Founded! What to do at an airport if your flight is delayed by one, three, six or 12 hours | Travel

This was supposed to be a glorious summer. With Covid largely reduced, it would be the first year since 2019 where we would all have to pack our suitcases and fly to warmer skies. That has obviously not happened.

There are several factors that come into play here. The cost of living crisis in the UK has put foreign travel out of reach for many; the railway strikes have made it more difficult to get to the airport; a new wave of Covid has stopped people from leaving their homes and – most importantly – airports themselves are an absolute nightmare.

Around 5,000 Heathrow passengers have had their flights canceled as a result. In addition, a shortage of staff means that Gatwick will run up to 50 fewer flights a day during the summer months, with EasyJet alone reducing 11,000 flights. And just to make things even more interesting, British Airways check-in staff may go on strike next month. In other words: the chance of finding yourself stranded at the airport is impossible.

So what can you do? It would make sense to stay home, but if it is not, here is a handy guide to killing time at an airport.

If your flight is one hour late

Push away … if it’s just an hour’s wait, why not head to the soft play areas? Photography: FamVeld / Getty // iStockphoto / posed by models

Usually this will be a cause for some frustration. This year, however, you will leave easily. Basically, the airport is your oyster. Just do the usual: you can stretch your legs with a few laps at the terminal, or grab a bite to eat, or treat yourself to some light shopping. If you have young children, now is the time to explore the soft play options the airport has to offer. Similarly, you can just find a seat and kill time on your phone, provided the wifi works. Of course it’s the pub too. An hour at the pub probably does not hurt. Either way, this will go well.

If your flight is three hours late

with three hours of Bluey, your child will hardly notice the delay.
Screen not heard … with three hours of Bluey, your child will hardly notice the delay. Photo: jacoblund / Getty / iStockphoto / posed by models

Now is the time to start thinking smart, because three hours is a particularly frustrating time: too long to fill in, but too short to start taking drastic action. This is, for example, when sniffing around shops will be genuinely torturing. Also, unless you happen to be ruthlessly sharp elbow, all the phone’s charging points will have been caught by other dissatisfied passengers, which means you run the risk of draining the battery with non-essential scrolling.

But if you have children, this is exactly what their tablets were made for. Find a seat anywhere you can, put on the headphones and let them taste as many episodes of Bluey as they are willing to consume. Yes, sure, screen time is poor, but this is an emergency.

This is also how long stress management is starting to become an issue. You can reduce this in a few ways. For example, if you’re in Heathrow, you’ll find a spa in Terminal 5, where weary travelers can get massages and facials. Buy a book anywhere or choose a large, quiet meal. A three-hour pub visit can be risky, so proceed with caution.

If your flight is six hours late

Salons may not be all they should be, but you can stay clean and they accept bored children.
Shower power salons may not be all they are meant to be, but you can stay clean and rested in there. Photo: Jan Mika / Alamy

We start with the good news: such a long delay qualifies you for compensation. Any delay of more than three hours entitles you to between £ 110 and £ 520, and Money Saving Expert has a free tool to help you claim it. You are also entitled to food and drink, which is usually issued in the form of a coupon.

But this is not going to solve everything. After six hours at an airport, you will be angry with equal parts stress and boredom, and your children, if you have it, will have long since gone wild. Free time-killing options are still available (all airports have prayer rooms, which at least offer some degree of silence). However, if you have received compensation on the way, this may be the time to consider shooting out in a lounge. These want food and drink, and often shower, and they do not give in to the sight of children. Admittedly, they are relatively expensive, and not always as luxurious as they claim; also they usually start you out after three hours – but need must, and if you are nice they will probably extend your stay for free. Whatever you do, definitely do not spend six hours in the pub.

If your flight is 12 hours late

If you are 12 hours late, consider replacing this with your bed and try again next year.
Take a flight … if you are 12 hours late, consider replacing this with your own bed. Photo: Alex Segre / Alamy

Oh god, go home. Look at you. You go apart in the seams. Technically, if your delay extends to the next day, the airline will provide accommodation for you. But if it does not, what are you going to do? You’ve explored every nook and cranny of the airport. All your electrical devices ran out of juice six hours ago. The salon staff can not stand the sight of you. Your children will not stop crying. All you want to remember from this holiday is the awful time you had to get there. A delay of this length also qualifies you for a full refund, so cut your losses, go home and try again in a minor hell of a year. Alternatively, you can go to the pub.