years now and they have always covered my costs.

2. Know your Rights

All of the above points may seem pretty straight forward now that you’re reading them, but it took years of travel for me to learn and know what I was entitled to when things go wrong and they’re not a fault of my own.

It is important to know what you are entitled to so that when things do go wrong, you can make sure the airline or travel insurance policy looks after you. Be sure to take a look at your policy and see what you are covered for when you miss a flight or it is cancelled – this is often the biggest determining factor for me when choosing a travel insurance company as it is the one thing that goes wrong most often!


WOW Readers can get 10% off their travel insurance with the discount code “WOW” when purchasing a policy with Southern Cross Travel Insurance. This is unfortunately limited to Australian readers only! Thanks to SCTI for the kind offer!

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