AAA offers advice for air travelers

Be patient and prepared as airports around the world become busier, have own rules

Air travelers are advised to be patient and prepared as millions of Americans return to the airport for summer trips. Demand has steadily climbed in recent months, as the world reopens to travelers. However, the increased demand, weather issues, and staff shortages have resulted in longer security lines and in some cases, altered itineraries and canceled flights.

“We are witnessing a resurgence in air travel, and the industry is working to keep pace with the soaring demand,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA — The Auto Club Group. “Airlines are restoring staff and adding routes, both of which were reduced during the pandemic. Travelers should monitor their flight status for any changes leading up to their trip, with airline apps being an easy way to stay informed. You should also arrive at the airport 2-3 hours before your flight, to ensure you to get to your gate on time.”

Sunday, June 20, the TSA reportedly screened more than 2.1 million air travelers — the most since the pandemic was declared in March 2020. So far this month, air passenger counts averaged nearly 1.9 million passengers per day. While that average is 32% lower than June 2019 (2,566,092), it’s on pace for a 145% increase from January 2021.

Tips for air passengers:

• Book early for more options (seat and flight inventory).

• Enroll in TSA PreCheck to get the most convenient experience with the least amount of physical contact in screening. There’s no need for screening bins, shoes/belts stay on, and laptops, liquids, and food remain in the carry-on. In March 2021, 98% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes.

• Consider flight travel insurance but read the fine print to understand what it covers.

• Know your rights as an air passenger and review your airline’s contract of carriage for information on their policies for flight delays, cancellations and rebooking. If the airlines change the flight, you may be entitled to a full refund.

• Book your trip with a knowledgeable travel agent. They’ll serve as your advocate in case your flight is delayed or canceled and can help with any last-minute travel plans.

• Check your airline’s website or download their app to keep up-to-date on your flight status, including one last time right before you leave for the airport. Check these options before calling their customer service number, which may result in a long wait time.

“Potential inconveniences associated with air travel are worth it for those interested in traveling internationally,” Haas said. “Popular destinations like Rome, Paris and Venice are far less crowded now than they likely will be in the future. River cruises, ocean cruises and guided tours are typically operating with fewer guests, so you’ll have a more intimate experience. Plus, many excellent values are being offered on travel in 2021 as new itineraries become available nearly daily.”

Countries in Europe and around the world each have their own COVID-19-related protocols for incoming travelers. Travelers should seek the advice of their local travel advisor who can help navigate the evolving requirements as they plan and prepare to travel.

Whatever the plans, travel experts urge travelers to consider travel insurance to protect their wallet and health before and during their trip. If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s that you have to be prepared for the unexpected. — By Tri-County Times