Opinion: Air travel chaos leaves us with a simple choice

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And yet, as anyone who has traveled – or attempted to – in recent months can attest, it has not been easy. Consumer interest in air travel has reached pre-pandemic levels for the first time in two years, and airlines and airports have scrambled to keep up.
Labor shortages and a high number of workers reporting sick have created problems both in the air and on the ground. There are fewer pilots, flight attendants, service desk employees, security guards, technicians and other support staff than before 2020, but just as many travellers.
On a recent weekday at Heathrow Airport, almost a third of scheduled flights were late; around 2% of all scheduled flights were cancelled. (On the same day in 2019, according to the Wall Street Journal, about 23% of flights were late and 0.5% were canceled.) The airport has now asked airlines to stop selling more tickets this summer.

The problem is global: this week, German airline Lufthansa announced that it would cancel 2,000 flights this summer. Meanwhile, US airlines have dropped service in several smaller markets due to pilot shortages. Everyone knows someone, it seems, who was stuck in an airport, still waiting for their missing luggage or both.

All of this means that suddenly what had seemed like one of our only respites – the classic summer jaunt – is as stressful as being stuck at home for another summer.

So other than canceling the summer and cowering once again, how are we going to cope?

The key to meeting the challenge of summer travel – should you choose to accept it – will be managing your expectations, knowing where you stand on the risk/reward spectrum (i.e. understanding whether the benefits of travel to you outweigh the very real risks), learning what you can control on your own and knowing if you can give up the rest.

One very big thing you can control: Your decision to assume the risk which is the current state of air travel. One way to reduce incident stress is to assume, in advance, that there will be an incident. Something is likely to go wrong. Its good; this year, at least, it will be normal for the course.

When things go wrong, it will be easy to feel frustrated. You’ll want to get mad at the airlines, or poor hotel service, or other misbehaved passengers – that’s understandable. In these moments, remember: You have made the decision to travel. You can also create another one.

What you can’t control: Your flight is delayed or cancelled. The bad attitude of the hotel’s ill-equipped, probably overworked concierge. The long queues at the airport. Those other passengers, or how (and if) flight attendants respond to them. These are things that are beyond your control.

Deciding to travel means accepting these truths in advance and resigning yourself to the fact that there is nothing you can do about it, at least not at the moment. You can use these experiences to make different decisions later, but for now, this is your reality.

You also cannot control how airlines will react to delays and cancellations, how they will or will not seek to make accommodations and compensation for passengers, or whether staff strive to ensure everyone’s comfort. The passengers. But you can definitely control your decision to fly with this carrier again.

The best way to approach summer travel, then? Plan well. That might mean doing your research on the airlines with the most delayed or canceled flights, keeping customer service numbers handy, reconfirming your flights a few days in advance, and knowing what you would do if you got stuck. to your destination. Be prepared for delayed (or missing) baggage by packing a change of clothes and essentials in your carry-on. From there, know that you did your best.

Think of the journey as an experience that will go exactly as it does. In summer travel, as in life, you can control your expectations and your response, but not the outcome itself.

If you think you can take on whatever comes your way, knowing that you’re preparing for success as best you can, you may be able to handle the psychological and emotional risks of the journey.

If you don’t think you can handle an unexpected event like a delay or cancellation, it might be best to stay closer to home. Go for a drive-through destination or just stay put with an intentional staycation, a destination where you block out time to relax, disconnect from digital technology, and plan fun outings beyond your usual routine.

What’s one more year?

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