How Can We Anticipate Flight Delays

Q:  My husband and I are frequent fliers. Recently, his flight was delayed for four hours. We knew it would be late taking off before we left for the airport, but we weren’t sure whether he still had to check in at the normal time. He was unable to check in on line so didn’t have a boarding card. And since he was aware that the flight was full, we played safe by going to the airport, checking him in, and then leaving for four hours; but it was a shame to waste the time coming and going. Are there any rules about reporting times when a flight is known in advance to be delayed? Do the rules vary by airline and airport?

Peggy Henderson, Geneva:

A: I sympathize. But at least you live close to the airport. I wouldn’t mind $10 for the number of times I have sat around fruitlessly at Geneva airport for a delayed flight after driving 45 miles from my office in Lausanne. Airlines seldom warn in advance how long flights will be delayed but disingenuously drip-feed you information in the departure lounge; which is why one has to stick around until the airline suddenly announces that the flight is boarding – or has been canceled.

It is always good to check in and print your boarding pass on line. And call the airport or airline if there are obvious signs of disruption, such as bad weather. Old-fashioned contacts are always useful. Try to cultivate the airline station manager and get his or her cell phone number.

Airlines may or may not call you with advice on delays or flight cancellations – depending on the color of your plastic, or your elite status in the frequent flier food chain.

The International Air Transport Association, next door to Geneva Airport, envisages a scenario whereby an airline would send an SMS message to passengers on the cell phones, saying, ‘don’t turn up at the airport at 2 o’clock, come at 4; and by the way, here’s your new boarding pass.’

Had the delay caused your husband to miss an ‘interline’ (official connecting flight), the airline, or code-share partner, should put him on the next available flight. As I have reported many times, under European Union rules – that cover all flights that start or finish in the EU – passengers may be entitled to compensation for a delayed or canceled flight.


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