Grounded flights. Overcrowding at the airport lounges. Luggage gone missing. Flying today requires a lot of patience and planning. Here are some coping tips to get you through your next flight with your sanity intact.
Book the first flight out
With 2022 shaping up to be one of the worst years for flight delays and cancellations, you’ll want to do all you can to reduce your chances of being trapped at the airport.
Booking the first flight out can increase your chances of an on-time departure. Afternoon and evening flights are more likely to experience delays and cancellations due to traffic and thunderstorms. Bonus: if an early flight does get canceled, you’ll also have more options to rebook that same day.
Plan a longer layover
Direct flights are the best option, but they are harder to book with airlines limiting more routes. If you must make a stop in another city, be sure to give yourself plenty of time at the layover destination. One hour is no longer enough. Even two hours is cutting it close when there’s tarmac traffic on both ends. Play it safe with a three-hour layover or more.
Book your trip with a travel management company
When planning a business trip, always book your flight with the travel management company (TMC), not directly with the airline. This way, if there’s a delay or cancellation, you won’t be tied to the original carrier’s schedule and have the freedom to rebook with other suppliers that offer a better departure time. What’s more, your TMC can assist with rebooking different segments of your trip that need to be changed (e.g., a hotel or car rental) when a flight doesn’t take off as planned.
Time your arrival at the airport well
The general rule of thumb is to arrive at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before international travel. During peak times, you can factor in even more time.
But that doesn’t mean you should get there too far in advance of your flight either. Because of long security lines this year, many people have been arriving super early and killing time at the lounges. The airport clubs have become so packed that the airlines and credit card companies operating them have begun implementing new restrictions to curb capacity – such as Delta’s new rule to limit access within three hours of a scheduled departure time.
To time your arrival just right, download the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) app, which will allow you to check on flight delays, how busy the airport may be, and how long the wait could be at security checkpoints.
Enroll in expedited clearance programs
Since 2013, the TSA PreCheck expedited clearance program has been helping US passengers bypass long security lines – with 99.9% of members waiting less than five minutes at security checkpoints, according to TSA.
Still, if you feel like the TSA PreCheck line is getting longer, you may not be dreaming. There’s a surge in the number of travelers enrolled in the program, with 27.4 million known travelers in the system.
Now, CLEAR’s biometrics program allows you to cut the TSA line. All paying members need to do is have their face/eyes scanned at a CLEAR kiosk to confirm their identity, and then a TSA agent will escort them to the front of the TSA or TSA PreCheck line.
Interested in signing up? American Express Global Business Travel offers clients a preferred rate on membership. Learn more here.
Anticipate crowds at lounges
As mentioned above, the airport clubs are packed these days, so forget arriving super early to lounge at the lounge all day – especially if you’re hoping to score a day pass. Many people wanting to buy their way in are being denied due to capacity limits.
If you are an American Express cardholder and plan to visit an American Express Centurion Lounge, download the company’s app, which allows you to check in and reserve your spot 30 minutes in advance. The app also gives you a sense of how packed the lounge is with status updates like “not busy” and “almost full.”
Take advantage of your TMC’s tools
Some TMCs provide a service that helps stranded travelers manage flight disruptions by monitoring flights in real time and proactively reaching out when there’s a cancellation or delay to see if you need rebooking assistance.
The TMC’s app also can be quite useful, sending alerts when there’s a disruption and enabling you to rebook your flight via the app itself. Many airlines offer a similar service through their own app, but why limit yourself when your TMC’s version can send flight status notifications from all the major airlines? Unless you really want to download an extra dozen apps you’ll hardly use.
Track your luggage
Carry-on affords you the most flexibility, but if you must check in your luggage, consider using a wireless tracker like Tile or Apple’s AirTag. Airport staffing shortages and the high travel demand have led to a spike in lost luggage incidents, and trackers can help you locate a missing suitcase. Simply slip the compact device inside the suitcase and use the accompanying app on your smart device to find your bag’s approximate location on a map.
Even if your luggage isn’t lost, the tracker can help you quickly identify your bag as it’s coming off the conveyor belt. Then you can be hailing yourself a ride while other passengers on your flight are still sorting out which black suitcase is theirs.
Interested in learning about a solution that can help you flight delays and cancellations? Click the image below.