Productive and entertaining things you could do in the face of an awful flight delay.
I’ve been putting up / linking to several Japan travel articles of late. Many of these articles use pictures I took during my Japan holiday last November.
Which … led me to remember the stunning 8-hour flight delay preceding that holiday. A delay during which the airline did its best to alleviate, but nonetheless, was still terribly unpleasant.
Which in turn, reminded of an even worse flight delay years ago during my third trip to France. Lord, that one really took the cake. Not only did the delay lasted for more than a day, the airline lost my luggage. Not once, but twice.
Now, as the cliché goes, the best laid plans go awry. Travel enough, fly enough, and you are bound to encounter one of these awful travel experiences. But all is not lost, as long as you know what to do when your flight is delayed or cancelled.
For example, are you aware that when you are flying from the EU or on a European airline, you are eligible for compensation when your flight is delayed or cancelled? That flight delay compensation can also go up to as much as 600 euros?
The short of it, knowing what to do during a flight delay will ensure your precious holiday in not in shambles.
1. Chill. Be Zen. Take It Easy on the Service Staff
Believe me, I know all too well how it feels like during a flight delay. Yet, the sad truth is, front-line staff are the last people in the murky scheme of things that decide which replacement flight you get placed on. Airline counter staff are but messengers who have little real control over the situation.
Because of that, chill. Be firm and clear in your communications with service staff, but chill. If your delay is worsened by any aggravating factor, such as a connecting flight with another airline, promptly highlight these without being rude. Always, always keep your cool.
In addition, never, ever be aggressive. Don’t even think about slamming tables, waving fists, throwing threats, etc. Consider this. Airports are sensitive places. Do you really want to make things worse for yourself by having security called upon you? I don’t think so.
2. Get Down to That Book
Going back to my Japan autumn trip, one big mistake I made was NOT bringing reading material and Manga with me. As in, digital versions stored in my tablet.
Having such reading materials during the actual delay wouldn’t do wonders for my mood, but at least it’s something that I could kill time with. As in, a much-needed distraction.
What I’m saying here is, when you’re trapped in a painful wait, fretting and fuming aren’t going to help. You might as well use the opportunity to force yourself to read that e-book/e-comic you bought eons ago but have never gotten down. At least you “accomplished” something. So to speak.
3. Research Your Rights
Do you know that airlines are obliged to arrange for free accommodation and transportation if your flight delay is overnight? For delays lesser than three hours, do you know that airlines should at least provide drinks and refreshments?
Yes, yes, I am aware some shady setups skip these. Or it could be a situation of, the city is snowed-in. Hotels are fully booked because of the Olympics eight years down the road! Blah, blah, blah.
Still, it never hurts to know where you legally stand. At the very least, it a great basis for the (cordial) interaction you would be having with airline staff handing your delay. Here’s a rundown of your rights as a passenger when traveling from, or within, the European Union. Naturally, there are various other similar listings online too.
4. Embark on a Photo Hunt
I’m no award-winning Nat-Geo photographer, but I have been selling images on stock libraries for years, so hear me out on this. Commonly-visited places such as airports take on a whole new identity when the crowds are gone. Or when you’re able to photograph them using different angles and perspectives. Do it well and you will have on your hand, the next 10k liked Instagram masterpiece.
Some online image libraries also allow you to sell “editorial shots” through them. These are images intended for use in journalism, images often featuring human events such as flight delays. You’re not going to become wealthy selling such images, but well, it’s potentially a little something to make you feel better.
A word of caution: If you do aim for editorial shots, please, be sensible about it. Don’t thrust your DSLR lens into the face of angry fellow passengers debating with the airline. You’re just inviting a beating. Were I to do it, I would settle for a wide shot with a minimum number of identifiable faces. For example, a side or rear view of delayed passengers gathered around a counter.
5. Make a New Friend
Lots of travellers rave about meeting interesting people and locals during their trips. In stark contrast, there are not that many write-ups about bonding with fellow passengers during transportation delays.
Admittedly, most people wouldn’t be in the mood to chat. Or would they? You know, people bond intensely when there’s a common “enemy,” or a common nuisance such as a disrupted travel itinerary. Goodness, you might get so involved in your sharing, you regret the delay ending because you haven’t yet finish chapter 5 of your tragedy. Wait, I’m kidding here. But you get the point.
6. Arrange for Compensation
Knowing your rights is one thing. Arranging and securing flight delay compensation is quite another matter.
With reference to that awful French trip that I mentioned above, I made the mistake of personally negotiating with the airline office. The staff assigned was a sarcastic youngster more intended on telling me to get lost rather than helping. Naturally, I flared up too. Things went south within minutes, to put it mildly.
Luckily, there are nowadays services like Compensair, which helps you arrange for compensation from airlines if you are departing from an EU country, or if your flight is operated by a EU registered airline (Iceland, Norway or Switzerland too). With Compensair, not only can you easily update yourself with information about delays, the claiming process is a breeze; you need only to provide signed consent and travel information.
Thereafter, Compensair will arrange for compensation and when successful, they will transfer the claimed amount to you. Note, though, that there will be a 25% service fee calculated based on the claimed amount. In my opinion, this cut is well-worth it for their professional experience. Definitely, for not having to deal with grumpy airline staff too.
7. Safeguard Against Future Flight Delays
Honestly, a travel delay is the sort of annoyance you’d only know after you walked into one. In other words, there’s no fool proof prevention.
But if you:
- Understand your legal rights
- Equip yourself with a professional, efficient way to handle flight delay claims
- Know how to entertain/distract yourself during delays
- NOT schedule important visits, connections, events, on arrival day
It’s not going to be a complete disaster. Who knows? A few years down the road, you might even be able to talk about it. Or write on the subject. As I’m doing here.
This post was created in partnership with Compensair.