What to do when you’re delayed

There’s nothing worse than missing your flight … except perhaps sitting around the airport when you’re on time, but the airline isn’t!

Here’s a quick guide to coping with those annoying travel delays …

Minimising the risk of flight delays

For a smooth schedule, planning is key – so don’t cut it fine! When organising your flights, follow these sensible guidelines:

  • Research the available airlines before making a booking – do some have a worse history of delays than others? Speak to friends and colleagues; look at the airlines’ websites and scan their social media profiles to assess compliments and complaints.
  • Before booking, check the airline’s policies for cancelling or changing flights
  • Wherever possible, book the earliest flight of the day – generally, these early bird flights leave on time. When flight delays occur, they cause back-ups down the flight schedule as the day wears on.
  • Leave yourself plenty of time to travel to the airport – factor in some extra time in case you encounter a road traffic accident on the way. If you’ve booked the early flight, the roads will be quieter than if you have to travel in peak-hour traffic.
  • Leave yourself plenty of time between connecting flights – having some time to play with between flights is useful if you’re delayed along the first part of your journey.
  • For peace of mind, fly directly to your destination wherever possible (eliminate connecting flights)
  • Set your alarm to wake up bright and early in the morning or a reminder on your phone so that you don’t lose track of time in meetings or when sightseeing
  • Check whether flights are on schedule by visiting the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) website and checking the Live Flight Info. You can even request flight notifications and updates to be SMS’d to your cell phone.
  • If you’re in a city which offers a rapid-transit bus service directly to the airport (like Johannesburg’s Gautrain), make use of this facility rather than travelling by road – this way, you’ll bypass any traffic issues.

What to do when you’re running late

Even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry – an important meeting runs over time, you get caught up in a traffic snag, or bad weather throws a spanner in the works. Relax! You can deal with it…

  • Call your airline (save the number in your phone before you leave home) and tell them that you’re going to be late – ask them if the flight is running on time (or check ACSA’s Live Flight Info).
  • If you think you’ll make the flight, but won’t be able to book in the required hour in advance, ask the airline if they’ll hold the flight for you and let them know that you’ll book in online or at a self-service kiosk.
  • If you suspect that you won’t make the flight, ask them to book you in on the next available flight. If flights are busy, you may even have to switch airlines. Speak nicely to the staff manning the reservations desk, though, and they’ll make a plan for you.
  • If your airline has the facility, you can manage flight changes yourself online.
  • Call your car rental company to let them know you’ll be late and re-schedule your arrangements or call your lift and let them know the same.
  • Let your clients and colleagues know you’re running late.

If you do happen to miss your flight, book another flight out as soon as you can! Rotten luck, though – if the delay wasn’t a direct result of the airline’s operations, you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket. It’s worth checking however, if you can change flights without penalties.

Flight delays and cancellations

You’re at the airport with bags of time to spare but, alas, your flight is delayed! You’ll have to:

  • Call ahead to check whether your connecting flights are on time and/or reschedule them
  • Call your car rental company or lift and reschedule those arrangements as well
  • Inform colleagues and clients that you’ll be late and reschedule your meetings
  • Visit the airport bookstore, grab some good reading material and a cup of coffee
  • Or, if you can’t get another flight until the next day, book into an airport hotel or one nearby.

Airlines sometimes cancel flights in extreme circumstances, like bad weather or technical problems. Here’s what you need to know:

  • All airlines have policies regarding procedures at times like these – make sure you know what they are. Visit their website or enquire at the reservations desk. Remember: be as polite as possible to the staff on hand – they’re dealing with a crisis and will be more willing to help those who’re asking nicely.
  • Generally, airlines are exempt from compensating passengers for the cancelled flight, or providing accommodation and transport, if flights are cancelled due to bad weather. This is because bad weather is legally considered ‘an act of God’, and hence out of their control. Make sure you book yourself into a hotel before the other passengers snap up all available hotel beds!
  • If a technical or operational glitch forces the cancellation of your flight, however, you should be compensated and booked into a hotel for overnight delays.
  • Remember to call ahead and change the details of your connecting flights and let clients, colleagues or loved ones that you’re delayed.

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