Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee
Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Pack Snacks and Entertainment
When your flight gets delayed or canceled, one of the worst things is having nothing to do while you wait. Time drags on endlessly without any entertainment or sustenance. As an experienced traveler and former airline employee, I always make sure to pack snacks and entertainment in my carry-on bag.
Having your own food and diversions can make a world of difference during an unexpected delay. Airport food and amenities can be overpriced and underwhelming. Pack your own nutritious snacks like protein bars, nuts, dried fruit, and sandwiches. This will keep you fueled up for the duration. Staying hydrated is also key—bring a refillable water bottle that you can replenish post-security.
In terms of entertainment, download movies, ebooks, magazines, playlists, and podcasts onto your phone or tablet. Bring headphones and a portable charger so you don't run out of power. Travel-sized board games and card decks are another great option if you are traveling with others.
Don't rely solely on airport WiFi for streaming content—it can be spotty. And beware of data roaming charges if you use your mobile data instead. Downloading content ahead of time is the most reliable bet.
Beyond preparing your own food and entertainment, scout out nearby airport amenities you can tap into. Stock up on reading material at a newsstand or bookstore. Grab coffee or a meal at a restaurant. Find areas with charging stations where you can juice up your devices.
If you have a long wait, consider booking a day room at an airport hotel so you can nap in comfort. Some airports also have movie theaters and spas. And if the delay is overnight, see if you can get booked on a complimentary hotel stay. Policies vary by airline.
What else is in this post?
- Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Pack Snacks and Entertainment
- Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Be Kind to Gate Agents
- Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Research Alternate Flights While You Wait
- Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Use Airport Amenities to Pass Time
- Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Make Friends with Fellow Stranded Travelers
- Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Consider Rental Cars, Buses or Trains
- Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - insomnia Knows No Airport Boundaries
Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Be Kind to Gate Agents
When your flight gets delayed or canceled, it’s easy to get frustrated. But remember, the gate agents are just doing their jobs. As someone who worked as a gate agent for years, I always appreciated when passengers treated me with kindness and understanding.
Yelling or berating the gate agents will get you nowhere. They did not cause the delay or cancellation, and they are likely just as annoyed about it as you are. Gate agents are on the frontlines dealing with scores of disgruntled travelers. Have some empathy for the difficult position they are in.
I still remember the handful of passengers over the years who calmly told me, “I know this isn’t your fault. Thank you for doing your best.” That small act of kindness in the midst of chaos made all the difference. I was much more inclined to go the extra mile for passengers who were polite and patient with me.
Gate agents have very little power or control in major irregular operations. They are simply relaying information from headquarters and doing their best to re-accommodate passengers. Yelling at them or demanding upgrades or compensation will not make the process go any faster. And being rude may even slow it down.
Your best bet is to kindly ask what your options are, if there is any way they can help speed up rebooking, and if the airline can provide accommodations or amenities like food vouchers if the delay drags on. You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar, as they say.
I’ve seen gate agents move mountains for passengers who were understanding and friendly. I’ve also seen them do absolutely nothing beyond the bare minimum for rude or aggressive flyers. Remember, gate agents are human beings just trying to do their jobs. Building rapport and empathy with them will get you a lot further than hostility.
Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Research Alternate Flights While You Wait
One of the most frustrating parts of flight delays is feeling stuck and helpless. But there are productive ways to pass the time while you wait—like researching alternate flight options on your phone. As someone who worked at the gates for years, I always advised passengers to take matters into their own hands by looking up new flights. Here are some insider tips on how to make the most of your research time.
Get out your phone and download the airline’s app if you haven’t already. Many airlines like Delta and American have apps that allow you to rebook flights right from your device. Even if you can’t complete the booking, you can see alternative flights and gate information. This allows you to learn your options and then go to the gate with solid rebooking ideas.
Don’t just look at your original airline’s options. Use third-party sites like Kayak, Expedia and Google Flights to research flights on other airlines too. You may find better route options, more availability, or cheaper fares. I’ve seen instances where passengers discovered flights that left sooner than what the airline was offering just by checking alternate sites.
Utilize flight tracking tools like FlightView and FlightAware to look up delay times, gate changes and aircraft assignments in real-time. This insider information will clue you into how extensive the disruptions are and what your chances are of getting rebooked soon. Ask the gate agent lots of questions too so you understand the full picture.
Sign up for flight delay alerts from apps like FlightView so you get notified if your new departure time changes. Keep checking back frequently for updates as the situation evolves. JetBlue has a useful flight tracker feature where you can save your flight and get status alerts sent to your phone.
Research alternate airports in the area too, not just different flights. Nearby airports often have better availability even if your airport is socked in. Consider booking a rental car or ground transportation to get you there.
Look into canceling and rebooking your entire ticket if you see better flight options at a decent price. But don’t buy new flights until your current one is officially canceled, or you may end up with duplicate bookings. Time is of the essence so be prepared to act fast once cancellation is confirmed.
Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Use Airport Amenities to Pass Time
When you’re stuck at the airport for hours on end, it’s easy to go stir crazy just sitting at the gate. But take it from a former airline employee, most airports have hidden amenities to help you pass the time in relative comfort. You just need to know where to look.
First, get acquainted with your airport’s layout. Study the terminal map so you know what’s available. Some larger airports like LAX and ORD have movie theaters, spas, yoga rooms, and even public art displays. Premium lounges abound in most airports too, though day passes can be pricey. At a minimum, scope out restaurant and shopping options.
Stock up on magazines and snacks at Hudson News to give you reading material and sustenance. Seek out business centers where you can plug in devices and get work done. Kids will appreciate play areas to burn off energy. For overnight delays, overnight sleeping pods provide a modicum of privacy to catch some Zzzs.
Don’t forget about airline-run lounges for eligible upper-tier elites and premium cabin flyers. Complimentary food, drinks, WiFi, and showers can make the delay markedly more bearable. Some airlines like United even have nap rooms. If you have a long layover, pay for lounge day access if you can swing it financially.
For the budget-conscious, newer airports like Indianapolis and Pittsburgh have Ambassador programs that provide volunteers to help stranded passengers. Ambassadors point flyers towards unoccupied gate areas, quiet corners, and lesser-known amenities. They even hand out complimentary water and snacks in some cases.
Certain credit cards like Priority Pass offer lounge access as a perk. Do some research beforehand on participating lounges at your home and destination airports. You never know when the benefit will come in handy during irregular operations. Third-party lounges from Plaza Premium and The Club Airport Lounges provide pay-per-use options too.
Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Make Friends with Fellow Stranded Travelers
When you’re stuck at the airport for hours on end, human connection can make all the difference. As a former airline employee, I saw how people banding together during delays formed fast friendships. Shared misery can bond total strangers into temporary tribes.
Don’t underestimate the power of striking up conversations with fellow delayed passengers. You never know who you’ll meet or how they might brighten your predicament. I’ve witnessed solo travelers “adopted” by families who shared food and played games with them. Elderly passengers helped to gates by caring strangers. Folks from different countries swapping travel tales.
Making airport friends allows you to commiserate and blow off steam. You can pool information and strategize ways to tackle the delay. Share chargers, WiFi, snacks, and other resources so everyone has enough to get by. And introduce each other to hidden airport gems only locals might know.
Having a sympathetic ear and shoulder to lean on makes the waiting more bearable too. People stuck in the same boat are much more likely to listen and empathize. No one understands better than those also mired in travel purgatory. You might even score insider airport tips from seasoned frequent flyers.
Striking up conversations requires being open and putting yourself out there. Introduce yourself to seatmates or folks in line. Ask how they’re holding up. Compliment a cute baby or offer help carrying bags. Comment on the delay and compare notes. Most travelers are thrilled to chat, but read body language and don’t pressure anyone.
With kids, gifts like stickers or airplane snacks can be icebreakers. Offer to watch someone’s bags if they need to use the restroom. Simple acts of kindness go a long way.
If you’re an introvert, it can take more effort to engage. But view it as an opportunity to get outside your comfort zone. You may be pleasantly surprised by how uplifting human connection can be, even with total strangers.
Beyond moral support, making airport friends can have practical advantages too. If you hit it off, exchange contact info to stay in touch. I know more than one couple that met through chance delays and went on to date long-term. Develop travel companions to join on future adventures. Get tips on your destination city from locals. The possibilities are endless.
Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - Consider Rental Cars, Buses or Trains
When flight disruptions have you stuck at the airport for hours or days, it pays to think outside the box. Renting a car, hopping a bus, or catching a train could potentially get you to your destination faster than waiting around for a delayed or rescheduled flight. As a former airline employee, I saw many savvy travelers abandon hope of rebooking and find creative ground transportation alternatives instead.
Rental cars offer the most flexibility if you are the driver type. Apps like Kayak and Priceline allow you to compare rates across companies and reserve a car right from your phone. Airport rental desks often have better availability than downtown branches during irregular operations, though prices may be higher. If you plan to return the car at your destination airport, research one-way rental policies and potential drop-off fees.
When renting a car, be sure to factor in length of drive, fuel costs, and tolls. Having a valid license and being an authorized rental driver are musts. Underage fees can apply for drivers under 25. And keep in mind that airport taxes and concession fees get tacked onto rental rates, hiking costs. Purchase insurance and avoid costly damage waivers unless your own auto policy or credit card coverage has you covered.
For longer journeys, experiment with one-way car rentals combined with flights on either end. Multicity booking engines like Orbitz allow this mixed mode booking. For example, grab a rental car one-way from Washington DC to NYC then fly from NYC onward. You avoid backtracking and cover ground faster.
Intercity buses offer an affordable alternative to driving yourself. Megabus and BoltBus service major routes like NYC to DC or SF to LA. Buses typically depart from downtown terminals versus airports. WiFi and power outlets allow you to work or relax during the ride.
The main downside of buses is lack of flexibility. You must stick to their fixed schedule and route. Buses can sell out too, so reserve tickets online in advance. Build in buffer time for both arrival at the station and potential delays enroute. Buses lack the privacy and comfort of a rental car, so temper expectations.
For long distance travel, cruising the rails could be your ticket. Amtrak serves over 500 destinations across America. Major hubs allow for easy connections to extend your journey. Roomy seats, scenic observation cars, dining services, and sometimes even WiFi/power outlets make train travel more bearable than being wedged on a plane.
Just be aware that rail travel is not immune to disruptions either. Track maintenance, equipment issues, signal problems, and freight train precedence can all cause delays. Amtrak also does not guarantee the fastest ride. You'll want to study the route map and projected travel times closely when booking tickets.
Grounded: My Insider Tips for Surviving Flight Delays and Cancellations As a Former Airline Employee - insomnia Knows No Airport Boundaries
Being stranded at the airport overnight can wreak havoc on your sleep cycles. As someone who spent many a night working irregular operations, I know all too well how challenging it can be to get decent rest when you’re airport-bound. Terminal seating is designed for waiting, not sleeping. The constant announcements and passenger foot traffic make it hard to fully relax. And the bright fluorescent lighting tricks your body into thinking it’s still daytime. This insomnia-inducing environment is less than ideal for quality slumber.
If you’re facing an overnight delay, be ready to embrace some sleepless nights. Pack earplugs, neck pillows, blankets, eye masks, noise-canceling headphones – anything to create a semi-conducive sleep environment. Stake out corners away from crowds, lights, and loudspeakers whenever possible. Some folks even wear sleep blindfolds. If you didn’t come prepared with sleep aids, scout airport newsstands for earplugs, pillows, and sleep masks to purchase.
Try to shift your circadian rhythm and nap at odd times to make up lost sleep. Ten minutes of shut-eye here and twenty minutes there add up over a long night. Yoga rooms and airport spa lounges sometimes have relaxation areas you can rest in. See if there’s space in a mamava pod meant for nursing mothers. They’re private and sometimes equipped with comfy chairs.
Get as horizontal as you can – sprawl on the floor if seating is too upright for sleeping. Claim those coveted armrest-less chairs and bend your body across multiple seats. Some travelers even pack ultra-compact camping sleeping pads for airport snoozing. In a pinch, your coat or sweatshirt can cushion the floor or chairs.
If you have access to an airline lounge, take advantage. Many have nap rooms or reclining chairs far from the din of the concourse. Showers can also revive your senses for power naps. In United’s Chicago O’Hare lounge, private sleeping rooms provide a welcome respite come nighttime.