How to Handle Flight Delays – 2018

By Abi King | Trip Advice

Sep 12

How to Handle Flight Delays - A step by step guide

How to Handle Flight Delays: What To Do When


Flight delays and cancellations happen to us all. Travel far enough, often enough or just plain unlucky enough and eventually it will happen to you.

So, what now?

Well, just as there’s not much point crying over spilled milk or middle seats on a long haul flight, so it doesn’t pay to lose your cool at the airport.

Focus on the here and now, check out your passenger rights and compensation options, and make a conscious decision to enjoy yourself as best you can anyway.
Remember, when you look back in years to come, it is the sound of the steel drum in the Caribbean sun, the snap of crocodiles at dawn or the inspirational stories you found that will matter to you the most.

Not this temporary, if hideous, situation.

Here’s an eight point plan to get to zen and still get what matters done ;-)

Let’s go.

Dealing with flight delays - It's time to focus

How to Handle Flight Delays in 8 Easy Steps

How to Handle Flight Delays Step 1:


Figure out what matters most to you, fast.

Do you need to sort out the next connection on your journey?

Let someone know not to pick you up at the airport? Call your boss?

Or is finding a place to sleep tonight the top priority if hundreds of people are suddenly looking for a bed at the same time…

Prioritise ruthlessly and take it from there.

How to Handle Flight Delays Step 2:

Keep Your Cool

Be firm but polite with staff. Chances are, it’s not their fault in the slightest that this has happened. And, of course, people generally do more to help people they like than people they can’t stand. Explain your top priority (see number one) and ask for their guidance. Don’t be fobbed off. But don’t lose your cool.

If staff are rude and unhelpful (let’s not kid ourselves completely,) take their name, make a note of it and then move on. Don’t miss out on your primary goal (see point one) by entering into a protracted battle with airline or airport staff.

Move on.

How to Handle Flight Delays Step 3:

Special circumstances?

Are there any (genuine) special considerations that apply to you? Will you run out of medication? Are there young children involved? Ask for help – at the airport, on social media, anywhere you can.

Likewise, if there AREN’T any special circumstances for you then show a bit of goodwill in life and display some basic manners. Help someone else out. You never know when your time will come and you really, really need some help.

Dealing with Flight Delays - Time for a Backup Plan

How to Handle Flight Delays Step 4:

Consult your backup plan

Yes, this is awkward to read if you don’t already have a backup plan.

But, hopefully, you do have travel insurance so now is the time to start looking into what it covers and what material you need to gather to present to the insurance company.

Consider travel insurance for UK holidays as well as just ones abroad if a flight delay or lost luggage could impact you significantly.

Obviously, it’s too late to buy insurance after something has gone wrong. So, if that’s the situation you find yourself in, just chalk it up to a lesson learned the hard way and buy some insurance as soon as you get home.

How to Handle Flight Delays Step 5:

Give Yourself a Break

You’re a human, not a machine. Everything seems better after a wash, some food and some rest.

So, treat yourself however you can.

Check out any pay per entry airport lounges if you’re not already flying on a business class ticket. These often include showers, places to rest, food, electricity, wifi, magazines and TV and can take you far enough from the crowds to try to regain some perspective.

Find Another Route - what to do when your flight is delayed

How to Handle Flight Delays Step 6:

Find Another Route

Seek out another way of getting to your destination. Sometimes, it’s just better to give up (that’s the spirit!) and travel onwards a different way and sort out the paperwork later.

Can you fly with a different airline? Travel by train? Boat? Hire car? How about splitting the journey with other stranded passengers? I’ve done all of these things in my travel days…

Too busy and frantic trying to deal with the airline to come up with another plan? Online fee-based PA FancyHands can task assistants with coming up with a backup plan while you queue/shower/sip coffee.

How to Handle Flight Delays Step 7:

Seek Compensation

Check your travel insurance to see what kinds of things are covered and what kind of paper trail you will need to provide.

Check the small print on your ticket: not all airlines agree to help you out in the same way (that’s one of the reasons why the budget airlines manage to keep their prices down.)

If you’re travelling within the EU, check out the EU passenger rights charter. There are certain rights for passengers who have experienced a delay or cancellation of their flight or that have been denied boarding. This is a legal right based on the European Union’s Regulation EC 261/2004. Whether travelling for business or pleasure, or whether the flight was delayed or cancelled, air passengers are entitled to compensation under certain circumstances.

In general, get as much as you can in writing, spend only what you need and get receipts for everything. Take names (where possible,) note times and make copies (a quick snap on your phone should do.)

Time for some zen - handling flight delays

How to Handle Flight Delays Step 8:

Adopt a Zen-Like Attitude

Yes, it’s aggravating. But it will end.

You will, eventually, get home or wherever you’re trying to be.

Once you’ve done your due diligence, it’s time to try to find yourself a nice meal, plug in and watch a TV programme or read a book you’ve always meant to read

Research things to do in your local airport, Skype someone, or just close your eyes, take some deep breaths and try to relax.

Travel often enough and this kind of thing will happen.

It’s all part of travel and of not being too afraid to get on and live your life.

And in the greater scheme of things, it really will be all right in the end!

Safe and happy travels everyone,





DisclosureSome of the links on this website may earn us money at no extra cost to you. We always keep the right to write what we like, even when battling with flight delays…

how-to-deal-with-flight-delays-with-poise-and-panache How to deal with flight delays and cancellations via @insidetravellab

Travel tips - how to deal with flight delays and cancellations


About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • Good post and good tips. We had a two day delay in Ecuador once with Iberian Airlines and chose the company fairplane for compensation. It took more than one year, they had to go to court, but in the end we got 600 Euro each (minus the comission).

    • Abi King says:

      Glad you had some success! I had a plane journey delayed by 3-4 days once (they had said it was a week!) but we were put up in a luxury hotel in Jamaica so, to be honest, it probably worked out for the best for us! Most of the time, of course, delays and cancellations are just not fun…

  • Brilliant tips! The biggest thing is to calm down and not to panic. You won’t find any solutions if you panic

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