Remember that scene at the end of Love Actually where everyones hugging and kissing each other at Heathrow airport while the Beach Boys God Only Knows plays? Sigh. Unfortunately, in recent weeks, airports have been more horror story than rom-com. From airline strikes and staff shortages to record-high flight cancellations and baggage disruptions, its chaos, actually.
So why are airports so stressful these days? What exactly are the issues facing airlines and what can you do to reduce airport stress? Lets take a look.
An Increase of Airport Strikes
Whats Going On: In the last month, at airports all across the globe, workers have gone on strike. From pilot strikes at Delta airlines in the U.S. and Scandinavian airline SAS to the British Airways check-in staff at Heathrow, airline crew and staff are protesting for higher wages, better work-life balance, more comprehensive healthcare and job security.
While British Airways staff ended their strike on July 7th, once a deal had been reached, other airline strikes persist and travel experts expect more strikes to crop up. The summer of strikes only adds to travelers stress.
How It Impacts You: Longer wait times, canceled flights and a drastically reduced limit to the number of passengers on any given flight.
What You Can Do About it: Trip insurance often offers financial protections against unannounced airline or airport strikes. The strike has to last a requisite number of days and prevent you from reaching your destination. Crucially, only unannounced strikes will be covered. This means that if you book your trip after a strike has made the news, it wont be protected.
Why Theres a Pilot Shortage
Whats Going On: North America is experiencing a pilot shortage and experts say that by 2023 the industry may lose 15% of their supply. Its one of the biggest airport issues. Unlike many other issues within the travel industry, this one pre-dates the pandemic. A record-high number of pilots are approaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 and their replacements just arent there. This, in part, has to do with the military shifting from manned planes to unmanned aircraft like drones.
According to travel experts, airlines used to recruit around of their pilots from the military. Since the military no longer has the bevy of pilots it once had, that has now dropped to . The pandemic has only made this situation worse, as it prompted US Airways to reduce its number of pilots by 10% in an effort to cut costs.
How It Impacts You: Flight delays and cancellations, reduced routes and services,
What You Can Do About it: If you buy a ticket for a destination that is later cut from the airlines route list, youll likely receive compensation from the airline itself. Similarly, if you experience an airline-caused cancellation, your airline should reimburse you. For costs incurred due to flight delays, and on the off-chance that you are not reimbursed at all by the airlines for flight cancellations, Trip insurance can offer a vital financial assist.
Why Airfare is so Expensive
Whats Going On: If youre wondering why flights are so expensive right now, youre not alone. After two years of pent-up wanderlust, people finally feel comfortable enough to travel. We call it revenge travel but unfortunately, it now seems like travel is having its revenge on us. Increased demand leads to fewer cheap flights.
Additionally, the high fuel prices were all dealing with right now, naturally drives up ticket cost. Finally, business travel has seen a significant uptick. Because business travelers tend not to be as cost-conscious as vacationers, theyre more likely to purchase business class tickets. This, in turn, drives the airline to increase its business class section on the planes themselves, leading to fewer seats at higher prices for holidaymakers.
How It Impacts You: This ones pretty obvious: You have to pay more. This increases the total financial investment of your trip and can increase your stress and anxiety about the risk of canceled flights and missed connections.
What You Can Do About it:
There are a number of things you can do:
- Book early and jump on any deals you find.
- Research your flight options.
- Once you find a deal on a flight marketplace, check the airlines website for that same flight to ensure that youre getting the best price.
- Protect your travel investment with trip insurance. This coverage protects you financially from mishaps related to canceled or delayed flights, missed connections and baggage loss. Also, if you seize on a deal and later find that the dates you selected no longer work for you, or you suddenly just dont feel like going, trip insurance with a Cancel For Any Reason option will allow you to cancel and recoup up to 75% of your prepaid nonrefundable expenses.
Flight Cancellations are the New Normal, for Now
Whats Going On: When increased demand converges with staff shortages and pilot strikes, an increase in flight cancellations becomes a new normal.
How It Impacts You: Weve all heard or read firsthand accounts of people stranded at airports for hours only to have their flights canceled. Several frustrated travelers have even reported that their flights were canceled with no text, email or phone notification from the airline. They arrived at their airports with their luggage in tow only to find out then that their flights were grounded. Even more recently, passengers received email notifications mid-flight that their connecting flights had been canceled. Theres an increased chance that you, too, will experience a flight cancellation during your travels.
What You Can Do About it: Unfortunately, theres not a whole lot you can do about this one. If an airline causes your cancellation, they should reimburse your flight. In the event that they dont, then trip insurance may be able to offer some financial coverage. If you can replace your flight with a road trip or train travel, you might want to look into those options. Lastly, if you dont hear from your airline the night before your departure, check flight status before you head out to the airport.
Finding Lost Baggage
Whats Going On: When high demand for air travel meets airport staffing shortages, the result is chaos for travelers. The chaos isnt localized to flight cancellations and disruptions, it extends to baggage issues. Baggage loss and delays have dramatically increased this summer. In a recent viral story, a newlywed said her airline lost $10,000s worth of her checked items, including her wedding dress.
How It Impacts You: Theres a greater chance that travelers might experience baggage loss, damage or delays.
What You Can Do About it:
There are a number of ways to decrease your chances of losing your luggage:
- Travel light and keep your irreplaceables, medical necessities and travel documents in your carry-on. Here are some additional airport travel tips.
- Use technology. You remember the unlucky bride who lost her wedding dress? Well, one of her bridesmaids lost her luggage too. Fortunately for her she was able to recover it thanks to Apple AirTag.
- Opt for trip insurance. This coverage can protect you financially from expenses incurred due to lost, delayed or damaged luggage.
- If the airline does misplace your luggage, here are some tips that can help.
Heathrows Passenger Caps, Will other Airports Follow Suit?
Whats Going On: Through September (at the earliest) Heathrow has decided to limit daily departing passengers to 100,000. The decision comes as a result of staff shortages and the difficulty of recruiting aviation staff and crew. A challenge that has become all the more difficult since England left the EU.
How It Impacts You: For now, English residents and anyone bear most of the burden of this decision. They are currently facing an unprecedented increase in wait times, delays and cancellations. And just imagine being the 100,001th person at check in! But non-British residents will also be affected.
While it won’t impact your arrival, your returning trip home may be delayed. Its important to remember that Heathrow is not the first major airport in Europe to limit daily departing passengers. Amsterdams Schiphol Airport implemented a daily passenger cap in June. This could have a nightmare domino effect, with more airports around the world resorting to passenger caps. If this happens, youll have a greater chance of experiencing delays, cancellations and lost luggage.
What You Can Do About it: There isnt a whole lot you can do about this. But its best to be proactive rather than reactive. When you book your flight, ask a representative of your departing airport about the risk of passenger caps. Ask your airline what their cancellation policies are when it comes to passenger capping. Stay informed, get text message alerts. Finally, consider buying travel insurance from an agency independent from your airline. While travel insurance will not usually reimburse your airfare if theres an airline-caused cancellation, it could reimburse you if the airline doesnt offer you anything.
Don’t Let Airport Chaos Keep You from Traveling
Amid all the chaos at the airports, it can be hard to remember why you even decided to travel in the first place. Youre traveling so your kids can experience the wonders of the world for the first time and so that you can experience them, newly, through their eyes. And Because business opportunities have come knocking. Youre traveling so you can experience and learn from other countries and cultures. Youre traveling to see loved ones you havent been able to see in years.
There may not be hugs and kisses waiting for you at baggage claim. Heck, your suitcase might not even be there to greet you. But trip insurance can get your trip back on track so you can experience the world, fulfill your ambitions, and reconnect with the people and the places you loveactually.