Americans are traveling in record numbers. Add in seasonal storms, old technology, sold-out flights, packed airspace, plus staffing issues, and getting to your vacation destination on time seems more like a getaway game of chance.
While flight cancellations are down compared to last year, delayed flights are up significantly. Globally, there were 30,000 delayed flights per day, with about 8,000 U.S. delays over the summer.
“Americans are paying the price of years of chronic underinvestment by the federal government in our nation’s air travel system,” says U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman.
“Flying is an adventure in itself. You may find yourself kicking, screaming, and questioning your decision to leave home before arriving at your destination. This rollercoaster of emotions is hardly desirable when trying to enjoy your trip, especially if you’ve been looking forward to it for some time.
“But there are ways to better prepare for the cancellations, delays, and other impending airport drama before you even leave the house,” adds Betty Hurd, travel writer, and full-time flight attendant.
So if you’re flying soon, increase your odds of smooth travels with these tips from full-time travelers, pilots, and flight attendants.
Before You Book, Research
According to AAA booking data, international travel is up more than 200% compared to 2022 driving up flight prices. So while it might be tempting to book the cheapest option possible, consider these recommendations to reduce the chances of being delayed.
“Try to travel to larger, well-served airports,” advises a current European airline pilot. “For example, if you’re traveling to Italy, Rome Fiumicino airport will have a more comprehensive range of options should there be a strike or cancellation than Rome Ciampino.”
“Book the more popular flights during hectic travel periods to ensure you get out on time. Check what kind of plane you’d be on and how full the flight is,” continues Hurd. “A jam-packed 787 will take priority to hit the runway over a half-full regional jet.”
When comparing your options, consider the airlines’ on-time record. For example, Delta, Southwest, and United flights are delayed approximately 20% of the time. In comparison, Jetblue and Hawaiian Airlines are delayed closer to 30%.
Experts Say Book This Type of Flight
While it may mean getting up before the sun, driving to an airport farther away to get a direct flight, or shelling out more money, experts say it is worth it. Booking a nonstop, early flight significantly reduces flight delays or the chance of a catastrophic travel day.
“Take the first flight out in the morning. It’s hard to get up in the middle of the night to head to the airport, but the odds of getting to your destination are much higher when you force yourself to be an early riser. This way, if there are any issues early in the day, you’ll likely have plenty of other opportunities to catch a later flight,” explains Betty Hurd.
“More often than not, the worst consequences of cancellations and delays on a trip are due to connecting flights. So, booking a direct flight or one with the fewest connections possible,” adds Nate Hake, a full-time traveler.
“If you must book a connecting flight, do so on the same ticket,” recommends a current pilot. “If facing delays or cancellations due to a technical issue, and the weather is fine at the connecting flight’s location, you will likely need to rebook the connecting ticket. If you have one whole ticket with an airline, they are more likely to organize another ticket on a later flight for you.”
Prepare for the Worst Case Scenario Travel Day
Before you head to the airport, a little preparation goes a long way in dealing with potential flight delays and cancellations. While travelers would rather be at their vacation spot than spend extra time in the airport, pack the items that will help make the most of additional downtime, like a book, kids’ toys, or an Ipad preloaded with a watchlist of shows and movies.
Now, the fastest way to stay updated on flight changes and rebook a new flight is in travelers’ hands. Ensure you have the airline app on your phone, know your username and password, and add your reservation to your profile. You’re not wasting any precious time if you need to use it to get on another flight. However, If you booked with an online travel site, research their specific procedures for rebooking during delays and cancellations.
The summer is peak season, and in addition to expected seasonal crowds and ongoing staffing shortages, weather can also come into play when extreme heat or summer storms occur. Making this process easier, Priceline’s improved flight rebooking tool allows you to rebook with your airline credit right on Priceline, so you don’t have to wait on hold for an airline representative to get your journey back on track,” explains Christina Bennet, head of communications at Priceline.
If your flight gets canceled or significantly delayed, nothing throws a wrench in re-booking plans like collecting checked luggage and getting it on your new flight. That’s why experts recommend only traveling with carry-on bags; the smaller, the better, so you can be as flexible as possible.
“Try to travel light with luggage that goes under the seat only to avoid any trolley bags getting placed into the airplane hold and not making it all the way,” advises a current pilot.
Try Not To Stress; You’re Off Work After All
While you can’t control the weather or other delays, you can control how you handle the bumps in the road. For parents traveling with children, remember that kids will pick up on how you handle changes. “If you can project a calm feeling, you will have a smoother experience,” says Michelle Schomp, Founder of Passport Explorers and a full-time traveling family.
“So have fun and let go of expectations. Too often, I see the whole family stressed if one thing doesn’t go as anticipated. Enjoy the journey of the travel day and not just the destination,” she continues.
This article was produced by Media Decision.