What to do at an airport when your flight’s delayed

Delayed flights are a b***h, but as long as you’ve done what you can and put your travel insurance in place, then don’t worry, be happy. Delays happen, so do what you have to do, try not to get angry and treat it as part of the wider holiday experience.

First things first

Before you start roaming duty-free for bargains on Lindt chocolates, get your admin sorted.

  • Make a note of when you were first informed about the delay and what you were told. If the delay is longer than three hours then you may be able to get compensation (see our other blog post on this).
  • Check the situation on any connecting flights.
  • If they already know it’s going to be a long delay, find out if the airline will provide you with food vouchers to use in the airport or overnight accommodation at a nearby hotel.
  • Use your time wisely

If the delay happens as you’re going on holiday, use the time to get your plans in place for when you get there. That way you won’t waste a second of your trip. If you’re on the way home, spend some time organising yourself to make things as easy as possible when you get back. Does anyone need notifying? Have you got a taxi picking you up

Experiences instead of stuff

There’s a natural inclination to spend time in duty-free buying stuff you don’t need during a delay. If you’re off on holiday, it’s probably going to be things you’ve just got to drag back with you, which means less space for more authentic souvenirs. If you’ve just got hand luggage the be careful of buying liquids that you won’t be allowed back through security on your return. If you’re on your way back from your travels then you probably don’t need to spend more money. Most of us return a little on the skint side in our experience, but that might just be us.

That said, you probably don’t want to spend the whole time scrolling through social media. We hear it’s not good for inner peace. So instead, see if you can find experiences at the airport that will help to make you feel better as well as use up the time.

See if you can pay to use the VIP Lounge at the airport. Better food, maybe a spa treatment or two, better WiFi. It will put you in a better headspace, help you to feel relaxed and might actually be a really positive experience. If you can lay your hands on a spa treatment for example, it will help prevent your skin from drying out in the airless airport environment; an added bonus and maybe money well spent.

Lay off the booze

Tempting as it might be to drown your sorrows, try not to drink too much alcohol. Aside from preventing you from paying attention to updates on your delayed flight, it will ultimately give the worst hangover in human history when compounded by the dehydrating effects of the air-con in the airport and (eventually) on the plane.

No one’s going to say the odd pint or glass of bubbles won’t lighten the mood, but it’s best to stay hydrated with plenty of water. Treat yourself to something nice (or as nice as possible) to eat as well or instead of.

Keep your cool

Delays can be frustrating and the way airlines convey information can often be piecemeal. So it’s easy for tensions to run high. However, it’s best to find your zen and keep your cool.

Try to speak to a member of staff calmly to find out what the deal is, and most importantly, don’t storm out of the airport. If you do, you may be considered a no-show for the flight and that could mean you’re not entitled to a no-fee rebooking if the flight is cancelled.

Keep on moving

Ok so it’s not going to be the most scenic of walks, but try to keep moving and go on a wander around the airport. You’ve (hopefully) still got the flight ahead of you and that’s long enough to be sitting down. Airport seating is not really known for its ergonomic credentials, and if you get up and move around every now and again it will help to prevent you from feeling restless.

It will also stop you from going to sleep, which is best saved for the flight itself. That’s both for passing the time in the air and also so you don’t miss the notification when your flight is boarding or if it has changed gates, which it’s quite likely to.

Protect yourself against delayed flights with Pluto travel insurance



Harry Williams

Harry Williams

Product person, design devotee, travel lover.