travel trouble

Avoid Trouble While Traveling by Air This Holiday Weekend and Beyond

The TSA is reporting some of the biggest crowds at airports across the country since before the pandemic

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Some of you might be packing your bags right now to go out of town this Fourth of July weekend.

But you might want to pack some patience because the airports are bracing for some of the biggest crowds since 2019.

At DFW International Airport, more than 1 million people are expected to travel during the holiday weekend through Tuesday.

DFW Airport says it represents a record amount of travelers and a 10-percent increase over pre-pandemic demand in 2019.

As of late Friday afternoon, the flight tracking site FlightAware listed fewer than 1% of flights canceled out of DFW and Love Field in Dallas combined.

“I just try to get as early as I can in the morning, anticipating that there will be delays or potential cancellations," said Kathy Volmer, who was flying back home to Nashville out of Terminal A at DFW on a business trip. “People are sort of more ready for it now.”

You can expect busy airports and packed planes as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels over the Fourth of July weekend.

Experts say cancellations and delays will be the norm over the next few days. The Transportation Security Administration is reporting crowds back to pre-pandemic levels but without the same staff.

Travelers have seen a lot of what one airline executive calls "blue sky cancellations" lately, where the weather is great and but flights are still canceled.

It’s because of the ongoing staffing shortage – not enough pilots and staff for the schedules that are already published by the airlines, which passengers have already paid for.

With not enough staff, airlines have been forced to cancel flights.

The airlines have also said the FAA doesn't have enough air traffic controllers in certain parts of the country, especially in Florida airports.

You can expect busy airports and packed planes as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels over the Fourth of July weekend.

Experts say this is likely to remain a problem through this year and years to come.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke about the issues in an exclusive interview with NBC News.

"There are going to be challenges but we're watching it closely. And we're talking to the airlines every day about their responsibility to make sure that they can accommodate any issues that weather or other curveballs might throw at them,” he said. “Look, the bottom line is a lot of people, including me, are expecting to get to loved ones over this holiday weekend. And we need a system that is resilient enough to get them there. Plus good customer service when an issue does come up.”

This week, no airline seems to be immune to cutting flights.

Delta and United announced they will be cutting even more flights starting Friday, July 1 and through the summer.

United plans to cut 50 daily flights out of its Newark hub and Delta said it is slashing 100 daily flights through Aug. 7.

Delta even sent an email to passengers flying this weekend warning of "operational challenges" and offering the chance to rebook flights with no fare difference or change fees.

If you’re packing your bags right now for a holiday weekend trip–be prepared prepare for delays and cancellations. Here are some tips for how to handle any issues.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO AVOID TROUBLE TRAVELING BY AIR?

Book Non-Stop Flights
More connections increase your odds of having one of them canceled. You might pay a little more in some cases but it saves you the hassle in the end.

Book Directly With Airline
Not to take away from these third-party sites but right now, experts say if something happens to your flight, you won't be able to work it out at the ticket counter. They will tell you to call that website or third party you used to book your flight. It could be an unnecessary middleman that could waste your time or prevent you from getting rebooked on a new flight.

Book Early Flights
Flights earlier in the day are less likely to be canceled than ones in the afternoon or night. Aim for flights between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. if your schedule allows.

Add Pad Time
Add pad time to your schedule on both sides of your trip so you have time to adjust your plans in case your flight gets canceled or delayed.

Create a Back-Up Plan
Think of backup plans along your journey. Is there a hotel you can keep in mind in a layover city in case you get stuck? Where will you spend the night? Where could you go if your flight gets pushed by a day or two while trying to get home? Pack a little extra just in case and bring items like a travel pillow or other comforts to help you in any situation.

Get There Early
The TSA is warning people to get to the airport two to three hours before their scheduled flight. Be prepared for long security lines, depending on the time of day.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR FLIGHT GETS CANCELED

Request a Refund
The U.S. Department of Transportation says you are entitled to a refund due to flight cancellation or an extremely significant delay that causes the trip to be altered or canceled.  Some airlines may offer you credit but you can still push for a refund because of this rule.

Multi-Task
Don't just wait in the customer service line and do nothing else. Make sure to download the smartphone app for the airline you are flying with and pull up your reservation there. Many airlines allow you to automatically select other flight options through the app without waiting on someone. If that doesn’t work, call the airlines while waiting in line at the airport – although be prepared for long wait times. You can also direct message the airline on Twitter or tweet at them. People have said Twitter can sometimes get a faster response. You can also try walking to another terminal and visiting another gate counter that might be less busy than the gate for your canceled flight.

Request a Hotel
Keep in mind, that airports and airlines are not required to put you in a hotel but it is something you can always ask about.

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