Delta Flight Attendant Reveals Sneaky Way Airlines Trick You Into Missing Your Flight

"I've personally missed a flight cause of this," she says.

You missed your flight: Now what? You'll have to stand in line at the airport or try to get an airline representative on the phone to reschedule. The change may cost you significantly more money and could also upend your entire trip. But alas, it was your own fault for being late, right? Not necessarily. A Delta flight attendant is speaking out on how airlines trick you into missing your flight. Keep reading for her insider info and to ensure you never fall victim to this ploy.

RELATED: 10 Secrets Flight Attendants Will Never Tell You.

"Delayed" doesn't always mean delayed.

Bored blond woman with luggage, leaning elbow on bags, sitting in waiting room at airport due to coronavirus pandemic Covid-19 outbreak travel restrictions. Flight cancellation. Too late for voyage

In a TikTik video, flight attendant @tay_shearer advises travelers to always get to the airport in time for their scheduled departure—even if the airline says the flight is delayed.

"I don't care how many hours it's delayed. They may very well still take off at the same time," she explains. "For example, today, I worked a flight, got the call in the morning it was delayed two-and-a-half hours, got another call an hour later, what do you know, we took off on time."

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This may be especially true for Delta flights.

Delta Air Lines planes at an airport
iStock / Ceri Breeze

The flight attendant also implies that this could be more of an issue with Delta, which she refers to as "an on-time airline."

And this isn't just anecdotal. As reported by Travel + Leisure, the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) found that in 2022, Delta was the most punctual U.S. airline.

"In total, Delta had an on-time rate of 82.1 percent," the publication wrote, adding that "a flight that lands within 15 minutes of its schedule is considered to be on time."

But it happens across airlines.

A United Airlines aircraft taking off from an airport
iStock / Laser1987

The flight attendant from TikTok is far from the only one who's found this to be a problem.

This past September, Summer Hull, the director of content for travel and finance website The Points Guy, missed her flight from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston to Newark Liberty International Airport after showing up on time for a "delayed" United flight.

"I packed up to head back to the gate about 30-35 minutes before the posted (delayed) departure time, mostly expecting to be greeted with a longer delay since there hadn't been any boarding notices or updates," she shared. "Instead, I was greeted with something very different: a gate devoid of passengers and crew."

Hull received no notifications of the moved-up departure time: "Presumably, those who remained in the gate area or returned to the gate earlier than I did got on the flight. Anyone else was out of luck."

A family flying from Guatemala City to Detroit on Spirit Airlines had a similar experience, as one of the travelers recounted to The New York Times.

"I received two texts from Spirit announcing that our flight was delayed, first by about 20 minutes and then by an additional 15, making the new departure time 4:18 p.m.," they wrote. "We used the delay to get something to eat, monitoring our phones for more updates, but none came. When we returned to our gate at 3:40, we were told the plane had been readied earlier than expected and the doors had closed."

In response, the NYT advice columnist Seth Kugel shared that he reached out to a Spirit spokesperson who directed him to "section 2.4.1 (b)" of the airline's Contract of Carriage.

"In the event of a delay, guests are recommended to remain in the gate area for updates and possible early departures," he copied from the contract. "Spirit shall not be liable to any guest who misses a flight, which departed earlier than the estimated departure time posted for the delay."

RELATED: 6 Things Flight Attendants Won't Tell You About Turbulence.

Here's how to hedge your bets.

A man looking at an airline departure board with his hands behind his head
Shutterstock / Andrey Burmakin

If you do receive a notification that your flight was delayed and don't want to get to the airport for the original departure time, there are some things to consider.

Since "on-time" is within a 15-minute window, it's generally considered good practice to get to the airport as usual if your posted delay is one hour or less. However, Erika Richter, a spokesperson for the American Society of Travel Advisors, told The Washington Post that she recommends doing so for delays of two hours or less.

"Airlines try to work quickly to resolve delays, and it's quite possible your flight could leave earlier if the issue is resolved," she said.

Max Barrus, vice president of planning and revenue at Breeze Airways, told WaPo that travelers should also be extra mindful of "the creeping delay," or one that keeps changing by small increments.

"Maybe you got a text or an alert that your flight would be delayed by 15 minutes, and then a few minutes later that delay was extended to 30, and that delay was extended further," he explained. "It may be OK to give yourself a few extra minutes, but don't be lazy about it. The airline is going to try to do all it can once that plane gets to your destination."

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Dana Schulz
Dana Schulz is the Deputy Lifestyle Editor at Best Life. She was previously the managing editor of 6sqft, where she oversaw all content related to real estate, apartment living, and the best local things to do. Read more
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