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What to do if your travel plans are affected by strike action

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When airlines announce strikes and you've got a holiday booked, you might feel like the rug's been pulled out from under you. Since strikes are relatively rare in the UK, it can be hard to know what to do and how to deal with the situation. We've put together a guide to help you make the important decisions you could face and stay relaxed in a stressful situation.

1. Follow your airline on Twitter

Airlines will use Twitter to share information and updates about possible industrial action, so make sure you follow them. And remember that you can always unfollow them afterwards.

2. Get in touch with your airline

By contacting the airline directly, you can find out whether you are personally affected. You can also let them know if you have extenuating circumstances that need to be considered when re-allocating flights (e.g. you’re travelling for an important, time-sensitive occasion such as a wedding or a funeral, or you have young children). If possible, ask the name of the person that you’re talking to and for a reference or ticket number for that conversation. This will help you keep track of what was said for future conversations.

3. Decide on whether you stay put or go to the airport

Based on the information you’ve received, you might decide to spend a little more time at home to make extra provisions. If your flight has been cancelled, then it’s better to be in comfort while you wait for news of what happens next.

4. Prepare food and drink for a long wait

Delays are unpredictable, so prepare for a long wait just in case. Pack more than one meal and snacks – you’ll be surprised how hungry you get waiting in an airport. Bring a bottle of water and refill it when you can.

Think about what you are happy to buy and what you can take with you. For instance, it’s unwise to bring a Thermos of coffee to the airport because, once it’s drunk, the flask is essentially dead weight, and you can’t take it through security unless it’s empty.

5. Get your entertainment ready

Download as much reading and watching material as you can before you leave. Perhaps get an extra data bundle so you can stream in the airport. Pack a book as well as an eReader in case the latter dies.

Most airports offer a certain amount of free WiFi, however there will usually be a time limit, after which you may need to pay. This will vary between airports.

6. Think about getting access to a lounge

Don’t assume that lounges are only for business travellers. If you know that you’re going to be delayed, it might be worth booking a lounge online in advance as this can save you money. It will mean that you can pass the time in more comfort and have access to better amenities than are available elsewhere in the airport.

If you have travel insurance with the Post Office, you could also qualify for our Flight Delay Assistance offer.

7. Don’t forget the old-fashioned ways

Always bring pens and paper. It’s a good place to jot down important information in case your devices die, as well as making notes of things you’ve been told by your airline. And it’s there in case you decide to get creative during your wait.

8. Stay switched on

Bring a portable battery that can recharge a phone and a tablet. Make sure you also pack wall chargers. If you have an extension cable, consider bringing this so that you’re not tethered to a plug socket (multi-output adapters will also make you a lot of friends). Bring a cable for each device, even if they have the same input.

9. Wear loose-fitting clothes

Airports have thermal laws unto themselves, so dress in a way that allows you to both warm up and cool down. Do this by wearing a few thin layers. Loose-fitting clothes are more comfortable and can help you feel relaxed. Bring an extra top layer that can double up as a pillow.

10. Make yourself comfortable

Take eye masks and ear plugs. If you know that you’ve got a couple of hours to wait and can catch forty winks safely, you’ll feel more refreshed later on.

11. Stay clean and refreshed

Pack yourself a flight-safe wash bag that has a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, soap, a flannel, deodorant, dry shampoo and conditioner, a comb, painkillers and anything you need to feel refreshed. When you’ve been waiting for a long time, the closest thing you can get to a shower will be a mercy.

12. Stay calm and reasonable

You’ll want to have regular conversations with your airline’s customer service representatives to know what’s going on. They’re going to be anticipating irate customers, and if you can remain calm, cool and personable then they will appreciate it. The steps above will hopefully help you stay relaxed and calm even in trying circumstances.

Stressful situations like this can drive many of us to the bar, but don’t overdo it to the point of losing your cool or creating painful problems for yourself later on.

13. Move around and stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water, try and steer clear of caffeine unless you’ve got a good reason to be very alert. Take short walks to keep your circulation going. This also helps to stave off boredom.

14. Make sure your kids are provided for

If you’re travelling with kids then this situation can be a nightmare. Ensure that they have everything they need, from their favourite snacks to their books and TV shows.

Try not to let them get wind of your frustration. Treat the ordeal as an adventure.

Bring the necessary bits and pieces to allow them to have a nap in comfort. You will want to avoid the situation that they want something you haven’t packed, particularly if the airport doesn’t have shops or doesn’t stock the item.

15. Don’t let it get you down

By preparing for delays you can make the best of a bad situation. It won’t remove all of the frustration, but at least you’ll be able to start your trip on a more positive note. Having travel insurance can give you piece of mind if you eventually decide to cancel your trip.

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