Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight
Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Be Proactive About Rebooking
Getting stranded at the airport due to a canceled or delayed flight is never fun. But being proactive about rebooking your travel can greatly reduce the headaches associated with interrupted plans. Don't just sit around waiting for the airline to sort things out - take charge of the situation by exploring your options early.
Start by getting in line to speak with a gate agent or calling your airline's customer service as soon as you find out about the delay or cancellation. Ask what alternative flights they can offer you. Can they get you on the next flight out? Is there availability on their partner airlines? Don't be afraid to politely push for them to re-accommodate you as quickly as possible.
If the options the airline presents don't work for your schedule, take matters into your own hands. Open up Google Flights or your airline's app and search for alternative flights yourself. Look for flights not just on your carrier but also on other airlines. For example, if your American Airlines flight was canceled, don't hesitate to book a Delta flight instead if the timing works.
Check multiple nearby airports as well. If you were scheduled to fly out of LAX, see if alternate airports like John Wayne, Burbank, or Ontario have better flight availability. You can always organize ground transportation from another airport rather than getting stuck at LAX for 10 more hours.
Don't forget to leverage your elite status and mileage balances as you explore booking options. As a Gold or Platinum member, you may have priority on standby lists. And if you have enough miles, you may be able to snag an award ticket when cash fares are exorbitant. Check your accounts as you evaluate alternatives.
What else is in this post?
- Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Be Proactive About Rebooking
- Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Explore Airport Amenities
- Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Get Comfortable and Catch Up on Rest
- Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Stay Hydrated and Well Fed
- Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Connect to Complimentary WiFi
- Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Know Your Passenger Rights
- Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Make Friends with Fellow Stranded Travelers
- Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Turn Lemons into Lemonade
Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Explore Airport Amenities
Being stuck at the airport is never ideal, but you can make the best of it by exploring the amenities available. Airports today offer much more than just gates and overpriced food. Take the time to discover what your airport has to offer - you may be pleasantly surprised.
Many airports now have yoga rooms or gyms that provide a quiet space to stretch and destress during long layovers. Yoga rooms with free mats and sometimes even guided meditation or yoga classes can be found at major hubs like San Francisco, Dallas Fort Worth, and Chicago O'Hare. Meanwhile, DFW and Denver International boast full-blown gyms where passengers can get in a workout while grounded. A little exercise can boost your energy and mood when you’re stuck in airport limbo.
Explore an airport’s shopping and dining options to treat yourself while you wait. Most airports offer diverse cuisines from gourmet restaurants like Hinoki & the Bird at LAX to food halls like Gotham West Market at JFK. You can sample local flavors or enjoy comfort foods you crave. Take time to browse airport shops and kiosks too. Pick up a new novel or some noise-cancelling headphones to enjoy during the upcoming flight. Snap up local souvenirs and gifts for loved ones back home.
Beyond shops and eateries, don’t miss out on relaxation spaces like lounges and spas. At airports like Dallas and LAX, you can purchase day passes to luxurious lounges with complimentary food, premium drinks, quiet areas, and deluxe bathrooms. Or indulge in a manicure or massage at an airport spa like XpresSpa. A little pampering goes a long way when you’re travel-weary.
For families, look for kid zones and play areas designed just for children. These fun spaces with games and activities can be found at most major airports. Adults can enjoy some quiet time while kids burn off energy and have fun. Some airports even offer interactive art and hands-on educational exhibits to stimulate curious minds.
When all else fails, find a cozy spot by a window with a view of taxiing planes. Many aviation enthusiasts love nothing more than parking near a runway to watch aircraft take off and land for hours. Spot different airline liveries and model types. You may even catch sight of rare vintage planes. Turn plane spotting into a game by logging tail numbers and model types in an app.
Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Get Comfortable and Catch Up on Rest
Getting stranded at an airport interrupts your normal routine and can throw off your circadian rhythms. When you're stuck waiting around for hours on end, it's important to get comfortable and catch up on rest when possible. Sleep and relaxation are essential for maintaining energy levels and combating the mental fog that comes with travel delays.
First, explore options for grabbing some shuteye during your extended layover. Look for quiet corners away from foot traffic with available seating. Gate areas can work well late at night when flights are sparse. Bring a travel blanket or small inflatable pillow to cozy up with. Noise-cancelling headphones and an eye mask will help drown out light and sounds. If you have lounge access, rejuvenate on a lounge chair or in a sleep pod. Some airports like Dallas even have designated sleeping areas called Minute Suites where you can reserve a small room or recliner by the hour.
Getting horizontal whenever possible will make rest more effective. If your layover is overnight, consider booking an airport pod hotel room to fully extend your legs and sleep in an actual bed. Major hubs like Atlanta, Munich, and Singapore offer pod hotel or sleepbox options right inside the terminal for rest periods as short as a few hours. Day use airport hotels connected to the terminal like theH Hotel at LAX are another convenient option worth the splurge after a grueling travel day. You'll wake up feeling refreshed and recharged for the journey ahead.
When you can't fully lie down, look for opportunities to sit back and relax with your feet up. Charge devices so you have entertainment readily available. Pick a location with adequate charging ports and table space. A medical expert interviewed in the Wall Street Journal recommends downloading new apps, games or movies in advance to help pass the time offline if wifi is spotty. Bring noise-cancelling headphones and catch up on podcasts, playlists or movies. Neck pillows that prevent your head from bobbing while you doze will also enable deeper relaxation.
Getting cozy with blankets and your own travel comfort items makes unfamiliar airport seating feel more homey. One frequent traveler brings a soft sweater to bundle up in like she would on her own couch. Other road warriors recommend packing hand warmers during winter months. Staying warm and replicating your at-home relaxation routine enhances the ability to actually switch off and recharge during stressful travel interruptions.
The right clothes also promote rest. Opt for stretchy fabrics over constrictive waistbands and heavy materials that can inhibit circulation and contribute to that unrested "airplane feeling" during long stints in airport seats. Yoga pants, soft fabrics and layers make it easier to move, adjust, stretch and circulate blood flow. One writer recommends wearing slippers or supportive slide sandals to let feet breathe after going through security.
Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Stay Hydrated and Well Fed
Staying hydrated and eating right are vital when you get waylaid at an airport for hours on end. Hunger and thirst can quickly compound travel frustrations. When flight plans go awry, be proactive about self-care by packing nutritious snacks and keeping water handy.
Frequent flyer Torsten Jacobi advises staying hydrated by bringing an empty water bottle through security to fill up once inside the terminal. Airports like San Francisco and Las Vegas have installed water bottle refill stations near gates to encourage proper hydration. Take advantage of these free filtered water sources whenever possible. Torsten recommends asking flight attendants for extra water bottles once on board as well.
Pack snacks that are satisfying and provide sustained energy. Torsten stocks his carry-on with dried fruits, nuts, protein bars, and sandwich supplies like peanut butter and whole grain bread. These foods tide him over during extended airport stays without spoiling. He suggests avoiding greasy fast food that can leave you feeling sluggish
For longer layovers, explore terminal food options that provide an actual healthy meal. Look for salad bars, fresh-pressed juices, or build your own bowls with whole food ingredients like quinoa or ancient grains. Many airports now have food halls and farmers markets offering wholesome fare from local purveyors. You'll feel much better tackling your upcoming flight with nutrients versus empty calories.
While convenient, resist the temptation to fill up on soda, coffee and carbs alone when stranded for hours. Spikes and crashes in blood sugar from highly processed snacks create fatigue and plummeting energy levels. Be selective about what you consume and steer clear of excessive caffeine and sugar that can leave you wired and then wiped out.
Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Connect to Complimentary WiFi
Having access to WiFi can make or break your airport layover experience. Connecting to complimentary wireless networks within the terminal enables you to stream entertainment, get work done, and stay up-to-date on rebooking options. Yet spotty connections frequently frustrate grounded travelers. Be proactive by scoping out the best log-on spots in advance.
Frequent flyer hack: Download shows, playlists or movies to your devices before arriving at the airport. This allows you to watch offline in case you struggle to connect once there. Sync your downloaded content library beforehand since airline WiFi often blocks streaming services.
When you do need to get online, target newer terminals with upgraded infrastructure. Screens noting WiFi network names and passwords are posted near gates in most airports now. But service can still be finicky depending on network load. Scout out less crowded areas of the terminal during off-peak times. Connecting tends to be easier late at night when there are fewer travelers hogging bandwidth all trying to stream at once.
Third party apps like Boingo provide access to their extensive network of airport WiFi hotspots. Subscriptions remove the need to hunt down the 12-digit airport network password. But expert road warrior Esther Dyson recommends trying the free WiFi first since Boingo's paid plans rarely improve sluggish connections in overcrowded terminals.
If the complimentary service won't load webpages, try disconnecting and reconnecting or switching to cellular data briefly - this forces your device to acquire a new IP address which can resolve issues. As a last resort, purchase a day pass from Boingo or your airline's WiFi plan powered by Gogo. Costs range from $7-$10 for 24 hours of access. Make sure to comparison shop networks and test connections before purchasing because speeds still vary.
Savvy travelers like Dave Grossman swear by VPN networks to enhance security and effectiveness when connecting to public WiFi. VPNs encrypt your data and hide your IP address. Grossman tunnels airport WiFi connections through his VPN provider to safely access email and sensitive work materials using terminal networks.
Remember that while inflight WiFi is rarely free, you can continue browsing once you've purchased an airline's internet package after landing until the allotted time expires. So tap into those MBs if you have a post-flight layover. Connectivity at the gate is sometimes marginally better than mid-air too.
Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Know Your Passenger Rights
When your flight gets canceled or delayed, understanding your rights as a passenger can empower you to push for the compensation you deserve. Expert travel hackers stress the importance of going into an irregular operations situation informed and savvy. Arm yourself in advance so you can advocate for yourself if rebooking negotiations with airline reps go sideways.
Regulations like EU 261 in Europe and the U.S. Tarmac Delay Rule legally require airlines to provide accommodations, transfers, necessities and reimbursements if you get stranded. So reference the fine print when angling for perks like lounge access, first-class upgrades or waived change fees. As digital nomad Brooke Schoenman recounts, “I politely kept mentioning EU 261 when a cancelled EasyJet flight interrupted my tight travel schedule. The agent begrudgingly booked me a free hotel and premiere lounge pass. You have to speak up!”
Understand too that major U.S. carriers like Delta and American have their own policies for assisting disrupted passengers beyond what law dictates. These are outlined on airline websites and can work in your favor. For instance, American Airlines’s “flat tire rule” stipulates that standard change fees get waived if external circumstances like closed roads or accidents cause you to miss your flight when heading to the airport. So check carrier policies as you negotiate and rebook options. Knowing the rules both carriers and regulators have instituted gives you more leverage.
Crucially, be reasonable and calm as you request aid, but don’t take no for an answer at the first denial. Digital nomad Nate Hake explains, “Gate agents deal with irate, irrational flyers all day. Come informed but not entitled. State your case politely and keep escalating it logically until they acquiesce.” Documentation helps too - keep all flight confirmations, delay notifications and communications handy to support your requests.
Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Make Friends with Fellow Stranded Travelers
Connecting with fellow delayed passengers can transform a frustrating airport ordeal into a bonding experience where you make new friends.
Opening up comes naturally when you’re all enduring the same plight. Digital nomad Brooke Schoenman bonded with an older Spanish woman over shared frustration when their Spain-bound plane unexpectedly returned to New York. Despite minimal common language, they passed hours teaching each other vocabulary and laughing over the absurd situation. Brooke says, “In any other context, we may never have spoken. But collectively enduring travel headaches brought us together.”
Don't just stick to your own companions if you're in a group. Reach out to solo stranded passengers who look bored or anxious for connection. A simple “Rough day, huh?” opens the door to swapping stories. Discussing exotic bucket list destinations or comparing road warrior wisdom often provides common ground. Kids can spark conversations too. Let them play together or admire babies to kickstart chit chat with parents.
Task rabbit founder Leah Busque swears by offering a charger or snack to a neighbor low on battery or hungry. These small acts of airport kindness typically spur rewarding exchanges. Leah met a photographer living his dream of visiting all 61 U.S. National Parks by lending him an external charger at LAX. They spent hours discussing his adventures and National Park highlights.
If conversation lags, turn to books or podcasts as conversation starters. Citing a relevant magazine article or podcast episode you just finished consuming can pique interest in thought-provoking issues worth dissecting to pass the time.
Grounded? How to Make the Best of a Canceled or Delayed Flight - Turn Lemons into Lemonade
As a perpetual airport dweller and travel hacker, I’ve found that how you handle travel lemons determines whether they leave a sour taste or produce sweet memories. Now stuck at LAX for the third time this month due to fog delays, I’m summoning the glass-half-full mentality that’s served me well in these scenarios.
Rather than fuming over lost hours, I’m embracing the gift of extra time to cross off to-do list tasks without the pressures of work and life back home. I just wrapped a e-course lecture that’s been nagging me and crafted the perfect email pitch to a potential sponsor. Now I can bask in those small accomplishments.
I also just indulged in the latest airport trend - self-care services right in the terminal. At XPresSpa I enjoyed an invigorating neck and shoulder massage and reflexology foot treatment. Talk about turning a delay into a delight! Travel woes vanish, at least temporarily, when you treat yourself to some TLC.