Grounded!  What to do in an airport if your flight is delayed one, three, six or 12 hours |  Trip

Grounded! What to do in an airport if your flight is delayed one, three, six or 12 hours | Trip

Tit was supposed to be a glorious summer. With Covid greatly abated, it was going to be the first year since 2019 that we could all pack up and fly to warmer climes. Clearly, that has not happened.

There are several factors at play here. The UK cost of living crisis has put foreign travel out of reach for many; railway strikes have made access to the airport difficult; a new wave of Covid has prevented people from leaving their homes and more importantly the airports themselves are an absolute nightmare.

As a result, the flights of around 5,000 passengers from Heathrow were cancelled. Additionally, staff shortages mean Gatwick will operate up to 50 fewer flights a day during the summer months, with EasyJet alone cutting 11,000 flights. And, to make things even more interesting, British Airways check-in staff may go on strike next month. In other words: the chances of finding yourself stranded at the airport are impossibly high.

So what can you do? The sensible thing to do would be to stay at home, but failing that, here’s a practical guide to killing time in an airport.

If your flight is delayed an hour

if it's just an hour wait, why not go to the soft play facilities?
Slide… if it’s just an hour’s wait, why not head to the soft play facility? Photo: FamVeld/Getty//iStockphoto/Posed by Models

Usually this would be a cause of some frustration. This year, however, you are leaving lightly. Basically, the airport is your oyster. Just do the usual: you can stretch your legs with a few laps around the terminal, grab a bite to eat or enjoy some light shopping. If you have young children, now is the time to explore the soft play options the airport has to offer. Similarly, you can find a seat and kill time on your phone, as long as the wifi is working. Of course, there is also the pub. An hour in the pub probably won’t hurt. Either way, this will all be fine.

If your flight is delayed three hours

With three hours of Bluey, your child will hardly notice the delay.
Unheard screen… with three hours of Bluey, your child will barely notice the delay. Photograph: jacoblund/Getty/iStockphoto/Posed for Models

Now is the time to start thinking smart, because three hours is a particularly frustrating period of time: too long to spend doing nothing, but too short to start taking drastic action. For example, this is when poking around stores will get really tortuous. What’s more, unless you’re a ruthless nudge, all of your phone’s charging points will have been taken over by other disgruntled passengers, meaning you risk draining your battery with non-essential commuting.

However, if you have children, this is exactly what your tablets were made for. Find a seat anywhere you can, put on your headphones, and let them gorge on as many Bluey episodes as they’re willing to consume. Yeah sure, screen time is bad, but this is an emergency.

This is also the time period when stress management starts to become an issue. You can mitigate this in a couple of ways. If you’re at Heathrow, for example, you’ll find a spa in Terminal 5, where weary travelers can get massages and facials. Elsewhere, buy a book or opt for a leisurely, hearty meal. A three-hour pub visit can be risky, so proceed with caution.

If your flight is delayed six hours

The classrooms may not be as good as they seem, but you can keep it clean and they welcome bored children.
Power showers… The salons may not be as good as they seem, but you can stay clean and fresh in there. Photograph: Jan Mika/Alamy

We’ll start with the good news: a delay of this length qualifies you for compensation. Any delay of more than three hours entitles you to between £110 and £520, and Money Saving Expert has a free tool to help you claim it. You are also entitled to food and drink, which will usually be issued in the form of a voucher.

But this is not going to solve everything. After six hours in an airport, you’ll be crazy with equal parts stress and boredom, and your kids, if you have any, will have gone wild long ago. Free options to kill time are still available (all airports have prayer rooms, which at least offer some quiet). But if you have compensation coming up, this may be the time to consider spending on a salon. These will have food and drink, and often showers, and do not flinch at the sight of children. It is true that they are relatively expensive and not always as luxurious as they say; Also, they usually kick you out after three hours, but needs to, and if you’re nice, they’ll probably extend your stay for free. Whatever you do, definitely, definitely don’t spend six hours in the pub.

If your flight is delayed by 12 hours

if you are 12 hours late, consider trading this for your bed and try again next year.
Catch the flight…if you’re 12 hours late, seriously consider exchanging this for your own bed. Photograph: Alex Segre/Alamy

Oh God, go home. Look to you. You’re falling apart at the seams. Technically, if your delay extends into the next day, the airline will provide you with accommodation. But if not, what are you going to do? You’ve explored all the godforsaken corners of the airport. All your electrical devices lost power six hours ago. The salon staff can’t stand to see you. Your children will not stop crying. All you’ll remember from this vacation is the terrible time you had to get there. A delay of this length also qualifies you for a full refund, so cut your losses, come home, and try again in one less hell of a year. Alternatively, go to the pub.

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