5 Tips to Survive Unexpected Flight Delays

Welcome to airport hell. Thousands of travelers at airports all over the country were stranded for hours this morning when United Airlines grounded all of its planes and caused massive flight delays after what the airline described as a “network connectivity issue” interfered with flights ops.

In a futile effort to relieve impatient and frustrated passengers, at least one United flight crew went as far as offering restless passengers tours of the flight deck, but that did little to satisfy the unrest.

Social media sites exploded with myriad unhappy hashtags and photos of huge airport crowds while the flight delays were in effect. Photographer Kristina Lee captured an image of a winding line she was stuck in at LAX.

My line…. (It wraps around twice) think I’ll make it? #unitedsucks #lifeofaphotographer @thefranze A photo posted by kristinaleephotography (@kristinaleephotography) on

Sharing frustration with all your internet friends can help, but many grounded passengers never get beyond the anger stage. When faced with long flight delays, there are other ways to deal with an unexpected chunk of time stuck in the airport that will help keep your sanity intact.

Grab a Bite (or a Drink)

Unless you’re catching a red-eye flight, there are typically several sit-down restaurants open for business near the terminals and gates. Beat the rush to the bar and you’ll be sipping a cocktail or glass of wine and awaiting a juicy burger before dozens of others crowd the place and stare at you with envy. Sign up for text alerts from the airline you’re flying in case the delay ends earlier than expected. Some airlines will even reimburse F&B expenses you incur during the flight delays.

Go VIP

Step away from the angry hordes. Airlines’ VIP lounges are much more relaxed areas to wait out a delay—and many offer free snacks and/or drinks. If you’re not already a member of the airline’s loyalty program or triple-platinum elite club, you can often pay a small fee for access to the VIP lounge, or even join on the spot.

Skirt the System

If the delay is the result of a mechanical issue or anything not related to weather, you may be able to have the airline put you on a different flight, even with a different carrier. The airline’s app or a flight aggregator such as kayak.com (or corresponding mobile apps) can help you find alternative flights that you can request to be switched to.

Entertain Yourself

Get a jump on your in-flight entertainment by making it a pre-flight diversion. Tune out the chaos and start reading your book or watching that movie on your laptop or iPad, and with a little luck the delay will be over before you realize how long it’s been. Even if you’re waiting on a long-haul flight, there are ways to extend your entertainment options.

Misery Loves Company

If you can identify another delayed passenger who seems to be handling the wait without a hefty helping of rage, commiserating with them can lead to interesting conversation and even new friends. A good place to look is at the bar. Someone sitting calmly with a beer in hand may well be in the same, sanity-saving state of mind as you are—as long as you followed the first tip and got their before the angry mob. Alternately, call friends or family members to share your horror story. Laughing about it goes a long way toward not letting the frustration well up.

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