The internet says my flight is delayed. What do I do?
June 13, 2007 5:30 AM   Subscribe

According to, my flight departure this morning is delayed by an hour. I haven't left the house yet. How big a risk is it, though, to show up to the airport an hour later than I had planned? Do they ever "move up" a delay, thinking that it is convenient to the people already waiting? If so, what is the point of showing me that it is delayed?
posted by unknowncommand to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do they ever "move up" a delay

Yes, frequently, and if you are not ready to board, you will miss the flight.
posted by caddis at 5:32 AM on June 13, 2007

Response by poster: I mean, I can see that the departure delay is just to explain an arrival delay, but shouldn't they have a warning of some kind?
posted by unknowncommand at 5:33 AM on June 13, 2007

You better get there! It's your responsibility to be there on time. You have no clue whether the online info is correct, plus those estimates are given very broadly. I can't tell you the number of times I have been waiting for a flight that was "delayed an hour" but arrived within 15 minutes of schedule. They can get a tailwind, they can be held on the runway or in the air for less time than they thought, etc.

Run, OJ, run!!!!
posted by The Deej at 5:46 AM on June 13, 2007

For many airlines, if you have not checked your baggage 45 minutes before the scheduled departure, they will not print you a boarding pass, even if the flight is delayed. I've seen this happen to tons of people who thought "Oh, the flight's delayed, I'll spend an extra half hour at home."
posted by muddgirl at 6:36 AM on June 13, 2007

Don't assume it will leave when late. I recently had a flight "delayed" for about an hour. I went off to get something to eat, came back 30 minutes later to find the flight had been un-delayed and I was barely in time to board.
posted by buxtonbluecat at 6:42 AM on June 13, 2007

... and if your bags are checked late, they are not responsible for making sure they get on the flight - which means you get nabbed for the delivery charge if choose to have them delivered whenever they eventually come in.
posted by whatisish at 6:47 AM on June 13, 2007

...but shouldn't they have a warning of some kind?

They do -- airlines tell passengers to show up X hours before the scheduled departure time regardless of what the delay status is. They know full well that some people won't, but those people can fly standby on later flights at no additional cost to the airline.

Given how full planes are this summer, though, it is a terrible time to play those percentages. Stories of 24-hour-plus waits for the next possible flight are becoming common, even for relatively short/simple domestic itineraries.
posted by backupjesus at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2007

Run don't walk to the Airport.
posted by oh pollo! at 7:08 AM on June 13, 2007

Delays are often caused by the FAA needing to space out traffic in airports nowhere near you. IE - heavy traffic in NY will cause delays in Dallas.

That said, as soon as 'space' opens up, they will tell the Captain - 'here's your window, move your airplane NOW' and they oblige.

This is ESPECIALLY common in the summer when traffic is getting re-routed around a thunderstorm cell or cells. As soon as the storm has moved out of the way, it's a mad scramble to get everyone in the air/on the ground moving and keep the machine turning.

So the short version is, suck it up and hang at the airport. You never know.
posted by TeamBilly at 7:09 AM on June 13, 2007

You always have to check-in 45 minutes (or whatever that airline's policy is) before the SCHEDULED flight time.
posted by rachelv at 7:19 AM on June 13, 2007

In February, my wife and I were coming back from Orlando. Our flight was schedulred to depart at 6:40pm. In the morning, I called JetBlue to see if there was a delay. They said it was delayed, and that the delayed departure time was 8:30pm, but we should show up on time regardless. At 6:25pm, on the board at the gate, they still said the flight's delayed departure time was 8:30pm. At 6:30pm, they said "Everyone get on the plane, we're leaving on time!". They waited for about 10 minutes for any late passengers. About half of them didn't show up, and my wife and I had about 2 whole rows to ourselves.

Moral of the story: Sometimes departure delays "vanish", and they'll just leave without you.

posted by flyingcowofdoom at 7:22 AM on June 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

You always have to check-in 45 minutes (or whatever that airline's policy is) before the SCHEDULED flight time.

No, the policy is a safe harbor, not a bright line. The airline has to check you and your bags in if you show up during that window, but there is usually a lot of flexibility, especially if you have no checked baggage. Last week I checked in for a flight five hours after its scheduled departure, and seven minutes before it left the gate.

(NOT a recommended practice -- that delayed flight replaced a cancelled one, and my next option to get home would have been in 36 hours.)
posted by backupjesus at 7:44 AM on June 13, 2007

I do this all the time, but I always have my boarding pass printed out at the office before leaving for the airport.

It really only works when you know what the deal with the delay is. I fly from BOS-CLE every week on the same flight. I know that the plane I'm flying on comes from CLE-BOS, so I don't leave for the airport until I see that the Boston-bound flight has left the ground. BOS isn't a Continental hub, so there's pretty much no chance they can switch equipment on me. So if I've checked and the FAA is reporting an hour ground hold at Logan, Continental is reporting an hour delay on the inbound flight and flight tracking shows it's not in the air, I stay at work an hour longer.

If it's a question of the plane already being there sitting at the gate and the crew having been given an expected release time by ATC, that's a much riskier scenario, and I wouldn't chance it. especially if the delay is due to any kind of enroute weather. Thunderstorm squall lines are pretty dynamic -- I've been in situations where the crew was told to expect a 3 hour ground hold and had it lifted after forty-five minutes.
posted by MarkAnd at 7:57 AM on June 13, 2007

I was taking a flight a couple of years ago that was "delayed" an hour or more. We discovered this at the airport, after we checked in. My traveling companions insisted on leaving the gate area to go outside the terminal and smoke, and then they "had" to get a snack, and then they spent an insane amount of time at the airport cafe comparing their cell phones and electronic gadgets, and then...

Long story short, we missed the flight and had to be rebooked.
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:00 AM on June 13, 2007

Look up the word prepone. If there's a word for it, the phenomenon must exist.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 8:13 AM on June 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

don't show up late. be there on time and if they tell you the flight is still delayed, ask nicely if they will let you into the admirals club. free wifi and a coffee. (or you could always get a day pass for $50 but it's not worth it if the delay is less than two hours)

oh yeah ... and no middle-aged midwestern women with perms who keep on popping their chewing gum.
posted by krautland at 9:39 AM on June 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you absolutely, positively have to make a specific flight, waiting anywhere but the gate is a bad idea. Most airline clubs I've been to do not make flight announcements but give you access to a departure screen -- the same ones that are notoriously inaccurate. Even if they do make announcements, they seem to go off the same data feed used by those screens.

As to making a specific flight...I have a long history of cutting things very close with flights and missing quite a few, but my personal policy this summer is to make sure I make any flight where a 24-hour delay would be problematic. Between the record seat utilization and the craptacular US ATC system, last summer was hellacious for air travel, and all indications are that this year will be worse.
posted by backupjesus at 10:09 AM on June 13, 2007

If it was only an hour delay because of a late arriving plane, I would not dawdle. These delays tend to get shorter because they clean faster, load faster, etc. to get the plane close to schedule as quickly as possible. My understanding is that they want to make their scheduled window otherwise the delays would just keep on piling up. I too had a history of missing flights or cutting things too close till I decided that it was not worth the anxiety, the extra tip to the cab driver to rush, and it was a lot easier watching people while listening to music in the airport. So, if you are still in this thread, GO!!

prepone is not a real word. It exists only in Indian english, and I hate that word. The correct antonym of postpone is advance.
posted by hariya at 11:02 AM on June 13, 2007

My rule of thumb: If your flight is delayed you should get to the airport earlier than you would otherwise in the hopes of going standby on an earlier flight than you planned. Delays often lead to longer delays and cancellation, and with airlines overbooking so much these days, getting where you are going once your flight has been canceled can be an eye-opening experience.
posted by Mozzie at 11:30 AM on June 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I left on time for my *scheduled* flight, and ended up being right (it was late). Which is no big deal, obviously. Am I the only one, though, that remembers some commercial where the whole point was that people who had checked online got to get to the airport later? I'm probably crazy.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:11 PM on June 14, 2007

Online check-in does let you get to the airport later, since you don't need to allow a buffer for a long line at the ticket counter. Of course, such lines tend to only be an issue if you refuse to use the kiosks or if they're down (maybe a 5% occurance),'s not much of a win. Airlines encourage online check-in because it's cheap for them -- no labor cost, no kiosk expense, etc. -- and it makes the inadequate stafffing levels at most ticket counters seem, well, like it's your fault because they told you to check in online.

Unless it's an unusal circumstance (like flying Southwest), I don't check-in online because un-checking-in usually requires human intervention and the long wait in line that often entails. If you get to the airport and want to change your flight (because you're late, early, or it was cancelled), you can do it right at the kiosk or, worst case, by calling the airline if you're not checked in. If you are already checked in, my experience has been that the kiosk will give you a "you're already checked in, dummy" message and the reservationist may or may not be able to back out your check-in.

For me, the flexibility outweighs the small risk of kiosk downtime.
posted by backupjesus at 5:32 AM on June 15, 2007

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