When To Go To The Airport If Your Flight Is Delayed

There are so many elements of flying that are utterly chaotic. You might often find that the airport is a 40 to 60 minute trek from your stay. This leaves plenty of mileage for unexpected traffic to arise and a whole lot of time for people to worry about worst-case traffic scenarios (which if you do, you should look into services to help pre-flight jitters). Then, once you arrive at the terminal, whoever is driving has to navigate the confusion of cars stopping and going at departures. Finally, you have to find your check-in desk and plow through security before you can successfully arrive at your gate.

There is an unnerving amount of opportunity for delays to occur en route to your plane. This is why it is always smart to give yourself extra time for transportation and security. However, even if you do everything in your power to be on time for your flight, there are times when your flight will not be on time for you. When you are notified in advance that your flight will be delayed, you might assume you should shift your entire schedule back. But this is not the case.

Why you shouldn't get to the airport later

When planning out your schedule on the day of a flight, you need to account for transportation, check-in, and security wait times. Douglas Jensen, a top-level elite frequent flier with over four decades of experience, told USA Today, "I always allow two hours for domestic flights and three hours for international flights." This is the protocol that most people follow. But, if a few hours before you were planning to leave, you get a notification that your flight is going to be delayed, you might consider giving yourself some extra time to relax before heading out of the house.

In that case, you'd simply apply Jensen's same math to the new time that the airline has given you. This seems logical, but it's not the smartest decision. Most airlines will avoid reverting a delay to an earlier time if a delay notification has already been sent out, but it's not impossible that they do this anyway. For instance, JetBlue's website states "For delays, we suggest you arrive at the airport for the originally scheduled departure time. If conditions allow, the estimated departure time could be moved up." Furthermore, they write, "The flight is not able to wait for customers who are not there."

Your options depend on the delay time

Depending on the amount of time that your flight is delayed, your options for how to approach the situation could vary. Again, your best option in all cases is to arrive at the same time that you would have planned for your flight's original take-off time. However, there is a difference between a 30 minute delay and a two hour delay. If your delay is two hours or more, you can indeed be more relaxed about your punctuality. Regardless of the delay time, we wouldn't recommend anything more than a 30-minute adjustment to your own schedule.

If the delay is greater than three hours, many airlines will provide you with a kind of reimbursement payment for a meal purchase. If your flight is delayed for even longer or overnight, you can get a full reimbursement, a new flight, and/or a refund on your hotel, food, and drinks.