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Air travel survival tips for the holidays

December 21, 2017
Man sleeping at airport

Imagine you’re preparing for holiday travel, only to find out that your American Airlines flight is in danger of being canceled because of a scheduling glitch that created a vast shortage of pilots during Christmas and New Year’s. Or, you’re at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International — the world’s busiest airport — when a sudden power outage shuts down the terminals and forces the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

In the first case, American Airlines took emergency measure to rectify the glitch and restore its flight schedule, much to the chagrin of pilots who lost out on their holiday time off. In the second case, travelers were not so fortunate, as it took nearly 11 hours to restore power to Hartsfield-Jackson International.

Both cases — and many others throughout the history of aviation — underscore the necessity to be prepared for the unforeseen with some survival tips, especially since well over 6 million people are scheduled to travel by air this holiday season. Given the prospects that things could go wrong at certain airports or airlines, reporter Kara Driscoll of the Dayton Daily News drafted a story suggesting air travelers observe these five travel tips for dealing with disruptions and uncertainties. Her contributing source for the story was aviation expert Jay Ratliff.

1) Understand that, much like a weather event, a power outage or other disruption could have delayed effects throughout the week, increasing travel volume when flights come back on line and leave travelers scrambling for seats on flights.

2) Don’t be picky when rebooking a flight. Grab the next best available option, even if that means flying to another city and using a rental car to get to your final destination. Holding out for the best option could mean camping at an airport rather making it to your holiday venue.

3) Check on your flight’s status prior to heading for the airport, or you might end up waiting for hours on a delayed flight. Also, be certain you have a seat assignment confirmation prior to arriving at the airport. Since airlines routinely overbook flights, a seat assignment confirmation ensures you will not get bumped and placed on standby.

4) Prepare for long wait times at security checkpoints. At holiday time there are many travelers who are making their only flight of the year and are inexperienced with the process, slowing progress and extending lines and delays.

5) Avoid peak travel days — Friday, Saturday and Christmas Eve — and avoid heading to the airport on Dec. 29 and Jan. 2, while travelers are en route to and from their New Year’s destinations. You will find less traffic at airports if scheduling flights before and after those dates.

U.S. air travel is remarkably efficient, yet when the system is stressed by a deluge of travelers, some disruptions are inevitable. Hopefully these survival tips will help avert or mitigate the repercussions.

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