How to Avoid the Worst of Travel Hell This Summer
While travel in 2022 looked promising, with borders reopening and more opportunities for international travel, you can make it another summer getaway. A whole bunch of factors (ahem, supply and demand) are wreaking havoc at airports and rentals across the country, costing travelers a lot of time and money.
For example, over Memorial Day weekend, airlines canceled 3% of their scheduled flights , more than during the same weekend in 2019, 2020 and 2021 combined. Meanwhile, driving is no better, with car rental prices up 70% compared to 2019, largely due to a car shortage.
Here’s what other experts predict for summer tourism hell:
- Staffing shortages at airlines and airports are exacerbated by the ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19. This includes not only pilots and crew members, but also ground workers and customer service representatives.
- Frequent severe weather, such as thunderstorms, will cause significant delays due to increased traffic from pre-pandemic levels.
- Higher prices across the board , from plane tickets to gasoline, car rentals and hotels. In some cases, driving can be more expensive than flying, placing additional strain on air travel.
So what does it all mean? Well, staffing issues have prompted airlines to cut schedules early, putting pressure on the remaining flights that are almost booked.
But think about the snowball effect: if one airport lacks ground staff to unload luggage, the aircraft, crew, current and future passengers are stranded. The flight crew may also need to be out of action during long delays, eventually leading to cancellation. And with crowded flights to all destinations, it can take a long time to find an empty seat to rebook. In addition, you can expect long lines and large crowds at check-in, screening, immigration and baggage claim.
How to Avoid the Worst Problems of Summer Travel
To be honest, some chaos at the height of summer may be unavoidable. Nothing you do can make up for a lack of staff or harsh weather. If you really need to travel, you must hope for the best, plan for the worst, and stay flexible throughout the journey.
One way to make travel, particularly by air, less painful is to minimize the number of touchpoints that can cause delays or exacerbate the impact of cancellations. For example:
- Book direct/non-stop flights to avoid busy stops and the possibility of numerous delays or cancellations. Manage your expectations if you need to fly on weekends and holidays.
- Sign up for TSA PreCheck (and/or Global Entry if you’re flying overseas) to get access to shorter queues and faster screening at airport security and immigration. If you are traveling at certain airports (JFK, MCO, EWR, LAX, SEA, PHX and YYC), you can also reserve a free security check slot through CLEAR, although you will be put through the standard security lane.
- Check in online, download your digital boarding pass, and use hand luggage whenever possible to avoid slowdowns and long check-in lines.
- Just give yourself more time. Arrive at the airport earlier .
Obviously, ease can come with a higher cost, but it can be worth it if it helps you avoid missed connections, trip disruptions, and endless customer service waits.
Speaking of which, now is the time to take advantage of credit card travel benefits. Many companies offer travel support, such as rebooking, to cardholders, and these services can be faster than trying to contact the airline directly for assistance. You may also be entitled to reimbursement for expenses incurred due to delays, flight cancellations and lost luggage. Find and save a travel support phone number just in case.
Find out about your rights as a passenger , including whether you are entitled to compensation in the event of a canceled or delayed flight. Unfortunately, you are not guaranteed anything for most delays, but airlines must pay if they push you or cancel your flight and you decide not to rebook.
Finally, a reminder: this is a busy time for everyone, including your fellow travelers and airline staff. While getting angry when something goes wrong may seem cathartic, it probably won’t change the facts of the situation and may make others worse off. You’ll look like a jerk too.