Air travel has reached pre-pandemic levels for the first time since the covid-19 pandemic began, and summer traveling is boosting those numbers. It has not been easy for airlines to quickly re-adjust to pre-pandemic “normality” as consumers begin flying again.
Anyone who has flown (or attempted to) in the last few months will report that there are labor and staff shortages, flights are being cancelled left and right, and luggage is being lost. There have been a record number of airline cancellations, as more than 116,000 flights have been cancelled this year. Flight cancellations are highest at New York, Florida, and Newark, N.J., airports.
United Airlines (UAL) – Get United Airlines Holdings Inc. Report announced in late June that the airline is cancelling around 50 flights per day at the Newark airport until the end of the summer to “help minimize excessive delays and improve on-time performance.”
Some estimates say that the airline industry could lose up to 12,000 pilots by next year.
In addition, flying has gotten more expensive. Domestic flights are up 30% since 2019 and up 47% since January 2022. However, summer is the peak travel season, so prices are generally higher. Record-high inflation and peak gas prices are not helping consumers afford flights either.
As college students fly across the country to return to school and summer vacations come to a close, here are four tips to make the best of air travel.
Some Air Travel Tips Might Be Helpful
1. Track Flight Prices on Google Flights
Flights are really expensive right now, so finding the best flight for your buck is important. Google Flights has a price-tracking option, so you can get notified when your selected travel dates have a lower price.
Simply go onto https://www.google.com/travel/flights and enter in your destination and preferred dates and then you will see a drop-down list of flight options. Prices in green are the cheapest. Underneath the filters options on the page, you will see a button that says “Track prices” and then you will get emails as prices change. Keep an eye on your email for that sweet deal!
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2. Arrive at the Airport Early
Because of labor and staff shortages, lines for security and checking baggage are more time-consuming. For domestic flights, arrive three hours early at the airport to ensure you don’t miss your flight because of a long line.
3. Arrive at the Airport Ready
Airlines have apps that allow you to check in 24 hours before the flight, ensuring you can check your bags and get assigned to your seat if you haven’t already. Checking in online instead of at the airport can save precious time in case you are running behind or security is taking a long time. In addition, have your boarding passes on your mobile device versus on paper. This allows for easier scanning by security and staff, and is less likely to be lost when you are searching your bag or purse for your tickets. Apple Wallet, where you can store your boarding passes, is on iPhones, and Androids have Google Wallet.
4. Know Your Luggage
Luggage reported lost has jumped up 30% from 2019, but the chance your luggage will actually never be returned is small.
In addition to keeping your baggage receipt given to you when you check your bag in, put a special tag on your luggage so you can easily identify it when it goes down the carousel.
High-Tech Tracking Helps Find Luggage
Put an AirTag, a tracking device made by Apple, in your luggage so you can keep track of it in case you can’t find it at baggage claim. The AirTag can also make a noise so you can locate it.
If you still can’t find your luggage, locate the baggage desk and ask an agent for help. Keeping a photo of your luggage in your phone may be helpful as well.
Airlines are expected to become less chaotic when summer ends, but for now, hopefully these tips will help travelers get to their gate quicker and seated faster.