Merry Crisis

It may be better to load up your car with cheer and hit the highway this holiday season! Photo taken at Batson River in Kennebunk, ME

Hello Hungry Traveler!

I really hope you are at home or some place comfortable for the next week or so, because Air Travel is ON ONE this week! You’re probably aware of the operational meltdown at Southwest Airlines- canceling over 70% of their entire schedule today and yesterday have sent the entire country into a tailspin. I’m currently on I-75 and it’s been a constant traffic jam for about 6 hours in and out of Atlanta- likely worsened by stranded travelers just trying to make it to their destination. My husband and I decided to drive home to Kansas City to celebrate Christmas- mainly because airfare was extortionate, but we are feeling very fortunate to not be in an airport this week. If you by chance find yourself stranded in an airport this week (or any other time for that matter) I am sharing my tips for making the most out of yet another “Airmageddon”

Super helpful- For a comprehensive list of what each airline offers for compensation and accommodation, Click Here

1. Have a Plan B

If you are traveling on Southwest any time in the next week, it is increasingly likely that your flight with be cancelled or significantly delayed. It is best to hope for the best yet plan for the worst. Rental cars are nearly sold out across the board and other air carriers are charging a fortune as travelers scramble to reach their long-awaited destinations. My suggestion- drive your own car if you can, or look to Amtrak or even Greyhound. May also be just worth rebooking for another time- January is a great time to avoid crowds btw.

2. Skip the line

If you find yourself stranded- try to get to your plan B ASAP. This may mean booking a hotel, a rental car, train ticket or whatever the case may be. Instead of joining the Rebooking line, get on your merry way and call/tweet/dm/email the airline. If you booked via a travel agency (great idea- go you!), call your agency right away. Honestly, just use a travel agency, they will make your life so much easier and have access to the same systems that the airlines are using to rebook you. The agency will have your back when the airline does not. The main idea here: get out of the airport when it becomes clear that things are not looking good. I wish I had better words of wisdom for checked bags, listen, I get it, luggage is full of boots, coats and gifts from Santa’s sleigh- but this is yet another reason to NEVER check a bag. If you must- be sure to throw an AirTag, Tile or other tracking device in the suitcase- it can make all the difference and give you some peace of mind knowing where your bag is located. My suggestion- if your bag doesn’t show in Baggage Claim, file an online claim or phone your Airline’s baggage service line. Avoid the lines, people!

3. Use an ETA airport guide

Check out the airport guides on this site to see my top spots to pass the time with some good eats. Make the most of your airport appreciation time and have a cocktail or three to ease the suffering.

4. Be kind.

Yes, you want to scream. Yes, you have every right to be upset when long-awaited plans are ruined. Yes, it’s just not fair! But guess what? Anyone you are going to speak to is most likely having just about as bad of a day as you are. Please be kind- air travel is complex and fragile- it take a whole lot of effort, labor and resources to put several hundred people in an aluminum tube and shoot them across the sky at 500 mph. A little kindness goes a long way and the last thing you want is to end up on TikTok being called all kinds of nasty names in the comments by user785690325. You can be assertive and still be kind- trust the process and take a deep breath.

5. Know what you’re owed

Airlines cannot be held accountable for weather-related delays, which is just common sense as who can control weather, right?! However, when an operational meltdown, mechanical issue or staffing issue are at play, you are absolutely entitled to certain compensation within reason. By law, Airlines can reimburse up to a total of $3,800 if your baggage is damaged, delayed or lost. My suggestion- write the airline, document what exactly happened to you with all important details. Emotion has no place here- just the facts. State clearly what you believe you are owed. One note- if the airline has told you they are offering food/hotel/transportation vouchers, it’s best to accept them. I once missed a connection (on my honeymoon!) because of a mechanical delay. I booked a reasonably priced hotel of my choice and asked American Airlines for reimbursement- which they did in addition to quite a few AADVANTAGE Miles and a very sincere apology. ETA pro tip- SAVE EVERY SINGLE RECEIPT for expenses incurred because of a travel disruption- submit it all to the airline, the worst they can say is no. For the current situation with Southwest- visit https://www.southwest.com/traveldisruption

Take-Away

After two years of COVID-cancelled Christmases, time away from loved ones, very little travel and overall angst, the last thing anyone wanted was a thwarted holiday. In all seriousness, if you’ve found yourself in the middle of this “Airmageddon”, you have my sincere empathy and I hope some of the above tips are helpful. Please drop a comment or send me a message if you need any advice- always here to help in any way I can. Wishing all a Happy New Year celebration and raising a glass to smooth travels in ‘23 for all!

-ETA

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