9 Things That Will Keep You From Getting Stranded In The Airport

This passenger felt stuck between Scylla and Charybdis:

It’s easy to rage at an airline on social media. But unless your tweet goes super viral it’s not likely to get you much. Better to take ownership of the situation yourself. Here’s 9 ways to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

  • Ask to be rebooked on a later flight. Sure 6 .am. gets you to your vacation faster, but is 2 hours of sleep or sleeping at the airport an enjoyable part of your vacation?

  • Book a closer hotel yourself. I completely understand that this can be cost-prohibitive for some, but vacation often entails unexpected costs (you may even test positive for Covid asymptomatically as so by surprise and have several extra days of lodging on the back end). You probably don’t want the room the airline will give you free, anyway.

  • Pay attention to what credit card you use to pay for the tickets, because trip delay coverage will generally pay in the event of a forced overnight – book your own room, save the receipts not just for the room but also meals and transportation back and forth.

  • Strategically choose your connections. You can’t eliminate all risk, but if a delay will cause insurmountable problems for your trip then avoid difficult hubs (New York airspace) with short or even normal connections where a delay is going to prevent you from making it to your destination. Avoid connecting to the last flight of the night. Have backup itinerary options in mind (these can sell out).

  • Price a new ticket on another airline the itinerary ight be better and last-minute trips aren’t always expensive with ultra low cost carrier competition. Consider how much incremental cost you’ll face buying a new itinerary and paying for it (at least in part) with a refund of your original ticket, versus the cost (both cash and otherwise) of the overnighting options you face.

  • Don’t just accept whatever flight the airline offers you, do your own homework. Even if you’re not an expert at using tools to find inventory, just do a search of flights for sale and if something it available to purchase it’ll usually be possible to put you onto that flight when there’s a delay or cancellation.

  • Inventory changes all the time so keep checking for something better. People miss flights, change flights, keep refreshing your options if the flight you’d prefer is sold out.

  • Ask someone else for help. If the person helping you isn’t giving you what you want, call/online chat/use twitter or find someone at the gate, customer service, ticket counter, etc. If you get told no three times maybe it is no but you might find someone to go the extra mile for you if it’s possible to do so.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Adding to the last one: sometimes a stranger can be a huge help. I had a delay 2 years ago due to the AA mechanics tomfoolery and the folks in the Admirals Club/Gate Agents were of zero help. They couldn’t grasp that the delay was going to cause me to misconnect to AMS.

    Thankfully a kind man overheard my issue and called his concierge key line. He was able to get me a confirmed seat on a better routing (MIA-LHR-AMS, whereas AC agent wanted me to do MIA-DFW-LHR-AMS and GA told me to fly to DFW and figure it out there)

  2. There is only one way to know you will avoid getting stranded at an airport…..don’t fly with a US carrier.

  3. Happened to me at Bush Airport a few years ago. Offered 6am flight after missing last flight to Austin. My original flight getting there was in the morning but 2 planes broke down.
    Asked for later flight no problem.
    I got to enjoy the 5 star hotel AA put me at. Score!

  4. Another suggestion fly to a nearby city and rent a one way rental car to your airport destination.It maybe faster and more economical than dealing with hotels, shuttles, etc. especially if cancellations due to weather.

  5. @CommonSense that makes no sense. No non-US carrier fly within the US. Also, all airlines have delays.

  6. Paying a one time fee and talking to the folks at the airline club can also be good option.

    I had a missed connection due to mechanical. The gate agents and the phone agents said it would be two days to be confirmed (Labor day weekend Chicago to Traverse City). Went to the lounge and asked for help and the lovely ladies extolled how beautiful Traverse City is and had me confirmed on the next flight.

  7. I was connecting through Houston Saturday afternoon, lots of storms in the area. United did a great great job for me with connection saver. The communication was a bit lacking. I’m guessing people who were returning to Houston on my airplane likely did not get a connection though.

  8. Do your due diligence, choose an airline that has a decent on time and low cancellation numbers, along with decent reroute capabilities goes a long way towards alleviating issues. I have a project coming up in west Texas. AA has a dismal record of cancelling flights between DFW-AMA. Delta is much more reliable between ATL-ABQ. It will mean an extra hour and a half of driving on my part, however, the odds are much better I will get there.

  9. These are all common sense but most infrequent travelers are clueless and just accept what the airline tells them because they don’t know any better.

    The #1 tip I give everyone is to get a CSR or Amex card that includes decent travel insurance. Then you simply book the hotel of your choice when you are stranded and submit the claim later. CSR is better because it covers one-way tix and mileage tix (just charge the taxes to CSR).

    Nobody should ever sleep in an airport who does not choose to do so. There are always other options though of course they might involve a later flight.

  10. Great advice Gary

    @John C – good tip, I’ve done that a few times myself.

    The internet and smart phones have made it much easier to deal with problems than it was way back in the day (I know I’m dating myself!)

  11. Connect through an airport with in-terminal hotel and book a room the moment you know about the delay. DTW SFO YVR SFO and others.

  12. It’s too bad that most airlines don’t follow the old FAA Rule 240 which said, that an airline with a delayed or canceled flight had to transfer passengers to another carrier if the second carrier could get passengers to the destination more quickly than the original airline. Keep in mind, this did not apply to a force majeure event. Many travelers falsely believe that the airline MUST provide compensation/hotel/meals, etc. but they don’t. Many travelers use travel agents which can be very beneficial however, in many cases, the airline can’t change a travel agent’s itinerary due to a lockout within the reservations systems. If the traveler gets into a jam, one must call the travel agent to correct any errors.

  13. Just try to not have a stop. Even if the non-stop is more expensive, you have improved your odds.

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