By Aimee Johnston on 07 August 2019

Our latest research shows British holiday-makers spent up to 28 million hours waiting for delayed flights last year as travel disruption, strikes and airline administrations wreaked havoc on the holiday plans of millions. 

For many, a holiday from hell starts in the airport – long delays inevitably mean over-crowding in airports with travellers squished onto a couple of plastic seats by the departures gates, spending exorbitant amounts on food and drink. Add a few small children into the mix and it’s often a recipe for disaster.

Don’t panic though – if you’re a Columbus Direct customer, you can rest easy knowing that all of our policies come with access to luxury lounges, if delayed by more than an hour, meaning you can at least wait in comfort! Head to our airport lounge page here for more info.

With strikes looking increasingly likely throughout August this year, here are our top tips to beat delay:

1) Buy your travel insurance when you book your holiday

On average we spend around £1,800  on our summer holidays – and yet, our research shows a third of holidaymakers wait until just two days before jetting off to buy their insurance! Whilst purchasing last minute does mean you’re insured during your trip, it’s a big risk not to be covered in the run up to your holiday, especially if situations outside of your control mean you have to cancel. The second you book your holiday you’re at risk of losing that money if something goes wrong, like an airline strike, and you’re not insured.   

2) Contact your airline ahead of time if you know delays are likely

For example, strikes are generally announced ahead of time meaning airlines will often have made arrangements to minimise disruption. This could mean there might be an alternative flight you can catch to get to your destination. Keep an eye on the news and the airport’s website and if it’s looking as though there might be industrial action then call your airline before the day of travel so you can be as prepared as possible.

3) Contact your insurer

Make sure you know what your travel insurance policy will cover you for ahead of travelling and if you’re unsure, check out our FAQ section in the first instance. When it comes to delays, insurance may help you get some of your money back if delayed by more than 12 hours, in addition to potentially covering for any missed connections as a result of delays. For additional perks that come with the policy take a read of our benefits section. For instance, Columbus Direct customers delayed by an hour or more can escape the hustle and bustle of the airport for luxury lounges (see below) subject to terms and conditions. This means that while waiting for a flight, you can enjoy a selection of complimentary light bites and hot/cold beverages.

4) Find out what you’re eligible for in terms of refunds and/or compensation

It’s important to know your rights when it comes to delayed flights and cancellations. Your flights may be covered under the EU’s Air Passenger Rights regulations – entitling you to a replacement flight, reimbursement and in some cases compensation.  This depends on where you’re flying from and to, and with which airline. You should be able to apply if:

  • Your flight is within the EU and is operated either by an EU or a non-EU airline
  • Your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline
  • Your flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or a non-EU airline
  • You have not already received benefits (compensation, re-routing, assistance from the airline) for flight related problems for this journey

For more info on how to claim in the event of a delay, click here.

ClubAspire, Terminal 3, Heathrow

Club Aspire, Terminal 3, Heathrow - access available as standard in the event of a delay with all Columbus Direct policies. See website for all details.

Main image at the top of this post shows Club Aspire, North Terminal, Gatwick - access available as standard in the event of a delay with all Columbus Direct policies. See website for all details.

5) Make sure you have everything you need in hand luggage

As your main suitcase will have gone in the hold at check-in, if you’re expecting long delays then ensure you have everything you need in hand luggage so you don’t end up having to buy essentials from shops at the airport. If travelling with small children, this includes nappies and a change of clothes! If you know your flight is going to be delayed over a meal-time, it might be a good idea to pack up a few sandwiches. 

6) Have a few games up your sleeve

This needn’t require lots of preparation – stick to games that require minimal equipment or can be played in a small space. If travelling with over-excitable children, games that get them moving can help tire them out, making for a quieter flight! An airport scavenger hunt, for example, is a great way to kill time while staying active. There are lots of sheets of ideas online that can be printed before setting off – divide the kids into teams and get them crossing things off on the sheet of paper as they spot them! 

1. Data taken from CAA punctuality records – full workings below

2. Average cost of a holiday - survey of Columbus customers who purchased a single trip travel insurance policy within the last 12 months. Survey carried out 4th-16th December 2018. Total sample: 1,386

According to CAA Punctuality records, the average delay time (across both delayed and on time flights) in 2018 in UK airports was 16 mins. (p.12)

  • According to the ABTA Holiday Habits report, the average number of holidays abroad in 2018 was 1.6 per person (p.3)
  • Therefore each holidaymaker spent 25.6 minutes waiting for their flights in 2018
  • 6 minutes x total UK population = Total time in minutes Brits spent waiting in airports in 2018
  • 6 x 2018 UK population (65,912,569) = 0.42 hours x 65,912,569 = 27,683,278 hours
  • 24 hours in a day therefore 27,683,278 / 24 = 1,153,469.91 days

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