Hit The Road
Stay calm if weather delays flights
Airlines aren't perfect. And if you're traveling during peak times or winter months, you can expect a few snags in getting to your destination. If you're ever stuck in an airport, don't panic.
A couple of weeks ago, I was flying to Dubuque, Iowa, after flying nine hours to get to Chicago. I don't sleep on planes so I was exhausted. I hadn't eaten much. I was just plain grumpy. But I made my connection to the regional flight and slept during the half-hour flight, except that almost as soon as the plane began to descend, it began to climb again.
"Sorry, folks, it looks like the runway in Dubuque hasn't been thawed. We're heading back to Chicago," the pilot announced during the ascent. When we landed, the snow began to fall harder and harder outside. I was stuck in Chicago. I panicked. A lot.
Getting stuck in a city where you don't know anyone is never the ideal situation, particularly when the weather is bad. But before you start freaking out, it's probably a good idea to take a deep breath and start untangling yourself from the mess, one obstacle at a time. Or call your mom and dad, who will love you despite your minor meltdown, then take a deep breath.
While you're coming up with your plan of action, you should consider whether you'll be able to get out of there later in the day or if you'll have to leave the next day. Because the airline messed up, you should be able to choose the time of your next departure. Go to a ticketing counter, calmly explain your situation and book another flight.
There's no use in flipping out, yelling at or threatening the ticketing agents; they don't control the weather, and your tantrum will only make them put you in the worst possible seat.
If you find yourself needing to stay overnight, think about where you want to spend your time. Get online and see which local hotels have vacancies.
Most will have a shuttle from the airport. Or, if you just have hours to kill, consider exploring the city. Get out of the airport, enjoy a good meal, do some sightseeing.
You could find some delays can be blessings in disguise, although this might become clear only in retrospect. My Chicago delay gave me an excuse to find the closest Hampton Inn, where I took a bubble bath before sinking into one of their comfy, fluffy beds for the night. When I woke up the next morning, I felt a million times better. I had breakfast at a cafe in the airport, got on my flight and landed safely in Dubuque in a much healthier mental state than I would have the day before.
In any case, now if someone asks whether I've been to Chicago, I can say that I've been outside of the airport. And the next time I get stuck somewhere, I'll know exactly what to do next -- maybe even look forward to it, because honestly, what's traveling without a few surprises?
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward beginning travelers or youths experiencing their first extended stay abroad appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.