Smooth Sailing: How To Handle Air Travel Delays Like a Pro

You might think that because I've traveled a lot that I'm immune to the stress of travel delays. You would also be wrong! Even the most seasoned of travelers can be bested by weather delays, hotel overbooking, rental car mixups, and lost luggage. The advantage I DO have, is enough experience with all of these to have tried and true tactics for keeping my cool when it seems like the world is ending.


1. Perspective

This is really the single most important one on my list because all of the other tactics are much more manageable if you can keep perspective. When plans change and it's completely out of our control (which is most of the time), a very normal instinct is to look for someone or something to blame; and, when we find that thing, we direct all of our angst and anger in its direction.

The problem here, is that no one is really "to blame." Things happen. Weather is unpredictable. Systems sometimes break down. People make innocent mistakes. I promise you that NO ONE wants the interruption to happen, especially the airlines and their employees. They definitely do NOT want to deal with angry customers, the expense of delays, equipment repairs, flight crew changes, making announcements, moving luggage, sending mass text messages.

When I want to be home with my family more than anything; but, I'm sipping a $10 airport Frappuccino and still waiting for my flight 4 hours later (oh, hello there missed connection), I remind myself that no one wanted this to happen. There are others dealing with the logistical nightmare and there are angry customers lined up to use customer service reps as punching bags. I remember that if getting home late(r) is the worst thing that happens in my day, I'm doing alright.


2. Kindness

I don't feel like this should need explanation- but here we are. I've seen more customers unload their anger and frustration on gate agents than I care to acknowledge. And, for what? Did it get them what they needed? Nope. Did it make them look like an immature ass? Yep. Did it make the gate agent feel bad about something over which they have no control? Yep.

It's never ok to blast a customer service agent. Let me say that one more time for those of you in the back: It's NEVER ok to blast a customer service agent!

Hard Stop.

They have little to no control over what's happening and I guarantee their headache and stress is much greater in these situations than anyone else affected. Make it a little easier on them (and yourself) by being understanding and kind. It's ok to be frustrated- but it's not okay to make someone else the object of your frustration. They understand that you don't want this delay and they really do want to get you home as quickly as possible.

I'll go even further than saying "don't take your anger out on the airline employees" and say, intentionally extend a kind word. A simple, "hey, you're doing a great job!" or "Hang in there, I know this is no fun" goes a long way. We're all in this together - let's make the best of it. Why be delayed and miserable, when you can be delayed and make someone's day. Kindness is contagious, you can help collectively lift the spirits of your fellow traveler by exuding joy in hard situations. Either way you're delayed. Control what you can (your emotions) and don't stress the rest.

3. Flexibility and Managing Expectations

None of us expects our travel to be derailed by weather or mechanical issues. And in the grand scheme of things, these issues don't happen all that often. When I travel, I expect things to go smoothly; but, I remain flexible to the possibility that there may be hiccups. If I'm traveling to something that I absolutely cannot miss or reschedule, I take that into account in choosing my flights. It isn't the airline's fault if I book a flight that gives me no room for error and delays- that's on me. They have NO idea where I have to be, when, or why. It's my job to plan properly.

When you drive to an appointment, do you take traffic patterns into account? Yes. Same should apply with air travel - ask yourself how much cushion you have and how flexible your plans are. If you're cutting it close, you may want to figure out a different schedule - OR - be prepared to not make your appointment if there is a delay.


Travel can be stressful, change is super stressful. Put those together and it can be a pressure cooker; but, I hope you'll remember these three things the next time you find your blood pressure rising when they announce that your flight has been delayed!

Ever have a super stressful flight delay? I'd love to hear how you handled it, what kinds of acting out you saw, and what you learned from it!

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