What to expect when traveling this holiday season

Experts encourage travelers to be prepared, ‘pack patience’ amid airline woes

More people are expected to travel during the holiday season this year compared to last, but are the airlines prepared for such an influx?

More people are expected to travel during the holiday season this year compared to last year -- but is the air travel industry ready for such an influx?

Over the last several months, airlines have faced severe weather and staffing shortages amid the pandemic, both of which have caused thousands of flight cancelations and delays. With ongoing air travel woes, experts are encouraging people to start thinking about their Thanksgiving and Christmas travel plans now.

“Some of the local airline executives have come out and said that they are prepared for the holidays, that they don’t expect the cancelations and delays that customers experienced over the summer,” said AAA Texas spokesperson Daniel Ambruster. “But certainly, customers should still be prepared for changes, delays or possible cancelations.”

Southwest Airlines, for example, announced that it plans to reduce the amount of flights offered at the end of the year. In December, the airline is expected to operate at a capacity of 92% of what it was pre-pandemic.

Southwest is one of several airlines that has been struggling. Travel has been disrupted for tens of thousands of passengers across multiple airlines this year.

In preparation for complications, Lia Vincent, owner of Vincent Vacations, is encouraging customers to pad their trips with an extra day or two, just in case. Customers are also encouraged to check the status of their flight several days in advance.

“We like to say, “Pack the patience,’” Vincent said. “It’s just kind of a unique time, so some things are unavoidable or you just can’t predict.”

In addition to working with a travel advisor who can help if plans go awry, AAA is also recommending that travelers acquire travel insurance and start booking end-of-the-year flights now.

“There are fewer flights that are going to be available for the holidays, so it’s important to book as early as possible,” Ambruster said. “Not only to save money, but just to make sure you have a seat.”

Travelers are also encouraged to do research ahead of time to know what they might be entitled to if their flight is canceled or delayed.

Though pandemic-induced travel complications have been riding on a high, Ambruster reminds customers that airline delays are nothing new -- especially amid the busy holidays.

Related: US details new international COVID-19 travel requirements

About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.