If you have ever experienced a flight delay, then you must know it’s not a pleasant experience. No one wants to have their plans all laid out only to be hit by surprise flight delays with their perfect plans ruined. Flight delays are almost inevitable, as they are due to several reasons that can’t always be avoided. Some of these reasons include adverse weather conditions, bird strikes, knock-on effects from a delayed flight, air traffic control restrictions, and getting security clearance, among others. However, you can always find a way around this. This article highlights some easy steps to help you beat a flight delay.
How Can You Beat a Flight Delay
Plan to Take the Earliest Flight
Sometimes, the earliest flights are the best flights with no hassle. You are more likely to get to your destination on time when you board an early flight compared to flights later in the day. Chances are that those late flights get to compensate for errors during the day. Getting out of your house early to jump on a flight might not be convenient but it will likely save you any unwarranted disruption.
Get to the Front Counter Agent
Not everyone will be willing to wait out a long flight delay, especially if it would make you miss your connecting flight or an important event. If your flight has been delayed and you need to get to your destination as soon as possible, reach out to the front counter agent. This will help you get on another flight that is ready to go. The agent will help you find out which airplanes are on the ground and you can change your ticket and get on the move. While you’re at it, let the agent get a sense of urgency from you, so they can process the flight rescheduling as quickly as possible. The front agent can also inform you of the reason behind the delay and this will be important when you want to file a compensation claim.
Rebook without an agent
When a flight is canceled, most people’s instinct is to stand in line at a service counter or get on the phone. But while you’re waiting, use your smartphone browser to see if you can rebook yourself for free. Delta, for example, offers the feature consistently via both its app and website for even the smallest of delays, as do numerous other airlines. Just pull up your reservation and you’ll see the option to rebook with just a few clicks.
You can also try this if you’re catching a tight connecting flight that you might miss. On flights with Wi-Fi, most airlines give you free access to their own website, so you can use your smartphone to check the status of your connection, see options, and sometimes rebook before you even land. If you do end up needing to speak with an agent, but airline call centers have hours-long hold times, consider calling an international customer service number. Sometimes agents on those lines will pick up faster.
Know Your Rights as a Passenger
Not everyone is aware of the flight delay compensation under the European law that protects the rights of air passengers. If you are traveling from an EU member state, landing in one, or the airline is headquartered in the EU, this law applies to you. Under the EU Regulation Nr. 261/2004, you may be entitled to compensation between €250 and €600 if your flight has been delayed for more than three hours. If it’s over two hours, you are entitled to complimentary food and drinks. And if it’s over 5 hours, you can get a free flight rescheduling and a hotel booking for delays that last through the night. Knowing your rights can help you take advantage of some of the airline perks to compensate for any inconvenience.
For flights governed by EU 261, the airline must offer you the choice of reimbursement, rerouting, or rebooking at a later date. In addition, airlines should provide refreshments and food while you wait, and accommodations (including travel to and from the airport) if you need to wait overnight for the next flight.
Compensation for denied boarding is the same as for delayed or canceled flights. You should always receive compensation for denied boarding if you arrived on time for check-in for your flight.
Know when you’re owed a cash refund
Remember: If an airline cancels your flight, you are owed a refund. Some carriers might try to imply that they can only give you a voucher for future travel, but that is not the case, according to the DOT’s rules. In fact, U.S. carriers were issued two formal warnings from the DOT earlier in the pandemic, stating that they need to be more forthcoming with customers about when they are owed a refund instead of a flight voucher.
With the knowledge you’ll get your money back eventually—even though it may take a phone call or two after the fact—you can feel freed up to search for options on other airlines.
Note: The DOT’s refund rule also applies to “significant changes” that are within the airline’s control. This doesn’t cover flight changes due to weather or mechanical problems but does include things like shifting flight schedules to better optimize revenue during the pandemic—as many airlines are doing over the holidays this year. But even if you’re facing a covered schedule change, it could be tricky to get your money back, as the DOT leaves it up to each airline to reasonably interpret what a “significant change” is.
When air travelers set out to take a flight, they do not expect to be delayed but it happens regardless. You can’t always change the situation but these three steps can help you beat flight delays.