Summer air travel is off to a bad start. Here’s how to increase your chances of getting where you want to go

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(CNN) — The last thing a traveler needs after the past two years is more chaos and confusion.

Unfortunately, many air travelers this summer are in for a bumpy ride.

United Airlines on Thursday became the latest US carrier to cut some summer flights.

Delta Air Lines, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have also reduced their summer schedules.

“It’s a wise move for airlines to cut spending,” says Kathleen Bangs, a former airline pilot and spokeswoman for flight tracking site FlightAware.

She cited many factors behind an increased number of delays and cancellations, including the shortage of pilots and air traffic controllers and the overall shortage of airline staff.

And it’s happening all over the world. Ryanair staff at airports across Europe began a weekend of strikes on Friday, and British Airways workers voted to strike over pay issues. If British Airways goes ahead, the move could cause more problems for travelers this summer.

For the air traveler in the summer of 2022, all of this means more strategic planning. Here are some tips to increase your chances of getting where you want to go this summer.

Go early, with a tampon

• Fly early. Catching a flight that departs early in the day helps avoid the cascading effect of delays and cancellations, says Bangs. Bad weather is also more likely to affect subsequent flights.

• And leave enough time at the airport. Bangs had a 7 a.m. departure last week from the Houston Intercontinental, which left him at 4:30 a.m.

“And I was a little surprised that even at this early hour, the two hours I had between arriving at the airport and leaving was ALMOST not enough,” Bangs said in an email. .

The typical two-hour buffer recommended for domestic flights might not be enough at this time. “Three hours might be more of a rule at major airports.”

• Opt for continuous and frequent service. Choosing a nonstop flight offered multiple times a day on major carriers increases your chances of being rebooked on the same route in a timely manner, said Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at the ticket deals site. Scott’s Cheap Flights aircraft.

• If you have connections, leave a buffer. Book with a two-hour minimum between connecting flights, advises Bangs. Tight connections could leave you stuck.

• Schedule cushion time for must-see events. Do not travel on the day of a major event such as a wedding. Plan to arrive at least a day in advance.

Pack strategically and make a backup plan

• Use hand luggage for essentials. Pack everything you will need within a day or two in your carry-on. Don’t check for prescription drugs or other essentials.

• Or consider traveling only with hand luggage. A rolling suitcase plus a “personal item,” which Bangs says can be much larger than a typical handbag, can often suffice even on long trips.

“Ladies, don’t use a purse as a second carry-on. Get a large second carry-on that fits your purse inside,” advises Bangs.

• To be really safe, book an emergency flight. Bangs often books a second refundable or reusable ticket.

“The chances of two different carriers, just hours apart, both being canceled are still pretty slim,” Bangs noted, unless there is a widespread weather event.

• Or consider other means of emergency transportation. “Having a backup rental car is a good idea for shorter flights,” Bangs said. “Most rental companies won’t charge if you cancel.”

• Consider driving. “Consider driving one leg of your trip and driving home if you’re traveling for a big event. In some cases, it’s cheaper than the round-trip cost,” said Lousson Smith, product operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap. Flights.

“If the destination is within 7 hours, it may be worth driving.”

Organize your travel tools

• Check your departure airport’s website and Twitter feed. They often share useful information about construction projects impacting operations and long security lines.

• Check your airline’s website for travel waivers. Sometimes you can easily change your flight when delays and cancellations are likely, Bangs said. Case in point: Delta issued a waiver just before Memorial Day weekend due to inclement weather forecasts.

• Check your credit card’s travel coverage. Premium cardholders often have insurance that could cover expenses such as meals and accommodation in the event of a delay or cancellation.

• Make sure you have airline apps. If your flight is canceled, reschedule your trip on the airline’s app, advises Bangs. You’ll likely be able to rebook faster, and you’ll have access to seats that will likely fill up while you’ve been waiting on the phone.

If you need to rebook, do your research and be considerate

Do your research and work with airline agents. If you have a carrier preference or a route you prefer, talk about it.

“Work with them to see if they can put you on another carrier or take you through a different city than they offer,” advises Bangs.

She was recently rerouted via Phoenix rather than Salt Lake City at her request because she would rather be on a mainline airline than a regional carrier and she thought she would have more options from Phoenix if she got stuck there. -down.

• Request a hotel voucher or frequent flyer mile credit. If you cannot board the same day, it is worth asking for meal and/or hotel tickets. In many cases, such as weather events, airlines are not required to provide them, but it is worth asking.

Bangs recently negotiated a mileage credit and she’s already used it to book a flight this fall.

• Stay considerate. Don’t blame your frustration on customer service employees. They do not make operational decisions.

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