The last thing anyone of us wants to hear is that boarding has closed for our connecting flight. Or, as in my own case, that the flight was already taxiing for take-off as we landed, resulting in an unplanned six hour lay-over in the Middle East. An unplanned six hour lay-over in a small airport with no meaningful air conditioning. That can frazzle the nerves quite badly.
Get the details
The first thing to do is head for your airline’s ticket desk. Find out what flight you have been put onto. If you have a connecting fight on the same ticket, ask for the details of what the new connecting flight will be. Should you have booked your ticket through an agent, you can call the agent as well, but we would still suggest getting the information first hand at the airport – the airline staff are almost certainly better informed and of more immediate help to you than an agent who is possibly half the world away. And maybe asleep in bed.
If the delay is going to leave you stuck overnight, ask if accommodation will be provided.
Your travel insurance may cover basic essentials and food as part of “delayed connection cover” but this may only activate after a certain number of hours. (Usually from about six hours.) Most policies work on a claim-back basis, so you will need to pay for items as needed and then claim back on arrival back in your home country.
If you have your policy wording in your hand luggage it will make it easier for you to check, but if the delay is as little as two hours, it is probably not covered. For more information on taking out travel insurance, please click here.
If an overnight stay is required and the airline agrees to put everyone up in a hotel, there may still be a problem. The airline is probably unable to provide you with a visa. (Even in those lands where the airline management is indistinguishable from the government, the airline is under no obligation to arrange a visa for you.)
If you know ahead of time that you will be transiting an airport that for visa reasons you may not leave, be sure to check before you travel if they have a transit hotel in the terminal. Then should you suffer an extended or overnight delay inconvenience, you could have this as an option B.
If you obtain a visa for a country with the intention of making a stop-over on the return leg, ensure that it is a multiple-entry visa if you will be close to the minimum connecting time on the outgoing leg. We heard of one group who were forced to spend a day and a half at an airport on their way back! Through no fault of their own they had missed the connecting flight on the forward leg of their journey and accepted the airline’s offer of a non-transit hotel for a few hours. On the way back the authorities refused them admission to the country because they had already used their single-entry visas!
The only warning that they could have had was that their connection time was exactly equal to the minimum connection time.
Stress, it is said, comes from your response to a situation, rather than the situation itself. Its easier said than done, but there is not much one can do to control what is really an external factor. If you are going to a key event that cannot be rescheduled, by all means check out other airlines and see if you can get an earlier flight or another mode of transport to your final destination.
If you are to attend a funeral, for instance, it is likely to be at short notice and you may have to leave on pretty much the first flight, leaving little time for delays in the schedule. You may need to adapt your plans as you go, particularly if there are delays due to bad weather. In many parts of Europe high-speed trains are about as quick city-to-city as the flight would have been, and may still be operating even when flights have been grounded.
If it’s not a matter of extreme urgency then you can while away the time at a coffee shop, unwind in an airport lounge if your budget permits, or simply sit on a bench and watch the world go by. You will get to your final destination in a better frame of mind.