Expert Tips and Tricks

for Making Flights Go Easier

Expert Tips and Tricks for Making Flights Go Easier

Flight cancelations, delays and misplaced luggage are a fact of post-pandemic travel. What can you do? We asked travel advisors to share their best practices. 

The chances of your flight arriving on time are improving, but still far from assured. More than one in four flights are delayed and nearly two percent are outright canceled, according to the latest figures from the Department of Transportation (July 2022).

Terri Coon, CTA, owner/advisor, Hyland Travel, chalks it up staffing, an issue plaguing many industries. “Airlines, airports, and every travel company laid off so many people during the pandemic. Getting new people in and trained takes time. It may be a few years to be fully back on track,” she said.

Even in the best of times, flights are delayed and canceled.

Marc Casto, president of Leisure Brands America, Flight Centre Travel Group, and ASTA Board Chair, offered five steps travelers can take to minimize their chances of facing disruptions:

  1. Take the first flight of the day. “Frequent travelers know the first flight is the least likely to cancel.”
  2. Bring carry-on luggage only. “That way, your bags will arrive with you.”
  3. Enroll in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (if traveling abroad). “Shorter lines through security is always a bonus. To move even faster, consider joining a biometric-based program like Clear.”
  4. If possible, fly nonstop. “One less flight is one less problem that can occur.”
  5. Weigh the benefits of regional airports. “They generally have shorter security lines and better on-time performance, but when faced with a service disruption, they don’t have expansive ground operations to minimize the impact.”

Casto also advised travelers to use a travel advisor. “They have access to information and decision-makers not available to individual travelers and can advocate on your behalf if there’s an issue.”

If you can’t fly non-stop, choose your connections carefully.

“You’re more likely to have winter delays connecting in Chicago than Dallas,” said Coon. “I also keep tabs on airport renovations and avoid routings through those airports when possible.”

CHECK AND CHECK AGAIN

With all the scheduling changes and cancelations, it’s important to stay on top of your flights. “If you used a travel advisor, they will keep you posted,” said Dave Hershberger, VTA, CTC, president, Prestige Travel. “It’s a good practice to check a week out for any changes and re-check your flight status before heading to the airport.“

Airline apps usually have the most accurate, updated information and should notify you of changes. “Download and use the app for each airline you’ll be flying and input the record locators,” said Hershberger.

Planning air travel can be akin to piecing together a complex puzzle.

Coon said she prides herself on providing solutions consumers could never find on their own. “I know when flying from a nearby airport will get you a nonstop flight or a better price and get daily trade emails to help me stay on top of the latest changes.”

When faced with an emergency, Coon often combines flights from different airlines, taking care to stay within the same alliance (group of airlines with reciprocal agreements) so they will accept each other’s tickets, she said. For example, on an Air France flight from the U.S. to Vienna, the connecting flight from Paris to Vienna was canceled and Air France automatically booked her clients on their flight the next evening. “I rebooked them on a different airline so they got there that same day at no added cost.”

STAY CALM

The first and most important course of action when faced with a problem is to not panic, said Casto.  “If you worked with a travel advisor, they can help navigate the next steps.”

“Otherwise, when you join the long line of frustrated travelers at the airline service desk, remember that the gate agent, the flight attendant, the pilot, and all other passengers are interested in the same thing as you--arriving on time and with minimal stress. While it may be cathartic to draw attention to your issue, it is usually counter-productive,” he stressed.

“Everyone is doing the best they can,” agreed Coon. “People are more likely to help someone being nice and understanding than a person screaming demands at them.” 

Most importantly, experts advise allowing extra time every step of the way.  Arrive a day or two before a cruise departure or a wedding. Allow more than the allotted connection times if you are changing planes. With ample time cushions, you can arrive relaxed and in time, even if you’re running late.

By Geri Bain, travel journalist & editor

 

 

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