What to Do if You're Stuck in an Airport Terminal

What do you do if your flight is delayed and/or cancelled, and you find yourself stuck in an airport terminal? 

I’ve had clients stuck in various places – including London with the Icelandic ash cloud situation, Mexico City and Marseille with severe windstorms, and Charlotte with the east coast snowpocalypse.  Obviously, I welcome all calls from clients before, during, and after their travel (and I always make sure they have my business card with them). It’s always challenging for me to help if I haven’t booked the clients’ flights, and/or they haven’t booked online with my website (www.vision2000.ca/sheilagh) because I can’t easily access their files as the travel agent of record. However, I always do my best to help, especially if someone is stranded.

Here are my suggestions if you find yourself stuck.

1. First of all, please take a deep breath. Do NOT lose your patience with the airline gate agents. They are likely overworked, and under pressure, with whatever change has you in front of them. Everyone affected is going to be upset, and likely short-tempered, with their itinerary change. The gate agents are the people you are relying on to help you out. Treat them with respect because they didn’t create the problem you are asking them to solve. Remember – you can always catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!

2. Contact your travel agent. See what assistance you can get from your advocate.  Not only is that person out of the pressure cooker, but they likely have broader information than you, and can assess the seriousness of the situation, and offer some assistance. (Perhaps they can get/ buy you a day pass to the airport lounge. Perhaps they can reroute you on another airline, or via another city. And if rerouting is not possible, or is too costly, they can help you book hotel rooms.)

3. If you absolutely, positively have to use your laptop/electronics, set yourself up near an outlet/plug in in the terminal early – and stay there.

4. For prolonged delays, try to remove yourself from the stressful environment if you can. Go grab a coffee or a beer. Find a quiet corner. If you’re travelling with children, find an activity to keep them occupied (and have/ buy extra diapers and milk right away… just in case…).  If the stay will be lengthy, check with the gate agent/ security to see if you can leave the terminal to get some fresh air.  (You’ll have to go through security again, but the restorative break may be worth it!)

No one wants to live in a terminal, but there are news stories that the Tom Hanks movie “The Terminal” was based on and/or has been mirrored in reality. http://www.snopes.com/travel/airline/airport.asp and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4097939.stm

But the reality of airline travel these days is that delays and cancellations can be part of your adventure. As the traveller, you are responsable for your reaction – you are response-able! Choose wisely for yourself and your family, and find a way to deal with the stressful situation as best you can.

And creativity always wins. These two sports photographers were stranded overnight in Dallas Fort Worth recently, when their flights were cancelled. I’m not sure how it’s possible they were alone as much as they were, but you gotta take your hat off to them, and the clever youtube video they posted.  Now that’s finding a way to deal with the stress in a creative way!