It's the stuff that airline travel is made of. Headaches, too. Generally speaking, there is nothing that you as a passenger can do about it except to plan for it.
One of the biggest planning decisions is how you will get to and from the airport. I am a big believer in NOT using friends as your mode of transportation, especially during the busy holiday seasons, and you can read about other options in a previous post.
However, if you absolutely MUST have friends pick you up, make sure you tell them to check your flight status before they head off for the airport. Even if they live hours away from the airport, it's better that they know your flight is delayed by three hours before leaving home.
There are a variety of ways to check to see the actual, real-time status of your flight, and to check on your anticipated arrival time:
- Most airlines have a flight tracking option on their respective website. You can go to their home page and then look for a link that says flight status or flight tracker. Here is a sample from the Delta Airlines site.
- The FAA has a site which tracks delays, on a general basis, and many airports across the country. This can give you an idea of what in going on in the event of a weather delay which is hampering all flights into or out of a particular airport.
- Some airport, or regional areas, post information about their particular airports on their website. Try Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for information covering National and Dulles in Washington D.C., Fly Denver for flights in that city, or Fly PDX for flights in Portland, Oregon.
- There are also a number of dedicated sites that provide this information. Flight Arrivals, Flight View, and FlyteComm are a few that I hear recommended frequently.
- Some of the travel websites also have a status check option. Try Yahoo Travel, Cheap Tickets, or Orbitz.
Armed with where to go for delay information is the first step. Here's what you can do to put the information to good use:
- Find the site which you like best. Check it out to make sure it is simple to use, and that your pick-up driver will be able to use and understand the information.
- Give the site information to your pick-up driver. Send it to them as a link so that they don't have to remember the address.
- Determine if the site has a mobile option, that is, an option that will send delay information directly to a cell phone.
- If your flight is delayed at departure, call your pick-up driver and let them know that you have been delayed at the outset. Call back when you know updates.
- Remind your pick-up driver to check for flight arrival status before they head off to the airport.
These aren't foolproof steps, but they cover the things that you can do as a passenger to plan for delays.