Reader tips on handling flight delays

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Flight delays have broken an already grim record this year. New figures from the government show that between January and May of this year, about 26 percent of flights were delayed--the highest percentage since the Feds began counting flight delays in 1995.

Update July 6: Flight delays are worse than official statistics say.

The average delay for the first half of June was 61 minutes, comparable to a year ago when it was 54 minutes, says reporting company FlightStats.

Budget Travel recently offered its tips for handling flight delays and cancellations. And readers of this blog responded:

Use the kiosks! After a ground delay at Yellowstone Regional Airport on a recent business trip, I missed a United connection in Denver. The rebooking line at the customer service desk snaked through Terminal B, but no one was using the little do-it-yourself kiosks nearby. Instead of call the 800 number--which was likely overwhelmed by frantic callers--I pulled up my flight info at the kiosk. United had already rebooked me, and I put my name on a standby list for an earlier flight. The whole process took three minutes, leaving me time to work instead of tap my toe while standing in line. Moral of the story? Don't be afraid to use those helpful kiosks! -- PBB

Fly as early as possible! Yes! The kiosks are wonderful! Calling the 800# is also a great time

saver! What else? Common sense! If you see your connecting flight

pulling into the gate with SMOKE billowing out of the engine - it's NOT a goos sign! I had that happen to me and immediately called my airline to rebook me. Sure enough, I got a connecting flight when the original flight was canceled while many others - who witnessed the same thing - got stranded because they waited until the airline told them there was a 'mechanical' issue and the flight was canceled! Also, in the summer - fly as early in the day as possible - MUCH LESS LIKELY to encounter weather delays due to severe weather! --SRT

Be nice! The counter agent didn't cause the problem or the delay. One of my flights on American was recently canceled, stranding me at the Dallas airport overnight. Although I was not actually eligible for complimentary accommodations, the agent made arrangements for a free room, probably because I was the only person not yelling at her.--Toby

Pay attention and act fast! A recent connection delay on delta was going to cause me to miss another connection later. I went to customer service IMMEDIATELY before the rest of the folks realized what was happening. I was courteous to the rep and asked for her name so that I could commend her in a letter to Delta (which I later did). She got me on another flight and I got home 3 1/2 hours earlier than if I had stayed the course plotted by Delta. The rep was happy and gave me two meal vouchers. Being mean never pays.--Colt

Allow extra time! Five of us were flying last Monday to Gulfport, MS to do Hurricane Katrina relief work. Our Atlanta connection was a nightmare. Even though we had a two hour layover, it didn't help, for our connecting flight was finally cancelled 2+ hours after its departure time. We were told the airline couldn't get us to Gulfport until Wednesday. Bottom line, they flew us into New Orleans late Monday night. The cheapest hotel rooms we could find were $140 each, and we had to get our own transportation from New Orleans to Gulfport on Tuesday morning. Our luggage with our work clothes didn't arrive in Gulfport until Tuesday night. AND I had been on my cell phone with Air Tran, Delta, Hertz, Budget etc for hours trying to arrange a way to get there earlier. Advice: take a carry on with sufficient necessities to last you at least two days. And have a backup plan. If you must be somewhere, go at least a day earlier. Sorry, but that is reality today with flying (I average 40+ flights a year).--Vicki

Say "thank you" often! That 'be nice' advice works wonders. I had some minor damage to a bag and deliberately downsized the amount I wanted to receive. The agent gave me more than what I asked for, probably because I was the only one not yelling at him. Another thing: You can't say thank you often enough..--Harold

Be patient and flexible! I've read the "call the 800 number" advice many times and I still do it, though the only time it has ever been helpful was when I was a Premier or Premier Executive flyer with United. Since I haven't been flying quite as often the past two years and lost my special status with the airline, I've been told every time I've called the 800 number that they can't help me and that I have to go to the customer service counter (no surprise -- it's always been at O'Hare!). Of course, the lines are so long that by the time you get to talk to customer service, all the flights are booked. SO, I don't do that anymore. I look at the screen and find the gates for the next two flights to my destination and go directly to those gates to start making my inquiries about getting on the stand-by list. It works. The last time it happened to me I was the last person to get on the last flight to my destination, while the other poor souls from my original cancelled flight were still standing at the end of a LONG customer service line and destined for a sleepless night in the airport (it was weather related, hence no hotel vouchers). Patience is the first necessary ingredient in such situations, and common courtesy is only common sense -- the airlines can't control the weather. Of course, the new kiosks are also definitely an advantage.--Beth

Related: CNN has more info on flight delays

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