Flight Attendants Tell What To Do When Your Flight Is Delayed

Thanksgiving travel, a.k.a., total chaos, is upon us. Delays are every traveler's nightmare. So what can you do? The good news is that airlines are not looking to have delayed flights. They want to fix the situation as soon as possible and keep you as a customer. But there are a few things you need to know to get what you want.

You actually should listen to the gate agents

Turn to the people who know the situation best – gate agents. "There have been many times I have seen people miss their flight that they have experienced an extended delay; pretty much all due to confusion and not retaining any pertinent information to a delay," Gabriel Vasquez, American Airlines Gate Agent, says.

You are compensated at the airport

"It's not what you think," Vasquez says. If your flight is on a maintenance delay, usually after a couple of hours, the airline will distribute a meal voucher for your inconvenience, he adds. "Sometimes on a weather delay, or diversion of a flight, we will accommodate passengers just the same as a maintenance delay."

The airline is responsible for transporting you, but that’s it

On a weather delay, the airline is responsible for transporting you from point A to point B, and that is pretty much what it boils down to, Vasquez says. "There are no amenities such as food vouchers and a hotel as weather is unpredictable and the airlines will not hold responsibility for this occurrence." Do not expect compensation for a weather delay as this is not the airline's fault, he adds. "The passengers are rebooked and only given a distressed rate for a hotel."

Always stay hydrated

Don't underestimate the power of water. "Day in and day out, I see a number of passengers ask for water that are severely parched; as a result of their flight being delayed and them rushing to their gate," Vasquez says. "Imagine, the hottest day of the year in Phoenix, it's 117 degrees outside and your thirst just needs to be quenched." He says he also suggests food, because everybody needs substance.

Complimentary Wi-Fi

On a delay, it is always best to be occupied as you never know how many hours it will take to fix the issue at hand," Lia Volpe-Drobot from Flight Attendant Prep Academy says. "Most major airports offer complimentary Wi-Fi and you are allowed to connect for free while on a layover." It would be best to check to see if the airport that you are experiencing a delay has free Wi-Fi and pack a portable device where you can watch a movie, whether it being your phone, iPad, Tablet etc." This will also help keep the children occupied as well.


"If you find yourself stuck for a few hours and wearing comfortable clothes as well as tennis shoes, we always recommend taking a leisurely stroll around the airport," Volpe-Drobot says. Getting some exercise is always a nice way to pass some time as well as shed some calories (especially during the holiday season). "Some airports even have a specific walking trail so that you can go for a walk in the terminal." See your gate agent for more detailed information.

Airline clubs

If you are a frequent flyer, you are able to go to an airline club that is normally hidden throughout the airport terminal, Volpe-Drobot says. "This is where you can take a load off, have some quiet time, enjoy a cocktail, and have some snacks." There is always an agent in the club to help you out whenever you need something, she adds. If you are not a frequent flyer and have privileges to this airline club, you are still allowed to come in and enjoy the amenities for a minimal fee.

Outside of security

A lot of passengers do not realize that they are allowed to go out of security IF and ONLY IF they have a boarding pass for the next flight, Volpe-Drobot says. "If they are delayed for four hours, they are able to go outside and take a look around; sometimes they have art galleries, gift shops, restaurants and other attractions that are on the outside of the airport." You will need your boarding pass and to go through TSA to get back through and head to your gate, she adds. But do not miss your flight; the airlines will not book it for you. It's ultimately your own responsibility to come back on time.

Delays longer than 4 hours

This is very important, Volpe-Drobot says. "The biggest airline secret of all is that if a flight is more than 4 hours delayed, chances are, the flight will end up being cancelled and you will be re-accommodated to the next flight available."

Call and ask to be rebooked

The reality of the situation is that you're not the only person who is delayed. Hundreds more are in the same boat as you. Airline and airport staff are extremely busy trying to accommodate everyone. It may be quicker to call the airline's customer service line and ask to be rebooked. You can also do that via the airline's affiliate app if you have it on your phone.

Use social media to your advantage

Believe it or not, this is one of the fastest ways to get the company's attention. No one wants bad publicity. Social media, being so public and viral, has a lot of power. Use it to your advantage by reaching out to your carrier on Twitter or Facebook. They will likely get back to you within minutes, depending on how serious your problem is. Just don't be rude.

You may be entitled to some money back

This really depends on what your destination is. Countries in the European Union have different rules. According to a regulation from 2004, if your flight has arrived at its final destination more than three hours after it was supposed to, you may be entitled to get some of your money back. How much exactly depends on flight distance and delays length.

Don’t be quick to accept offers

There is nothing wrong with trying to negotiate a better deal. If you are too quick to accept an offer, even for future flights, you may be waiving your right to further compensation. Airlines are not obligated to give you anything for free but they often do as a way of keeping you loyal. Use this as leverage to get the best offer possible.