Flight delays and cancellations have become a normal part of airline travel since the pandemic due to staff shortages, strikes and surges in demand. And as the holiday season approaches, travel chaos is expected at airports around the world during peak times.
This can be especially stressful if you’re travelling long haul and have a connecting plane to catch. More holidaymakers may also be choosing layover options over direct flights to save some cash as the cost-of-living crisis squeezes budgets.
So, if you find yourself stuck at an airport waiting for a delayed connection, can you (and should you) leave the airport?
Jacob Wedderburn-Day, CEO of luggage storage network Stasher shares his advice.
While being stuck in an airport for multiple hours would be incredibly boring, an extended flight delay might give you time to soak up some tourist attractions and still be back in time for your next flight.
For British travellers, there are over 180 countries you can visit without a visa, so if you’re going to be stuck in an airport for an extended period, leaving the airport shouldn’t be a problem – just make sure to check visa requirements at your connecting airport before you arrive.
Many common layover cities have excellent public transport options and you can quickly make your way from the airport into the city centre. A bit of quick research will help you find the best routes to make the most of your time.
Apps like Google Maps or Citymapper can give you some great insight into local transport delays and traffic, which will help you plan out whether you have enough time to leave the airport and return before your next flight.
If you’ve booked your connecting flights together, your checked bags will automatically be loaded onto your next flight, so you don’t have to worry about queuing up to check your suitcases again.
Of course, this still leaves you with the challenge of what to do with your in-flight bags. Carrying around multiple bags is not ideal for a quick city trip, so consider booking a storage locker for a few hours so that you’re free to explore the city.
Depending on where you’re flying to, most airlines suggest you be at the airport between two and three hours before your flight. However, this may also depend on the airport you’re flying from. While some airports are incredibly efficient, there are still some that are struggling with staff shortages and lengthy queues.
Look out for news stories about airports that you’ll be travelling through or set up some alerts to be notified when the airport is in the news. This will help give you a better idea of how the airport is functioning, and if you’ll be able to pass through passport control and security checks efficiently.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, for example, is still struggling with hours-long queues. In these situations, it may be better to forgo a quick visit to the city to avoid missing your next flight. You can also check with an information or airline desk within the airport about the status of queues.
While it is exciting to make the most of a delayed flight and get in some extra sightseeing, rather be over-cautious with your timings. If it’s estimated that it will take you an hour to get to and from the airport, give yourself a few hours of leeway.
It’s also worth finding out the airline’s policy for extended delays, in some instances, you may be entitled to compensation and potentially even accommodation if you have a lengthy overnight delay.