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5 Tips for Surviving Airport Delays

Dec. 9, 2011
Personal Finance
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

The gist: If you’re stranded in a faraway airport, we’ll help you save money, time and heartache.

1. Stay on top of your flights

We probably don’t need to tell you this, but having a smartphone just makes life easier. If your flight’s been delayed or canceled (or if you just missed it), a number of apps can give you updates on your flight status, or can help you book a new one. Our top picks:

  • FlightAware Flight Tracker lets you see flight status real-time, locates your flight’s gate and terminal, and gives you push notifications if anything changes. Best of all, it’s free.
  • NextFlight does exactly what you think it does. Did you miss the final boarding call? You can quickly search for flights on multiple carriers from a given airport to another, for up to two days in the future. Kayak does that, of course, but NextFlight shows you flight status and gate/terminal information as well, so you can sprint if you need to.

2. Know when to get out of Dodge

If your flight was canceled because of an incoming snowstorm, your best bet might be to get the first flight out of town, wherever it’s going, and make your way home from there. Check the weather alerts, and if it looks like departures are dropping like flies, ask an airline attendant to book you the next flight going to a major hub. You can figure it out from there. The airline will probably pay for the difference (no guarantees, of course), and it’s better to spend an extra 2-3 hours in flight than to be stuck in an airport for days on end.

3. Check your credit card’s benefits

Some credit cards, especially rewards or travel cards, will give you a stipend if your flight is interrupted or cancelled. American Express allows you to purchase travel delay insurance, while the Discover Escape gives you $150 each day you’re delayed. Depending on your card network, you can also get delayed or lost baggage insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and a few other exciting perks.

4. Get someone to make the phone calls for you

Most rewards credit cards come with a concierge service, whether it’s a dedicated 1-800 number for AmEx Platinum cardholders or a more accessible hotline. The concierge can help you book the next flight out, find a hotel, or even get you a dinner reservation now that you have time to kill. (You can even ask them to buy your girlfriend flowers on Valentine’s Day).

Cards with concierge service:

  • Visa Signature (pretty extensive, includes the no-fee Chase Freedom and most branded credit cards)
  • MasterCard World, World Elite, Platinum and Black
  • American Express Platinum, Delta Reserve and Centurion
  • Discover (they don’t offer a full-on concierge service, but they do give you travel booking/emergency assistance, weather reports and a few other goodies)