Dec. 18—There’s no place like home for the holidays, but sometimes, it’s difficult to get there.
Travel experts are predicting there won’t be as many flight cancellations or delays this winter compared to earlier in the year, but it is still a factor. Chad Cotter, general manager at TotallyTrips/Aura Travel, said on top of this, he’s expecting airports to be extra busy this holiday season.
“I think it’ll be more so than what we’ve seen,” Cotter said. “Ever since COVID restrictions have been relaxed, we’ve been seeing a lot more people traveling this year. So, I think it’ll be a very busy year for holiday travel.”
He said if a flight is canceled due to something caused by the airline, such as a mechanical issue or a staffing shortage, it is the airline’s responsibility to get travelers on the next available flight or compensate them by providing food and lodging vouchers.
If a flight is canceled due to weather, Cotter said airlines will put passengers on the next available flight, but they don’t have to provide vouchers or compensation.
However, Cotter said travel insurance can help cover those costs. Travelers file a claim to get reimbursed for all the costs incurred due to their flight being delayed or canceled. He said travelers should keep receipts for this purpose.
Wendy Eidmann, owner and adviser at Round Tuit Travel, said it’s important to read travel insurance policies carefully.
“When you get an insurance policy, you might want to read over the fine print of the delays, what they would cover for a delay and even call the company and ask them, ‘If I got into this situation and ended up paying a lot more for a ticket, would you reimburse me the difference?'” Eidmann said.
It’s also helpful to have a Plan B when it comes to holiday travel. Cotter said this includes having backup travel dates in mind and having a list of all needed phone numbers, such as airline, travel agent and the insurance company.
If someone is really concerned about not being able to make it to a destination due to weather, Eidmann advises checking the weather in advance and changing plans to avoid making a last-minute decision at the airport when a winter storm does hit.
Other travel tips from Eidmann include taking carry-on bags instead of checking in bags to allow more flexibility if flights get canceled. She also said when possible, book the first flight of the day.
“That’s going to be your best bet in getting out on time unless there’s some bad weather,” Eidmann said. “According to statistics, the least number of cancellations are those early morning flights.”
Eidmann said it’s also smart to check in for flights early online. When doing this, she advises people to add day-of travel information so the airline can contact travelers with any updates to their flight.
“So you’re not waiting for the gate agent, because sometimes you’ll get updated on your phone even before the gate agent will,” Eidmann said.
Similarly to this, Cotter said airline apps are a huge help in getting real-time changes right on the phone instead of waiting for an email from the airline.
He said anyone flying through KCI this holiday season should get there early and give themselves extra time due to the construction currently taking place.
“Just allow yourself plenty of time,” Cotter said. “And of course … just have patience with you because there’s going to be long lines and delays.”
Cotter said the busiest day for holiday travel likely will be Friday, Dec. 23. He said if people are still looking to book flights, there will be more availability and lower rates on the actual holidays, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Morgan Doyle can be reached at [email protected]