It’s 2007 and I am attempting to fly from Cape Town to New York City. I am quite a punctual person and a stickler for rules too. You want me there three hours before my international flight? Sure, no problem. So here I am, 3pm on a Thursday, standing in a line to check-in for my 6pm flight to JFK. I am third in line and realize that I have not moved in fifteen minutes. An airport employee makes an announcement “Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to inform you that we are facing some technical difficulties with our system. Please be patient while we try to fix the problem”.
Three hours later the problem is fixed. I check in my bags. My flight has obviously been delayed at this point. As I am about to exit immigration I see that our flight has now been delayed further, with a boarding time of 8:25pm. I approach an airport employee, asking for information. Apparently there has been a fault with the engine. Okay, fair. I would rather they realize this beforehand, and sort out the problem. A few hours later the engine fault is fixed. But now the pilot has been awake for too long, and cannot legally fly. We need a new pilot. It is now close to midnight. After some more time waiting, we are herded into a shuttle bus and taken to a nearby hotel for a few hours of sleep. Back to the airport Friday morning at 7am. More delays. More waiting. We finally leave at 10am.
Any delay can be a frustration, and I was especially frustrated and bored through all the waiting. I had planned to sleep through the flight, and maybe watch a couple of movies on the plane. I had not prepared myself for hours of waiting. Now I always make sure that I am prepared. Here are my top tips for making delays bearable.
Make sure you have a spare change of clothing. Nothing is worse than having to sit in the same sweaty clothes for longer than needed. If you have not already, invest in a decent travelling pillow. It makes all the difference for your neck!
If you have someone waiting for you at your destination, contact them to let them know that you are facing delays. It may seem obvious, but in all the rush and chaos of plans changing, this is something that can easily be overlooked. Also, make sure that you have enough local currency or a reliable bank card that will work. While airlines often provide meal vouchers during long delays, they are not legally obliged to do so. Therefore, it’s always good to have your own supply of cash on hand.
So this is the most important thing. You are going to be somewhere between mildly and severely angry about your delay, depending on your tolerance for plans to change. You need to have an arsenal of options for entertainment. Luckily most airports supply you with at least some free Wi-Fi access. If you run out of your free Wi-Fi, go have a coffee at a restaurant. You’ll probably need the caffeine, and most restaurants at airports will have their Wi-Fi that you are free to use as a customer. So now that you have internet connection, your options are open! For me the best thing to do is find something online that you can become super engrossed in. You want to forget about the delay and let time whizz by. My personal favorites include cat videos, and some super cool online slots games. And the best part is that you can play these from your mobile phone! So if you’re not travelling with your laptop, you can still have some fun!