Flying over Thanksgiving? The crowds are back

Consumer Report

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Air travel for the upcoming holiday season is expected to be back up to 2019 numbers this year, but expect a few bumps on the ground before you actually board the plane.

That includes dealing with big crowds as you navigate larger airports, along with flight delays and cancellations.

Willis Orlando, who is a senior product operations specialist with Scott’s Cheap Flights, says much of the tried and true advice, like arriving early, still holds.

“Expect longer lines at the ticket counter and the security check-in,” said Orlando.

He also says these days it’s a good idea to check the status of your flight starting at least 24 hours before it’s scheduled departure.

“If there’s a change, very often the airline will make those changes on the website and you can know about it at home and not wait until you get to the airport,” said Orlando.

“The winter travel season, Thanksgiving, in particular, is always one of the busiest times of the year to travel, and this year we’re expecting it to be as busy as ever,” he said. “Folks are very optimistic about travel again. We’re seeing that bookings both domestically and internationally are skyrocketing.”

Orlando says a convergence of domestic and international travelers over the six-week holiday season will create challenges, but travelers can be prepared for what may be a “little chaos at airports.”

“Be vigilant and be prepared and be proactive,” said Orlando.

Airline consultant Ken Jenkins also reminds travelers who may start at a smaller airport that they are likely making connecting flights at much larger ones.

“It’s the connection point that’s also important and a lot of people miss this part and if you’re connecting to a major hub location like Chicago, it’s a good idea to know how much time you have or if you will have to hoof it,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins suggests downloading the airline app saying that sometimes changes in flights will be sent to you even before flight personnel know about it. He says when making connections, it’s a good idea to look up the website of the city’s airport and familiarize yourself with the different terminals.

Jenkins also says you may be stuck with dealing with a delayed flight but don’t be shy about asking why you are waiting.

“You always have the right to ask and honestly, I’d be upset if you had to ask because the airline (agent) should be making that announcement and telling you why there is a delay,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins says if the delay is airline-related such as a mechanical or staffing problem, the airline is responsible for providing food and or lodging vouchers. But he says if it is weather-related, don’t count on an airline offering to help you out.

Orlando also says that many delays may be blamed on the weather but that “one of the things passengers need to be aware of right now is there are very often issues with cabin crews and pilots.”

Orlando says more delays and even cancellations may be caused by staffing shortages. He points out there is an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights.

“You should know your rights so if your flight is canceled or significantly delayed you are entitled to a cash refund,” said Orlando.

Experts say the more you know before you fly the better your trip. Still, that won’t stop the crowds so time is always the issue.

“Again, just give yourself extra time,” said Orlando.

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