Staying Safe during Unexpected Layovers
January 5, 2022
Author: Marissa Kozma
Flight delays and cancellations during the holidays led to a lot of extra anxiety at the tail end of 2022, but in the midst of the chaos, there were news stories of people covering airfare for others who needed to visit a loved one, complete strangers renting a car together and driving to their destination, and tired passengers using humor to stay sane while celebrating Christmas at the airport. An unexpected change in your travel plans is never quite expected, but it’s always best to be prepared — especially if you encounter a layover that wasn’t part of your original itinerary.
The OZZI app is a useful tool to help navigate these unforeseen circumstances by pinpointing your exact location to ensure you’re aware of recent safety incidents in the area, dangerous regions/neighborhoods, COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks, and more. The app uses multiple alert levels to help you determine the level of risk and can help you plan a safe place to spend the night, as well as tips on how to safely reach your destination using public transportation and how to approach locals for help.
Navigating a city you haven’t researched — especially at night — or having to sleep at the airport can be intimidating, but don’t panic! Here are some quick pieces of advice for dealing with a delay.
Consider Your Options
If you’re in unfamiliar territory, especially a city in a foreign country you weren’t planning on visiting, make sure you evaluate your predicament properly. Flights get canceled or delayed for various reasons, so before you leave the airport or get on a phone call to customer service, make sure you speak to airline personnel at your temporary destination to get instructions on how to book a new flight, receive reimbursement for your canceled flight, when your second leg will depart, how to locate your luggage, and other information.
Depending on where your final destination is or when you need to be there, it might make sense to instantly book with a new airline, wait in the airport until takeoff, or plan on staying a couple of days in a hotel. Make sure you decide what to do based on your best interests (and not what other passengers are doing) and read the fine print on your ticket to understand your airline’s refund and compensation policies.
Choose a Hotel With Airport Transit
If you decide to stay overnight at your layover destination, some airlines might offer you vouchers for a hotel room or meals — even if they aren’t legally required to do so — or offer to reimburse you. Most international airports have hotels within walking distance, but if you decide to leave the area, try to select an accommodation with airport transit. This will save you the headache of having to navigate local public transportation with your luggage and means that the establishment is familiar with hosting international travelers and will likely have WiFi, English-speaking concierges, and other useful amenities or services. Use OZZI to make sure your hotel is in a safe neighborhood of town by staying vigilant in or avoiding areas that are outlined in orange or red.
Get Adjusted to the New Time Zone
When you land, you probably won’t be in the local time zone, so make sure your clocks are right! Many countries use a 24-hour clock, so spend extra time reading your new departure time and be sure that you ask somebody since your phone may not update right away (especially if it’s still set to airplane mode). Be sure to sign up for alerts announcing future departure times so you don’t miss anything important!
Also, be sure to sleep in the new local time zone. You might be exhausted after an early-morning or late-night leg, but not getting temporarily adjusted to the new time zone is a surefire way to miss your next flight. Lastly, make sure that you account for extra time spent at customs. It will take longer to check in through security if you’re in a foreign country.
Pay for a Locker to Store Your Luggage
If you’re only visiting for a couple hours or a few days and have carry-on bags with you, it’s a great idea to store your luggage at an airport locker. Carrying a small purse or backpack with only the essentials will make you less of a target for thieves if you’re sleeping at the airport, taking public transportation, or are out exploring. Make sure you bring your wallet, passport, valuable electronics, medication, a proper change of clothes, toiletries, and other important items, but consider leaving the rest somewhere secure for your next leg. It will also save you time when going through security.
Practice Good Hygiene
When the inevitable happens, you’re more likely to panic and become frustrated if you’re physically uncomfortable. A hot shower and a fresh change of clothes puts everyone in a better headspace, so if you’re crashing at your terminal, consider paying for a shower facility, nap pod, or new clothing item to feel refreshed. Leaving the airport and staying at a hotel will make finding these amenities much easier, but if you don’t have time to leave, washing your face or brushing your teeth at a sink is the next best thing. Ask airport officials where the best bathroom is to freshen up! They’ll likely have a few secrets or tips.
Use OZZI to also monitor disease outbreaks, water safety, mandatory vaccinations, and COVID-19 entry and exit restrictions. It’s still a good idea to wear a mask at major airports, use hand sanitizer, and wipe down public surfaces before touching them. You want to be sure the public drinking water is safe and that there are no COVID-19 or vaccination requirements that you are unaware of before you use the tap water to freshen up or attempt a long layover.
Make the Best of the Situation
Well, you made it — almost! Don’t fret. You will reach your final destination eventually, but in the meantime, try to enjoy the journey. Unexpected layovers will definitely lead to some memorable stories and new adventures you might not have ever thought possible.