Mask mandates have been lifted, travel restrictions are falling away and travelers, who’ve been biding their time for the past two years, are eagerly turning out to take their post-pandemic vacations in droves.
Unfortunately, the aviation industry seems to find itself ill-prepared to handle such passenger volumes, leading to the airport chaos we’ve witnessed at airports around the globe in recent months.
The aviation sector pandemonium seen over the past few months has been blamed on either severe weather conditions, technical glitches, or airlines and airports continuing to be short-staffed for various reasons.
And, the long wait times, snaking queues and traffic jams at airports, along with flight delays and cancellations, are likely to intensify as the summer travel season comes into full swing.
For those who’ve been counting on finally getting away, following more than two years stuck at home, TimeOut recently compiled some helpful suggestions to help you avoid as many air travel hassles and headaches as possible this summer.
Avoid Certain Airlines
In the U.S., all major carriers have been affected by the “perfect storm” of circumstances that are creating backups at airports and ongoing flight disruptions, but JetBlue, Southwest and Alaska were the first to start suffering problems this spring. But, a Fodor’s survey last month also revealed that customers have been particularly unhappy with American Airlines lately.
Avoid Certain Airports
Some airports are presently more notorious than others for having ridiculously long lines to get through security screening checkpoints, passport control and baggage claim, requiring departing passengers to arrive extra early in order to make their flights and arrivals to possess the patience of Job. The latest airports to prove particularly problematic have been Dublin Airport, England’s Manchester Airport and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, so steer clear of those.
Fly To Big Cities
Many airlines are still offering only reduced, pandemic-era service at smaller regional airfields, which—being still understaffed and faced with operational challenges—they’re more likely to cut when trimming flight schedules. If your flight gets cancelled, alternatives can be hard to find and fairly expensive. If possible, book your flights between major urban hubs where carriers are sure to maintain a regular schedule.
Arrive at the Airport Early, Avoid Checking Baggage
Spending extra time at the airport is probably not your idea of a good time, but getting there even earlier than is typically recommended gives you the best chance of making it onto your flight, even if the lines and wait times are exceptionally long. And, of course, if you can stick with just your carry-on and avoid checking luggage, it’ll allow you to skip at least one queue.
Get Travel Insurance
Thanks to COVID-19, travel insurance has gone from being considered an “extra” to a trip essential. The right insurance policy can any losses if your flight gets cancelled, and guarantee you receive some compensation for substantial flight delays, or if your luggage gets lost or damaged.
Download Airline Apps
With the unpredictability of changes being made to flight schedules, airports’ departure boards and even online flight information just aren’t as reliable as updates available on the airlines’ official apps. Through the app, carriers send push notifications or texts right to your phone in real-time regarding last-minute gate changes, delays, etc.
Opt for a Staycation
An easy way to avoid airport insanity is to leave it out of your vacation planning altogether and stick to somewhere within driving distance, or that’s easily accessible by train. Staycations aren’t as popular as they were at the height of the pandemic, so local hotels and resorts likely still have summer availability.
Take the Train
It may be a somewhat slower journey, but going by rail can be a pretty pleasant experience that allows you can sit back and enjoy the scenery, as well as all the extra leg room. Plus, it’s probably a good deal cheaper.
Take Your Summer Vacay Slightly Later
If you aren’t confined by school break dates and don’t mind waiting until September, after the summer travel peak has died down somewhat, you’ll likely encounter far less crowding and confusion at airports. If you have your heart set on a long-haul trip, you’ll find plenty of European summer hotspots—like Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Malta—are ideal for late-summer sun-seekers.