Editor’s Note: This is a recurring post, updated with new information.
There have been some busy holiday travel periods marred by cancellations and delays over the past year. However, since airlines have made some changes in recent months, there is hope that 2022 Thanksgiving and Christmas travel will look much better than last year’s holidays, and even holiday travel to early 2022, such as Memorial Day weekend.
Demand is already high as Thanksgiving approaches. Airlines last month saw some of their busiest days since the start of the pandemic, and that was without a major holiday.
However, amid warnings earlier this year that air travel won’t improve until 2023, there are a few lessons we learned over the summer that you might want to keep in mind as you prepare to head to the airport for your vacation flight.
Consider arriving a day early
Your Thanksgiving travel plans are likely already set in stone, but if you’re still holding off booking Christmas flights, consider giving yourself a little extra time to work.
If there’s a must-see family celebration or other event you’re hoping to throw, any disruption—from freezing weather to mechanical problems to airline staff challenges—could throw your plans out of whack. On top of that, as airlines have tighter schedules to ensure staff can keep up with demand, planes are likely to be full. This means that if you run into a cancellation, the airlines may not have a place for you on the next flight.
Filling out your travel schedule to arrive a day early could be critical to ensuring that a hiccup in your itinerary doesn’t derail your entire trip.
Stay up to date on airport news
Be attentive to the social networks of the airport you visit. This can be a good way to get an idea of the potential challenges you might face along your journey.
Whether it’s an early warning to reserve a parking space in advance because availability may be limited, or a heads-up about some kind of operational problem at the airport, these messages will usually end up on the airport’s Twitter or Facebook page.
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This applies to major airports both in the US and internationally.
We’ve also discussed how the Transportation Security Administration app can help you get an early idea of the kind of wait you may encounter at the security checkpoint.
Learn about the policies of the US Department of Transportation.
Make sure you are aware of your travel rights as outlined in US Department of Transportation policies, a major focus of the department of late. It has launched a new website that sets out passenger rights.
A key right to keep in mind: You are entitled to a refund if your trip is canceled or significantly delayed and you ultimately decide not to fly.
It’s also important to know how much the airline must reimburse you when it comes to hotel stays, food, and ground transportation due to a major disruption within the airline’s control.
Also, bookmark TPG’s points and miles ratings page so you can do the math and find out what to choose if the airline offers you a cash or miles option for your trouble.
Watch the weather in key hubs
If the weather seems clear where you are, and at your destination anyway, you may be in trouble even if you haven’t seen a drop of rain or a flake of snow.
Over the summer, we saw repeatedly how a storm system in New York or Florida could disrupt traffic along the entire East Coast, as many key air routes pass through those corridors.
If you’re traveling from Miami International Airport (MIA) to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) on American Airlines, but New York and Washington (both cities with key US hubs) are experiencing bad weather, residual effects may may interrupt your itinerary.
Keep a close eye on the weather in your city of origin, destination, and connecting city, but also be aware of bad weather events at your airline’s regional hubs. It might give you an early idea that trouble is on the horizon for your schedule.
Know your way around your airline’s app
On too many occasions this summer, my airline’s app came in handy when I ran into cancellations and delays. However, I rarely called customer service and never stood in one of those incredibly long lines to speak to a customer service representative at the airport.
By using the airline’s app, you can often rebook a new flight in a matter of seconds. You can even make several changes if the first flight you find isn’t ideal. (Still, you should try to book the first thing you find that at least works with your schedule because even that can go quickly.)
When there are massive flight disruptions, it can be challenging to find a new flight that is convenient, but the app can save you a lot of time waiting in line or waiting in line.
You can also use the airline app to spot early signs of trouble, like when your flight’s incoming plane is running late and is likely to affect your flight downstream.
Have a backup lounge
Lounge overcrowding issues that began to manifest themselves before the pandemic certainly did not go away in 2022. These problems can be particularly troublesome on days when massive flight disruptions leave many travelers stranded at airports.
For that reason, you may have to wait to get into a lounge during your trip, which, depending on the length of your layover or departure time, may make waiting impossible or generally not worth the wait. worth waiting.
This can mean having to brave the airport concourse with most other travelers for a pre-flight meal or drink.
Please note that some credit cards may provide alternative options for accessing the VIP lounge. For example, American Express The Business Platinum Card® cardholders can access Centurion lounges, Priority Pass lounges and, if flying with Delta Air Lines, Delta Sky Clubs.
Like many aspects of travel in 2022, having a backup plan goes a long way.
Consider AirTags or try not to check a bag
From mountains of luggage in Europe to bags lost during disruptions at domestic airports, the rocky summer for air travel included nightmare scenarios for many travelers when it came to luggage.
Particularly when there are cascading delays and cancellations affecting many flights, the baggage situation can start to get messy and your bag could be left behind. This is especially true when your itinerary changes.
The best way to ensure that your luggage is with you when you land is to pack everything in a carry-on. This means that you will need to make sure that the contents of your luggage comply with TSA 3-1-1 rules, that the size of your luggage complies with the airline’s carry-on policies, and that your ticket allows one carry-on of full size .
We have also seen how important AirTags can be in locating your bag if it gets lost. At the same time, some travelers have learned the hard way that being able to locate their luggage and recovering it can be two very different things. (A traveler had to fly back to Europe a second time to retrieve his family’s luggage.)
Still, it helps to know where in your trip your bag was lost.
Plan ahead for airport car rentals
While car rental companies continue to work to increase their inventory after many companies sold cars during the pandemic, things are still not fully back to normal on the car rental front. From inventory to staffing issues to high demand, you can certainly still see long lines at car rental locations. It’s not exactly nice to wait in a long line after a flight.
Plan ahead by making sure you’re enrolled in your car rental company’s loyalty program to take advantage of skip-the-line privileges; You can use credit card elite status benefits with car rental companies to ensure you won’t have to deal with most other travelers looking to check out.
If there’s a silver lining to the many flight disruptions this summer, it’s that travelers now know they need to be equipped with plenty of strategies if things go wrong on future trips.
Since it could be 2023 before things truly return to “normal,” keep in mind that a little planning could go a long way to making your holiday air travel experiences as painless as possible.