4 tips for avoiding holiday travel delays

The holidays are supposed to be a time to celebrate with family, but holiday travel delays can turn the cheeriest of reunions into nightmares.

Wall Street Journal columnist Scott McCartney offered four tips to prepare for the holiday travel season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic’s continued impact on travel.

Bring your vaccine card

Even if you don’t need proof of vaccination in your area, consider packing your vaccine card or a copy of it.

Some restaurants and events are requiring people to show their vaccine cards or a photo of the card before entering.

Make sure you know the guidelines at your destination to avoid missing out on holiday fun.

Book your rental car before your flight

Finding a rental car may be be harder than you’d expect. Book your rental car before booking your flight.

“We’ve seen many cases where rental cars just aren’t available,” McCartney said.

You might have an easier time finding a rental car at certain airports and it could influence which airport you choose to book.

Plan for air-travel delays with continued staffing shortages

Staffing shortages at airlines are expected to continue into the holiday season, leading to delays and cancellations.

“If you haven’t booked flights yet, I would make sure you book flights with plenty of cushion for delays, especially if you’re going to an event,” McCartney said. “Air travel is not particularly reliable in peak travel periods and so you’re going to have to plan for delay and disruption.”

Brace for the impact of staffing shortages

Nationwide, airlines are seeing higher levels of sick calls and employees on leave who never return to their jobs after being absent. Some airlines are selling more tickets than they can accommodate.

This shortage led to delays over the summer into the fall, and it’s expected to continue.

Normally, when issues like bad weather arise, airlines have fill-in crews to pick up trips or fill in for crew. But airlines have less crews on standby and the result is more cancellations and delays.

There’s hope: airlines are responding to shortages.

Southwest, which had issues with staffing flights this summer and fall, has already trimmed their holiday flight schedule so that 20% of their crews are on reserve: that’s a lot more crews than usual.

American Airlines is offering bonuses to workers who pick up extra shifts during the holidays.

“Airlines are trying what they can because they really don’t want to cancel flights. But it is difficult to motivate people, especially over the holidays when people have their own family plans and don’t really want to pick up extra trips,” McCartney said.

McCartney is the author of the Middle Seat column, which covers airlines and travel.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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