‘Pack for a disaster’ and five other tips on how to survive an airport crisis

Travel Helpdesk: Flight cancellations, missed connections, lost luggage, long delays: things can go wrong when you’re travelling, but planning will go a long way in helping you to deal with problems

It is a good idea to pack a change of underwear, spare socks, a toothbrush and any medication you might need, either when you get to your destination or en route, in your hand luggage in case your checked-in bags go missing, or your flight is significantly delayed

1. Please stay calm. Now, we know that no one in the history of the world has ever stayed calm after being told to stay calm, but it is essential if you are dealing with a delayed or cancelled flight, or lost or damaged bags. Your stress levels may well be off the charts, but you will achieve little by shouting and screaming. In fact it may well be counterproductive. Things can go very seriously wrong in transit – as many thousands of Irish people discovered to their considerable cost this year – but it is rarely, if ever, the fault of the frontline staff you will be dealing with.

2. Know your rights. EU-wide legislation gives you very clearly defined rights if a plane is cancelled or delayed for many hours. It is always helpful to have an understanding of what you are entitled to, and what you are not, in order to protect yourself and stop you going down rabbit holes that lead nowhere. The Commission for Aviation Regulation has a website – flightrights.ie – which will give you a steer when things go wrong.

3. Pack for a disaster. We use the word disaster loosely here but it is always a good idea to pack a change of underwear, spare socks, a toothbrush and any medication you might need, either when you get to your destination or en route, in your hand luggage. You will be glad of it if your checked-in bags go missing, or if a flight is significantly delayed.

4. Take a picture of your passport and all of your flight documentation, and email it to yourself. While a picture of a passport will not allow you to cross international borders, it will make getting a replacement much easier should the document get lost. Having all of the documentation stored on your email server as well on your phone and in your wallet will be of some relief. Before you travel, dig out your travel insurance documentation and email that to yourself, as well as a picture of your driver’s licence if you’re renting a car. Better to have copies of all your documents to hand than be trying to find them when something goes wrong.

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5. Think long and hard about taking the refund option if a flight home is cancelled. When you get a refund, an airline’s obligations to you effectively end at that point, but if you hold out for a re-routing then they have to take care of you until they can bring you home. That means an airline has to cover your reasonable accommodation and sustenance expenses.

6. Keep receipts for everything that your spend as a result of a delay or cancellation. Photograph them as well, and keep a careful record of all the correspondence and communication you have with the airline so you can tackle any issues that arise afterwards head-on, and with documentation on your side.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor