How to make the most of a flight delay

Alex Keshen

“Delayed”. No one wants to see that dreaded red text appear on the monitors above the airport gate.

Especially when you have a tight connection to make.


But, unfortunately, flight delays are inevitable, unavoidable and out of your control.

And as frustrating as they can be, there are some options you can take to make the experience a bit less stressful.

Here’s what you can do if your flight is delayed.

Take advantage of free stopover tours and excursions

If you’re stuck with a long enough delay, check and see if the airport you’re at offers any complimentary stopover programs.

Some airports that offer this perk include Seoul’s Incheon International Airport (called Transit Tours) and Singapore’s Changi International Airport.

As long as you don’t require a visa to leave the airport (or if you already have one), these tours are a great way to experience the city and kill some time.

I took advantage of a morning temple tour during a stopover in Seoul a few years ago and if I had more time, I would have definitely signed up for more.

Ask the airline for compensation

If you don’t ask, you’ll never know what you can get.

When flights are significantly delayed, airlines may offer their stranded passengers food and drinks and even accommodation in the event of an overnight delay.

Some countries actually have laws entitling you to these benefits if you experience a delayed or cancelled flight.

If you’re delayed on a flight departing from the UK or a country within the EU, you’re entitled to monetary compensation of at least €250 (around $400) for delays of three hours or more.

According to Qantas’s website, they’ll up the amount to at least €300 ($481 AUD) if you arrive three hours after your scheduled time on a flight departing from the UK or EU.

Australian airlines don’t have clear-cut rules in place regarding travellers’ rights in the event of a delay.

You’ll need to check directly with the airline you’ve booked with to see what you can get.

Find out if you can be put on standby for another flight, or get a flight to/from another airport nearby

On a recent Air Canada flight from Quebec City to Toronto via Montreal, my first flight was delayed by an hour, causing me to miss my connection from Montreal to Toronto.

Luckily, flights between these two cities are just as frequent as the Sydney to Melbourne route.

Unluckily, the rest of the Air Canada flights for that day were already at capacity.

However, the airline was able to offer me two options: I could be put on the standby list and wait at the gate for each flight until a seat opened up, or I could be re-routed to another airport (Toronto has two).

While this option will only work when regular flights are scheduled to your final destination or when there is an alternate airport available, the airline may be able to comply with your request.

Standby options are usually only available to those travelling without checked luggage, as your suitcase can’t be moved easily from flight to flight.

See what there is to do at the airport itself

These days, airports are upping the ante and bringing the airport experience to a whole new level.

Aside from the fact they’re turning into shopping centres with much more than just duty-free goods and souvenirs to buy, airports are offering new and innovative ways for you to spend your time, rather than just waiting at the gate.

Often lauded as the world’s best airport, Singapore’s Changi International Airport has a butterfly garden and a rooftop pool.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong International Airport boasts an IMAX theatre.

Make sure you have travel insurance that covers delays

Until there’s a time that you actually need it, it’s pretty common to just brush off the idea of travel insurance, especially for domestic trips. Don’t.

For those times that your flight is delayed or your luggage arrives a few days late, your policy can cover you for what the airline doesn’t, especially if you’re flying on a budget carrier outside of an area that has laws protecting you.

Look for a policy that includes cover for alternative travel expenses or disruption of journey.

This ensures that you’ll be reimbursed for the cost of new travel arrangements or for food and accommodation should you be stuck overnight.

Policies including a daily allowance when your luggage is lost will allow you to claim back for any clothing or personal items (like toiletries) that you need to purchase while your luggage is lost or delayed.

Alex Keshen is a travel publisher at 


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