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.
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.
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?