Travel may be one of the best things in life, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sometimes stressful! Really, it’s the act of being somewhere new that’s the best bit (preferably somewhere warm and sunny, where someone brings you drinks with little umbrellas in them). The process of getting to that lovely new place isn’t the part that is a whole lot of fun.
Flying, in particular, can be a stressful experience for many. There’s the anxiety of the actual flight, but there’s also the annoyances of the airport - from getting there, to getting through security, ticketing, customs & immigration, to finding the right gate (especially when they keep changing!) and making sure that you hang on to that precious hand luggage… and do it all within in a limited time frame. Phew! That’s enough to stress you out just reading about it!
Thankfully, most of the common problems that occur at an airport don’t have to ruin your holiday. In fact, a lot of these stressful scenarios have easy solutions - you just have to know what to do.
25 25. Problem: You Arrive Super Late
No matter how careful you are about trying to leave enough time to get to the airport, there are going to be those days where it just doesn’t work. Whether it was unexpected traffic jams, the subway breaking down en route, or just plain old sleeping in (especially for the dreaded red-eye flight), there are lots of reasons that you may arrive at the airport later than you planned.
We’ve all been staring down a massive check-in line, wondering if we’ll get to the gate on time, or even through security before the plane takes off!
24 24. Solution: Head Straight To A Representative
Believe it or not, but the airline wants you to get on board your flight on time too - so if you arrive late, don’t just sit through the giant line to get to check in or a bag drop. Immediately go talk to someone who works for the airline; and if there is no one visible, head through the First Class check-in line or to the customer service desk.
Explain that you are running late, and this will get you bumped to the head of the line. You might even get one of those airport golf carts to get you to the gate!
23 23. Problem: Your Water Bottle Was Confiscated
We all know the importance of staying hydrated while traveling - water is so important to make sure that we stay healthy and to make sure that skin stays hydrated while in air-conditioned buildings and that recycled air of the plane.
But what if you planned to bring water on the plane and then forgot to drink it, and are now standing at security with a full bottle in hand, while they tell you that they have to take it away? You may not want to lose a reusable water bottle, and you certainly don’t want to end up paying $5 or more for water on the other side.
22 22. Solution: Bring An Empty One Next Time
The easiest way to get around the water charges is to simply bring an empty bottle, and fill it up at the water fountains on the other side of security - and you are allowed to take a moment to chug that water back and put the empty one through. If you don’t want to, and it’s a reusable bottle you don’t want to use… ask for one of the other empty bottles that have been confiscated to decant the liquid into.
If you end up just giving up your full bottle of water, instead of buying a new one, go to a coffee shop and ask for iced water in a to-go cup. Most will give it to you for free.
21 21. Problem: Your Clothing Is Called Out
When flying was still reserved for the wealthy, it was common to dress up for a flight - and more recently, savvy travelers have been trying to dress up to nab upgrades from the check-in desk. However, as flights get cheaper, more and more people are showing up in the kind of clothing that can actually get them booted from the flight.
Inappropriate clothes (no one wants your skin pressed against them all flight) and clothes with offensive logos or slogans are the worst offenders, so what do you do if your clothes are deemed ‘unacceptable’ for flying?
20 20. Solution: Carry Extra Layers (And A Credit Card)
First up, don’t take it personally. The gate staff who is telling you this is either following rules or dealing with a complaint from another passenger, and getting mad at them just makes them more likely to stop you boarding.
Next up - carry layers. Can you cover up (either skin or slogans) with more clothing from your hand luggage? If it’s a logo issue, just turn the clothing inside out so it can’t be read - a sympathetic gate agent may let that pass.
And the worst case scenario? Whip out that emergency credit card for some duty-free clothes.
19 19. Problem: Stuck In A Middle Seat
There are three types of people: people who like aisle seats, people who like window seats, and crazy people. Seriously, though, the middle seat is universally acknowledged to be the worst - you don’t get the view or the ability to rest on the wall that the window provides, and you don’t get the extra space and ability to get up and down without bugging anyone that the aisle offers.
So what happens if you check in and discover that you have been automatically issued a middle seat, and you are desperate to change it?
18 18. Solution: Talk To The Gate Agent
As with so many other airport issues, the easiest way to solve this one is to just talk to people - you may be surprised how quickly a positive attitude and a friendly chat can help. At your gate, you can approach the gate agent and ask if there are any other free seats. If there are, they will reissue your ticket.
If not, why not just (politely) ask the people around you on the plane if they would consider switching with you? Some people may be happy to move, and if not, you’ve lost nothing for the ask.
17 17. Problem: You Don’t Even Have A Seat
Having a middle seat pales in comparison with this problem - not having a seat at all! It’s common for airlines to overbook flights by a few people in order to ensure that the plane is full (and that they are running as efficiently as possible to keep costs down). However, if everyone shows up, that means a few people end up being ‘bumped’… and if you are one of those unlucky few, you may find yourself with a ticket, but no seat on your flight! All is not lost, though - there’s plenty you can do.
16 16. Solution: Think About The Money (And Read Your Contract)
Unless you are on the most budget of budget airlines, most ticket terms and conditions will include a clause about compensation in case of being bumped. If you are the one out of a seat, the gate agent will usually put out a call for volunteers to take your place - but if no one does, don’t fret!
Chances are, you’ll get a nice chunk of cash (or airline vouchers for your next trip), and you’ll be booked on the next flight out.
If you have hand luggage only, you may even be rushed through the airport to sneak on a flight leaving slightly earlier, and still get that money!
15 15. Problem: Lost Passport
This has to be one of the scariest moments for a traveler - you’re about to go on an amazing trip, and you don’t have your passport! This is even more frightening if you have been mugged at the airport itself (or just lost your bags), because you are stuck in a foreign country without a passport, or behind security with no way of getting on the actual plane.
You may think that being in an airport without a passport is a reason to panic, but it’s actually not as bad as you may think.
14 14. Solution: Contact The TSA
Believe it or not, the TSA actually has a process for allowing someone to fly without a passport in the US - but it will take some time. You’ll be asked a slew of questions, and hopefully will have some other ways of helping verify your identity. It’s possible that you will be escorted home again, but you may well still be able to fly.
If you are in another country, you won’t be able to fly, but you will be able to head to the nearest Embassy and get an emergency passport - which can usually be issued within 24 hours. So the worst case scenario is just that you’ll get home a little late.
13 13. Problem: You’ve Lost Your Boarding Pass
It may not cause the same kind of panic as losing your passport, but what happens if the thing you can’t find is your boarding pass? There’s no getting on the plane without this little piece of paper, right?
So if you’ve been checking your pockets and bags and suddenly realize that the boarding pass is somewhere in the cavernous terminal, at one of the bathrooms, coffee shops, or seats that you’ve visited since arriving… what can you do to get on your flight?
You guessed it - go talk to someone and see if they can help.
12 12. Solution: Talk To A Gate Agent
If you manage to lose your boarding pass in between the check-in desk and security (which would be pretty impressive, if we’re honest), just head back to the check-in desk and ask for a reprint. If you’re through security, time to head to a gate agent and ask for help. If there’s no one at your gate, try anyone working for the same airline, and again, just ask for a reprint.
Because the pass has to match the passport in order to get someone on the plane, there should be no issue with reprinting a lost one.
11 11. Problem: Lost Luggage
Another common issue with losing things is when the airline loses luggage - and every traveler has a fear of this happening. There’s little worse than standing at the baggage carousel, not seeing your suitcase, and not seeing any new luggage coming onto that conveyor belt, either!
It’s easy to panic about the loss of all your things (especially if you’ve just arrived at your destination), but even lost luggage doesn’t have to ruin your day if you know what to do about it when you realize that your case has not made the trip with you.
10 10. Solution: Pack, Tag, And Know Your Rights
The best advice we can give is to make sure that you have at least one baggage tag on your suitcase with your correct name and address so that the errant bag can get home to you, no matter what.
It’s also important not to pack anything irreplaceable - keep the really precious stuff in carry on, whether that is emotionally significant or something like medication that you need every day.
If the worst does happen, though, head to the customer desk and make sure you know what you are entitled to. Depending on your airline, you may be given an allowance to purchase necessities and a promise that the luggage will be sent straight to your hotel when it arrives.
9 9. Problem: You’re At The Wrong Airport
This one might seem obvious, but it’s not as uncommon as you might think- when a major city is served by multiple airports, travelers have been known to show up at the wrong one.
You thought you were flying out of JFK, but it’s actually La Guardia. You went to Gatwick, when you were meant to be at Heathrow. Whether you forgot to check your ticket or plugged the wrong one into your GPS, now you are late, stressed, and miles from where you need to be. Looks like another missed flight, right?
8 8. Solution: Be Prepared (And Talk To The Airline)
This is one of those reasons that it’s always a good idea to leave way more time than you need to get to your flight… but if you’ve messed up and are out of time, go talk to customer service for your airline.
They’ve seen it all before, and can definitely help. The best case scenario is that they’ll be able to fly you out of the airport you’re in, although it’s more likely that they’ll book you on a later flight at the original airport and tell you the fastest way to get there (believe me, they know it).
If you have enough time, you may even be able to get them to inform the correct airport, so that you can speed through check-in and security and just make the flight - they’ll hold it for a short time if they know you are coming.
7 7. Problem: Delayed Flights
This is another big one, especially if you have connecting flights that you are hoping to get. But flights can be delayed for a huge number of reasons; everything from weather to staffing issues, runway traffic (yes, we mean that) to pilots that have had one too many wines.
It can be frustrating to sit and wait at the gate (and probably spend some time shuffling from gate to gate as well), not knowing when you’ll be able to take off - or if you’ll even manage to get on the flight tonight! Patience is key to dealing with this one, even when you just want to scream.
6 6. Solution: Get Your Free Food On
There’s really nothing you can do to make a delayed flight leave faster, but you can know your rights - if you are kept waiting for several hours, you can ask for food/beverage vouchers for the terminal and get some free food while you wait.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that you have water and snacks (and an empty bladder) when it’s time to actually board - if there are long delays, you may be sitting on the tarmac for some time, and it’s a good idea to be prepared for the wait.