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No matter how carefully you plan your vacations, every traveler will at some point be impacted by travel delays. And while travel insurance may be able to reimburse you financially for your troubles, nothing will help you reclaim the time you lost.

Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the chances of experiencing delays the next time you fly, and not be part of the 25% of airline passengers hit with either delays or cancellations every year.

4 Tips to Cut Down on Travel Delays When Flying

Book Non-Stop Flights

While non-stop flights may often be more expensive than connecting flights, this is one of the best ways to reduce the chances of air-related travel delays.

Whenever you add a single connection or more, you run the risk of plane mechanical issues, late arriving planes, or issues at airports causing delays in your itinerary. By booking non-stop flights, you only need to worry about one plane and if that’s successful then the chances are pretty high you’ll arrive at your chosen destination on time.

Pro tip: Keep in mind that direct flights are NOT the same as nonstop flights. A direct flight involves making a stopover at another airport where some passengers may disembark and others may come aboard.

Although booking a direct flight will be better than a connecting flight in terms of avoiding potential travel delays, you do still run the risk of getting held up on the stopover airport’s runway or maintenance crews may discover issues that ground your plane before you can continue on with the final leg of your journey.

There may also be bad weather at a stopover airport that can affect when you can takeoff which would not have impacted you had you been in the air on a non-stop flight.

If a non-stop flight isn’t possible, there are still things you can do to reduce experiencing delays. The first tip is to make sure you select a flight journey that includes connections at airports that aren’t perpetually busy or prone to delays. Also consider the season and weather, and avoid airports in destinations that can experience heavy snow during winter.

Our second tip is to make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to make your way through the airport to catch your connecting flight.

Airlines generally won’t allow you to book connecting flights without allowing enough time between connections for journeys purchased on the same ticket within their own airline or with partner airlines, but it’s generally up to you to leave yourself plenty of time between connections when purchasing separate flight tickets from different airlines.

Know When to Travel

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So you’ve got your non-stop flight sorted, but even more important may be when you choose to fly. The best time of day to travel in order to avoid potential delays is to book early morning flights.

And while being the early bird won’t get you any “worms” in the form of a delicious in-flight full breakfast, it does help you better avoid severe weather that usually develops in the afternoons which can ground planes and cause delays.

Early morning flights are set to take off on time more than 90% of the time. As the day goes on, your chance of avoiding delays only decreases.

The reason for this is that early morning flights are not yet impacted by delays that build up throughout the day. As more and more flights take place throughout the day, that means more chances for planes arriving late, mechanical issues occurring, and weather causing subsequent flights to be delayed by more and more.

Booking a flight in the middle of the week is another way to avoid delays as there is usually less traffic. Whenever there are fewer travelers, your chance of experiencing delays diminishes.

For this reason, it’s also best to avoid traveling during peak travel seasons or around holidays like Christmas and Easter. Traveling during low-volume periods not only keeps planes running on time, but it results in shorter queues at airline check-in counters and security which could cause you to miss your flight.

Keep Yourself Healthy

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While you can’t do much to keep planes functioning properly, you do have a bit more control over your own health.

It’s quite difficult to navigate your way through airports and make quick connections if you aren’t feeling well and in some cases you could be denied boarding if you are visibly unwell.

Both airport staff and cabin crew can deny you boarding if they suspect you are too ill to travel or that you could put the health of other passengers at risk. Ie, passengers are being screened with temperature checks and COVID testing and are being denied if they show signs of a fever or test positive for the virus.

But even less-serious ailments can cause you to miss flights.

For example, if you suffer from bunions, this can really slow you down when making your way through airports. You may benefit from having them removed at a professional clinic like Northwest Surgery Center. Keep in mind that you may want to avoid air travel for at least a month after getting a bunion surgical operation as it will reduce your risk of experiencing deep vein thrombosis.

Pro tip: Whatever your preexisting health conditions may be whether its cancer or diabetes, discuss with your doctor how air travel may impact your condition and whether or not you are fit to fly.

If you take medication or require a medical device like personal supplemental oxygen, be sure to always carry a medical certificate or letter from your doctor describing your medical condition and the medication or medical devices you require so as to not be held up with security at the airport.

Not having proper documentations for your medications or medical equipment, especially in foreign airports, could see you pulled aside for questioning at security which could cause you to miss a flight.

Another way you could be denied boarding or kicked off a flight is if you show signs of intoxication from drinking too much alcohol or being impaired by drugs. This is to avoid you being disruptive during the flight or putting the safety of passengers and crew at risk.

Avoiding Delays at the Airport

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Many travelers miss flights or experience delays because of issues within the airport. While some things may be out of your control, there are ways you can speed up your check-in process and make things more streamlined.

The first tip isn’t always achievable for most travelers, especially those traveling internationally for longer holidays, but if you can avoid checking bags it will greatly reduce the amount of time spent checking in.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to pre-print your boarding passes, you may be able to simply walk strait to the security check and onto your gate without weaving around the long lines that lead to the airline check-in counter.

If you do need to visit the ticket counter, make sure to have copies of all your flight details available and ready to hand over. You will want to make sure to have proper ID, make sure your passport has at least 6 months validity left if traveling internationally, have acquired any necessary visas, and made certain the spelling of your name as it appears on ID documents matches what is show on your flight tickets.

You will also want to make sure to not arrive at the check-in counter too late, as airlines are required by law to stop checking-in passengers for flights within a set period of time before a flight takes off.

Even if you logistically could still make it through security and to your gate in time, the airline may not legally be allowed to check you in if you arrive too close to your flight’s take-off time.

Once Checked-in

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Save time and hassle in the security check lines by wearing shoes that are easy to remove and put on, making sure you remove all metal items from your pockets, and avoiding packing any questionable items in your carry-on baggage which could hold you up.

And even if you manage to breeze through security with the clothes you’re wearing, remember that you can still be denied boarding by an airline if they deem your outfit to be offensive or improper.

Rules can differ between airlines and can be drastically different when flying with foreign airlines. For this reason, it’s best to avoid clothing that displays offensive wording or controversial symbols as well as clothing that may show too much skin.

Lastly, download airline apps which can alert you to things like delayed flights or gate changes.

Knowledge is power and getting information quickly regarding delays or changes can allow you to get an advantage over other passengers if you need to book an alternate flight or make an accommodation booking in the case of severely delayed flights which can get purchased up quickly if an airport is experiencing a lot of delays.

It’s also wise to research alternate flights in advance in case something like weather causes delays. Knowing what your other flight options are will allow you to make well-informed and quick decisions if they are required.

These are just a few of the ways you can avoid delays when traveling by air. Most people don’t get many chances to travel each year, so being able to maximize your travel time will ensure your trip is as enjoyable as possible.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.



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