How to fly smarter and avoid airport delays

28 November 2008

Sitting in a departure lounge for several hours is about as much fun as discovering you're sat next to Jack Shephard on the flight. It's a miserable start to any holiday; throw in a couple of grumpy, hungry, bored children, and you'll be praying for a quick death. What can you do about it? Nothing whatsoever. Airlines aren't too happy about delays either; whether it's in the air or parked on the tarmac, a late flight costs time and money.

But with a little research and planning before you book, you can drastically reduce the risk of losing precious hours of your holiday to delayed flights. For starters, look up your airline on Punch in your route and flight number, and you'll discover some eye-widening statistics on the punctuality of past flights.

For example, from mid-September to mid-November, over a third of Virgin Atlantic flights departing Heathrow for JFK failed to run on time, dropping to less than half on Fridays through Sundays.

Wired also offers tips on how to ensure you fly on on time (although their feature seems to have been lifted from this one), including:

  • Book Nonstop flights - don't be fooled by the words "direct flight." If it doesn't say "nonstop," the flight makes more than one stop. Obviously, the more stops the flight makes, the more opportunities for it to be delayed.
  • Fly early in the day - Many travel consultants say fly before 4 p.m. Delays tend to ripple through the system throughout the day. If there are travel interruptions early in the day, later in the day they only tend to get worse. Avoid booking the last flight of the day. If that flight is canceled, you may end up staying overnight.
  • Fly midweek - At most airports, there usually is lighter travel on Tuesday and Wednesday than on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

You can read the read of Wired's hacks for a smoother flight here, and you can read the views of other UK travellers and their experiences of terminal delays at UK Airport Delays.

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