Stuck at the Airport? 4 Pointers for More Productive Waits

Jet-setting planners know that waits are an unavoidable part of travel. Waiting in long security lines, waiting for delayed flights, waiting at the luggage carousel—air travel is an exercise in patience.

These days, it seems that wait times have become even more unbearable. During the peak summer travel season, long TSA checkpoint delays left travelers waiting two or three hours in security lines. Airlines, airports and the TSA have been scrambling to find solutions to the problem.

To add even more stress for summer travelers, two leading U.S.-based airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines, have recently experienced major computer systems failures that have left planes grounded and passengers stranded at airports around the country. Hundreds of flights were canceled and thousands of travelers were impacted.

Travel delays can happen when you least expect them, so it’s best to be prepared. Rather than spending your waiting time scrolling endlessly through Facebook, why not use these simple strategies to help time pass by more quickly—and productively?

1. Get compensated.

If your flight’s delayed, spend some time researching your options for getting refunds and other forms of compensation.  With most airlines, passengers can receive refunds for flights that are canceled or delayed by more than two hours—even nonrefundable fares.

Some credit cards, including several Chase and Citibank cards, offer protection against flight delays. For delays of at least 12 hours, most will pay up to $500 for expenses such as accommodations, transportation, meals and toiletries.

2. Empty your inbox.

Take a few minutes to catch up on all of those emails crowding your inbox. Airport delays are the perfect time to complete those maintenance tasks that you’ve had trouble finding time to do, such as unsubscribing from newsletters that you no longer find useful and creating email filters to help make your inbox more manageable. Spending time to clean up and organize your inbox will make it easy to manage for a long time to come.

3. Discover your new favorite restaurant.

Airports are not usually first on any foodie’s list, but maybe they should be. Top airports are stepping up their game by introducing gourmet options from celebrity chefs and buzz-worthy local restaurants.

Cat Cora, the first female Iron Chef, has opened airport restaurants in Houston, San Francisco and Salt Lake City. Her menu features fresh, organic and artisanal twists on comfort food.

Los Angeles International Airport has quietly built an impressive arsenal of dining choices, including Ink.sack, a sandwich shop from Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio, and Umami Burger, a popular gourmet burger restaurant.

4. Find peace.

Unexpected delays often throw a wrench in travelers’ plans and leave them feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Instead of sitting in the airport stewing about the situation, take this opportunity to meditate.

Meditation can be done just about anywhere, and it doesn’t require any special equipment. With just a few minutes of meditation, you’ll be able to clear your mind and arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready for your next meeting.

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