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You’ve broken down on the way to the airport. What do you do?

The nightmare scenario is you rushing to get to the airport for an important trip or a holiday, and your car breaks down, leaving you stranded on the side of the road. It’s even worse if you have kids with you, as you have to keep them calm. Hopefully you’ll have been able to coast to a stop and park in a place that’s not obstructing traffic; if it’s obstructing traffic you (or someone else) must remain with the car until it can be moved. This could either be flagging down other motorists to help push you out of the way, or getting it towed.

Make sure that you’re not parked somewhere that might cause an issue, such as a soft verge which might give way, or across someone’s driveway.

It’s unlikely that your insurance policy will cover you for the missed flight (but you can try). There are four things you can do:

  1. Check your flight times again. If the flight is delayed, this may give you a few more options.
  2. Will your car restart and can you get it to limp to the airport? If so, you can park it in the airport car park, leave the keys and parking ticket inside it, then call someone (e.g. a friend) to come and deal with it while you’re away. This will involve towing it from the airport car park to a garage to be repaired. You’ll obviously have to get other transport back home when you return.
  3. Is it because of something that’s easy to fix, for example a flat tyre? Speed is of the essence, here. Get everyone out of the car, get the luggage out of the boot, jack up the car, get the spare tyre and swap it over. A fast turnaround here should be no more than 15 minutes and you’ll be back on your way. Take care driving if you have a space saver wheel. If it’s an overheated engine, you can wait 30 minutes with the bonnet open and try again; in the meantime find some cold water that you can pour into the radiator once it’s cooled down (don’t open the radiator while it’s still hot). If it’s one of the lights that is critical (e.g. oil light), don’t continue to drive.
  4. If you have a breakdown service, give them a call and explain the problem. They might be able to get someone to you within half an hour who can fix it; it’s risky, though, if it turns out to be unfixable.
  5. A tow truck driver may be able to drop you at the airport for a fee, then they’ll take your car to their yard
  6. If you booked through a travel agent, they may have a hotline you can call which can offer advice; you can also call the airline and see if they have any advice (this won’t stop the aeroplane taking off without you, though).
  7. Can you flag down another vehicle to take you? This is easier if it’s just you, more difficult if it’s you and three family members
  8. Can you call a taxi or ride-sharing service? They should be reasonably close if you are quite close to the airport already.
  9. If there are no taxies but you are really close to the airport (e.g. within a kilometer or so) it may be worth sucking up a bit of short-term pain and just walking that final distance. Even an unfit person should be able to cover a kilometer in 20 minutes. Let’s hope it’s not raining!
  10. Your final option is to purchase another flight from the counter when you get to the airport; for regional flights, there’s probably one the same day, but for international flights, you may have to wait a day or two, and consider your connecting flights.

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Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

Posted in Advice