What to do if your flight is delayed? 5 steps

Flight delays suck. But, honestly, there is nothing much you can do about it. Because these things happen every day. Sometimes because of technical problems, other times because of airport strikes. So even if you aren’t a frequent traveller, sooner or later you are going to experience it yourself. And then it’s a good thing to know what are your rights in a situation like this and what to do if your flight is delayed.

There is nothing complicated about it. But when you are at the airport. With few hundred (or thousand) people around you, who have just learned that their flight is delayed or cancelled. Well, in environment like this it’s easy to start feeling lost in these kind of situations.

So save this guide for later, and you’ll always be prepared!

What to do if your flight is delayed?

Step 1: Look at your itinerary once again

Is there any other flight you are going to miss because of this? If no - go to Step 2.

If it’s a connecting flight booked together with this flight, then again you have nothing to worry about. Because the airline will take care of that by most likely putting you on another flight for free and you’ll be taken to your destination.

If it’s a flight that was booked separately, then most probably you will have to deal with all the consequences yourself.

If you have a very strict schedule - no matter the type of your ticket and how your flight was booked - look for an alternative flight or flights to your destination. And if you decide so book a new flight.

Step 2: Proceed as planned

Don’t stress over it. Flight delays happen every day.

If you are still at home when you learn that your flight is delayed, check your flight status on the website of the airport you are flying from. If it’s just an hour or two, you can spend a bit more time at home and then proceed to the airport as planned.

If you are at the airport and the check-in has already started head over to the check-in counter. Or - go straight to airport security checkpoint if you are traveling with carry on only and you have already checked in online.

If you have already gone through airport security, sit down somewhere and wait for more information regarding your flight.

Step 3: Follow the information regarding your delayed flight

You have already gone through airport security. Or if you are at the airport and can’t check in. Or your flight has been delayed for more than a few hours and you are still at home.

Wait for more information.

Either by occasionally checking flight information displays at the airport or by checking the information about departures on the website of the airport. More often than not you aren’t going to learn anything new by calling your airline and paying ridiculous fees for that. Because people at the call centre usually have the same information you have at the airport or online.

Do call them if you don’t understand information available to you.

Small blackboard and cookies - Meal

Step 4: If your flight has been delayed for more than 3 hours

And if it’s the airline’s fault.

If you are at the airport and if your flight has been delayed for more than 3 hours the airline must provide you with free meal and drink plus two free phone calls, e-mails or faxes. What to do if your flight is delayed for much more than 3 hours? If delay is going to be longer than 3 hours and you’ll have to wait overnight, then the airline must provide you with free hotel accommodation and transport to and from it.

How you can get all of that? Wait for the announcement from your airline.

But that’s only if the flight disruption is the airline’s fault. If it’s not and the flight delays is caused by, for instance, extreme weather conditions, you’ll just have to wait. And if you’ll need a hotel room for a night you may have to book and pay for it yourself.

Step 5: Know your rights

If in the end you have arrived to your final destination 3 or more hours after the original arrival time you may be eligible to compensation of up to €600 per person. All thanks to Europe's Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 (EC 261), created to protect air passenger rights.

Submit your claim for flight delay compensation now.

What happens when a flight is cancelled? Read about it here.


While some of the things mentioned in this guide apply only to flights to or from Europe and flights operated by European airlines, some of it applies to all situations no matter where you are flying to and with which airline.