You’re hemmed in on one side by a Japanese tour group making its way to Sun City, whilst the family next to you can barely contain their three-year old in the throes of an extraordinarily bad hair day, when there is a public announcement that your connecting flight is delayed.
Flight delays are a large part of the travel experience. They happen. But there are ways to survive them …
1. EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS
The most logical place to start is at the information desk to double-check the delay and to see if you can change your flight to another. If that is too busy, get online and have a look for alternative flights to try and transfer your ticket to another airline (phoning the airline of the delayed flight is only going to place you in a queue). Then head for a counter agent and get all your questions answered, as you might not get the chance again. Whilst in the line you might want to let any loved ones know of your predicament.
2. MIND YOUR P’S AND Q’S
Your attitude will affect not only how you cope with the delay, but also those immediately around you. Making a scene will not get you anywhere faster. Be reasonable, and get on top of the facts so that you don’t find yourself snapping at airport employees for no reason – they’re just doing their jobs as best they can.
3. DON’T BE SCARED TO ASK
A plugpoint to recharge your smartphone. A food voucher. Wifi code to the lounge. An overnight hotel. You don’t have to make a scene about it, just find the right person and ask. You may be surprised.
4. TAKE A MOMENT
You’ve done all you can about the situation. Now go to the loo, wash your face, brush your teeth, change into something more comfortable if you need to and take stock. Taking a moment to understand where you are, to breathe and to relax (for there is nothing else you can do right now) will help enormously.
5. GO SHOPPING
How often do you get to shop without time constraints? Duty-free shopping will kill a lot of time. Buy a book to read, stock up on water and snacks, and buy a few gifts for friends and family. Airports have become shopping malls in their own right – there is plenty to browse through.
6. HEAD FOR THE LOUNGE
If you’ve a business or first class ticket then this is a no-brainer. The lounge will offer you a lot more comfort than the cattle class seats in the average airport. Suddenly the savvy of paying THAT much extra for a flight becomes clear. But if you don’t have the right ticket, ask if you can pay your way in – some airlines offer access to their lounges for a fee. If you’re stuck in the airport for hours, the comfortable chair, the access to WiFi, snacks and drinks may well be worth it.
7. GET COMFORTABLE
If you didn’t manage to talk your way into the lounge find a secluded spot, move a couple of chairs around (if they’re not nailed to the floor) and get as comfortable as you can, given the situation. If you are tired, this is a good space in which to read and possibly snooze (but if you’re like me, sleep is probably out of the question).
8. CATCH UP ON SCREEN TIME
Get some work done, or pay for WiFi and surf the internet. Some airports offer free WiFi so ask about the possibility, but just re-sorting your folders and documents, deleting old emails and getting rid of unwanted files will leave you feeling more on top of things.
Some airports (learning from their counterparts in the far east) have begun to offer the equivalent to spas in the airport for those with time to kill. OR Tambo has an express spa in international arrivals and departures that offer 20 minute massage sessions, whilst in Cape Town there is an express nail bar kiosk where you can get a manicure or a pedicure whilst you wait.
10. LEAVE THE AIRPORT
If you find yourself held up at a particularly glamorous destination take a taxi or bus to the city and explore. There should be plenty of tourist brochures in the airport to give you ideas of what you can do with the time you have. Just getting out into fresh air and stretching your legs will alter your perspective.