This blog post was updated on May 28, 2020.

You’ve snagged a good deal on last minute flights, had a smooth check-in, and are happily messaging friends goodbye at the airport. But then, you hear your flight has been delayed. You’re just sitting on your suitcase at a crowded, noisy gate, feeling totally helpless. Flight delays are often unavoidable and last minute. You might not find out you’re delayed until just minutes before you are set to board. However, if you tire of those chaotic gate scenes when flight delays occur, you might be able to dodge the headaches after all. Try these hacks to help you get ahead of a flight delay.

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Check the On-Time Percentage of Your Flight Before You Buy Your Ticket

hipster guy searching information online on a modern laptop and checking email box

Most travelers think a flight delay is unavoidable, especially after you have purchased a ticket and find yourself at the airport for hours on end. However, you can get ahead of a flight delay before you purchase your ticket. Airlines will show you the on-time percentage of the flight you are considering. This percentage shows how often that flight is actually on time. If you can’t find the information on your airline’s website, there are other websites that detail on-time percentages based on flight numbers. You can also check the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics website for airline and airport delay information. The website provides statistics on delays by airport and airline to give you a better sense if your airport and airline are prone to lengthy delays.

Purchase a Non-Stop Flight Route If You Can

While non-stop flights can cost more money, you might dodge delays by paying a bit more. Connecting flights mean more flights and airports and thus more of a possibility for delays. If you loathe sitting at the gate for hours on end with a delay, see if you can select the nonstop flight for your route instead. You won’t be worried if that one flight is delayed that you’ll miss a connection, and you only have one flight and airport to worry about delays.

Book the First Flight of the Day

Family in airport

Before your flight is even delayed, you can get ahead of the game by booking the best-timed flight of the day. While early morning flights can mean early wake up calls, they are also the best flights to be on if you want to avoid a flight delay. These flights are less susceptible to flight delays as they are the first of the day, and you might even be able to score a deal on last minute flights departing at the crack of dawn. Schedules haven’t gotten behind yet as they do with flights later in the day. Also, the aircraft has most likely been at your departure airport since the night before. If you want a shot at not having a flight delay, try booking that first flight of the day.

Monitor Weather Patterns Across the Country Leading Up to Your Flight

That blizzard in Buffalo might seem totally unrelated to your trip to California, but bad weather on the other side of the country can have a way of delaying your flight far away from the storm. A couple of days before your trip, check for major storms on the horizon. Airlines could even issue weather waivers when storms are particularly threatening, allowing you to rebook your ticket for a different day at no cost. From a few days before your flight to the hours before you leave for the airport, keep checking the weather for any disruptions.

Before Leaving for the Airport, See Where Your Flight Is Coming From

Man using smartphone in hotel room with baggage and suitcase.

Your flight from New York might not be originating from New York. The aircraft could be starting its day in San Francisco with stops in Denver and Cincinnati. If any of those airports have weather problems or delays, a flight that might seemingly have nothing to do with your New York flight could make you delayed. Some airlines will provide information on where your aircraft is coming from so that you can track when your plane is actually going to arrive at the gate. Before you head to the airport three hours before your flight, check to see if the inbound aircraft is on time. If it is delayed, most likely you will be too. Other travel websites will also provide information on inbound aircraft in case your airline doesn’t.

RELATED: In case you ever do have to endure a flight delay, make sure you know how to deal with it. Read this piece on How You Can Deal with (& Even Make the Most of) Airport Delays!

At the Airport, Have Your Airline’s Phone Numbers and Apps Ready to Go

You’ve booked the first flight of the day and researched the flight’s on-time percentage. You even checked your inbound aircraft and see that it’s on time. While all of these hacks could help you ward off a flight delay, you might face a delay regardless of what you do. If you get to the airport or even the gate and suddenly the monitor displays that dreaded word, “Delayed,” you still have options. If the delay is going to be lengthy, meaning you’ll miss your connecting flights, grab your phone and start calling the airline. Getting in a customer service line with the masses often takes far longer and you’ll have fewer options. Some airlines are more tech-savvy, making it possible to find alternative flights quickly and easily on their designated apps. Bottom line, have both your airline’s phone number and apps saved in your phone when you get to the airport. You’ll be ready to call or switch flights on the app if the delay is lengthy.

Even though you’ve got a great deal on last minute flights, planned meticulously, and arrive at your departure point ahead of time, flight delays can still mess up what should be a hassle-free holiday. Luckily, by following these tips you might be able to stay ahead of the curve.


What other hacks would you add to the list to dodge flight delays? Share your tips with us in the comments below.


About The Author

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at