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Airline Aggravation: How to Deal with Unexpected Delays

 Sometimes travels don't go as planned.
Know how to go, before you go! :)

So! It’s official! You’re going to study abroad! You’ve filled out the paperwork, picked your location, and booked your flight. Now, the day is finally here and you just need to get there…You  just    need      to        get                 there……

And here is one of your first challenges when it comes to studying abroad.

Perhaps you are like me. I’ve traveled to a number of places around the globe, but primarily with groups of people. Thus most of the planning was done for me and all I had to do is hop and a plane and be on my way. Maybe you are cultured! Flying to Costa Rica was my first flying experience alone and it came with some unexpected events.

Flights don’t always go as expected. Know this: FLIGHTS DO NOT ALWAYS GO AS EXPECTED. My wish for you is that your travel plans go as intended, but just tuck in the back of your mind the possibility that you may not have control of the circumstances.

My situation involved having a friend’s family drop me off at 4:45 am for my 6:25 am flight. I easily checked in at the counter, got my boarding passes, and getting through security didn’t take very long for me. I found my gate in the small Pensacola airport and prepared to just take at easy for around an hour and twenty-five minutes.

We board the plane, begin taxiing…meanwhile, Houston is flooding. So, we deplane. The pilot informs us that it will be at least an hour before an executive decision is made regarding when we can fly out. What?! I only had 40 minutes to get to my connecting flight. This is NOT going to work.

So, I take a second to freak out. (Shelby, you don’t even have a clue what to do!) But I realize I’m freaking out, and that I am a big girl, and proceed to take a deep breath.
Around 3 hours later, we flew out and I made my way to Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. After sprinting to see if I could make the next connecting flight, which had also been delayed, I got to the gate with 10 minutes to spare and they had 2 seats open…. BUT my bag wouldn’t be there for another 12 hours. I did not feel comfortable with that, so next flight leaves in 9 hours. Alright! Let’s play the waiting game!

Long story short is… Unfortunately, things may not always go as planned when it comes to flying to your location. You just have to make the best of it! Just keep in mind that you WILL get there eventually and in fact, you will be all the more excited when you arrive! I am still being teased for my eager face when CEA picked me up late Sunday night. I was thrilled to finally make it to San Jose!

Here is my advice to survive the airport and its aggravations when things do not go as planned.

  1.  When you are booking your flight, look at all of your options. If possible, pick the earliest arrival (of course at a decent time) to ensure your flexibility and safety. This will give you more room to have a “backup plan” and arriving in the daytime is always preferable.
  2. Look also at the layover time. If you have a choice, I recommend a 2--hour gap so that you have, again, flexibility as well as enough time to find your connecting gate, use the restroom, grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.
  3. I recommend downloading the app associated with your airline. This will be helpful for a number of reasons. If your flight is delayed, it will not only update with the next scheduled time to fly out, but most likely give you several options to pick from. (Also, a number of the apps will even let you pick your seat! I picked all window seats!:) )
  4. Don’t forget to throw some essentials in your carry on. They may come in handy if something doesn’t go right.
  5. So you’ve been delayed. Now what?  a. Take a deeeeeep breath. ☺ You can do this!
  6. Call the airline with your confirmation code ready. They can give you more information about accommodations. The representative at your gate is also a good person to talk to, but they may be busy with others from your flight, therefore not your “speedy” option  a. Know that if the airport you are flying into does not receive flights due to a weather delay or something similar (such as my situation), the flights will automatically roll over in most cases.  b. If it’s early in the morning, maybe grab a bagel and some coffee. It will make you feel better…really!
  7. Notify your site specialist so that they can plan accordingly for your pickup later.
  8. You may have a reallllly long layover. Find some cute kids and don’t forget to laugh. ☺ T
  9. Take a nap. You weren’t planning on your new arrival time and you don’t want to show up extremely exhausted. I found a group of college kids in the corner of my terminal who also planned on sleeping some time away. We sort of took informal “shifts” to keep an eye out for trouble. Remember that if you have a carry on, you have to keep it close to you so that it does not get stolen. Consider it a pillow! Be creative. I had a beach towel in my carry on, so I used it as a blanket and my bag as a pillow. It worked just dandy! Don’t forget to set a reasonable alarm as well. Don’t forget to eat and take care of yourself.
  10. Go with it! Keep an eye on your new gate and departure time. Eventually, you will get to your destination and be all the more joyful in being there! Make the best of traveling and soon your study abroad begins!

Best of luck to you rookie travelers, (and also to the veterans). May the flight be ever in your favor.

 Download the App for your flight.
This can help keep you updated,
and you can sometimes
even pick your seats!
 Find a place to take a nap!
Be safe and creative with this one!

Shelby Stolze is the Summer 2015 CEA MOJO in San Jose, Costa Rica. She is currently a Senior at Concordia University Nebraska.

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