The post-Covid travel boom is here, but the skies are not always all that friendly. Airlines furloughed thousands of employees over the past eighteen months—if you’ve waited three hours to talk to airline customer service by phone, you already know this. Even if you get your reservation booked, you might need to rebook, since airlines are canceling hundreds of flights daily. Here are the do’s and don’ts to avoid travel pitfalls.
Up, Up and Away!
Tips on navigating the airport
DO NOT BOOK A CONNECTION. The risk of missing a connection is greater than ever. If you get stuck at the airport because the airline canceled your flight, you could be on your own trying to find a hotel room and waiting hours on hold to book a new flight. Airlines aren’t required to provide hotels or food when they cancel flights. You’re not the only one who might not get a hotel room, American Airlines employees have filed a grievance that they are often forced to sleep at the airport due to lack of available hotel space in popular destinations.
DON’T BOOK CONNECTIONS THROUGH OTHER COUNTRIES, EVEN IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT. Every country has its own Covid entry rules, and these apply even if you never leave the airport. Passengers have been stranded without warning because they don’t have the proper Covid test and/or haven’t completed the proper paperwork to fly through certain countries.
AVOID THE LINES AT CHECK-IN. With fewer employees and more travelers, lines at the airport can snake around the block. Consider using a VIP airport concierge (see sidebar). This service used to be reserved for celebrities or the ultra-wealthy, but it’s now for anyone who wants a seamless airport experience.
AVOID THE LINES AT SECURITY. If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Clear, get one—now. Even if you don’t fly frequently, a membership might be worth investing in this year. Clear members are verified through an eye scan trusted by the TSA and sent straight to the screening area. TSA PreCheck members go to a special line and don’t need to show ID, remove shoes or laptop. Clear members do not wait in the TSA PreCheck line. If you fly internationally, Global Entry, which expedites the customs process, is a must-have. If you’re already a member and are awaiting your renewal, Customs and Border Protection has extended the grace period for renewal applications to one year. tsa.gov, clearme.com, cbp.gov/travel
GET IN THE LOUNGE. Airport lounge access is easier than you think. If you don’t have the status necessary to gain entry, most lounges sell daily access passes. There are also lounge membership programs like Priority Pass, which is a global network of airport clubs that has 1,300 lounges. Many of the clubs offer free alcohol and food. Annual membership starts at $99. American Express Platinum cardholders will have the fee covered by American Express. prioritypass.com
To check lounges available at the airport you’re flying through, download an app like LoungeBuddy and you can see every lounge and how to access it.
VIP Airport Concierge Services
WHAT ARE THEY?
Private companies or services provided by the airlines themselves. Google “VIP Airport Concierge” to find resources.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
On departure they get you to the front of the line for check in and security. And many can get you access to the VIP lounge to await your flight. In transit they can ease the chaos of a connecting flight, which is especially useful overseas. On arrival they greet you and whisk you through customs and immigration. If you use Delta VIP select, at certain airports they will transport you directly from the plane door down the steps of the jetway to a waiting Porsche on the tarmac, while someone else retrieves your luggage.
WHAT DO THEY COST?
It depends on the airport and the service. Some services can only be booked if you hold a certain class of ticket or through your travel agent. Delta’s VIP Select starts at $350 per person, per trip. It is not bookable on its website. You’ll need a travel agent.