HOUSTON - The holidays may be over, but the headaches for air travelers continue. More than 15,000 flights have been canceled since Christmas Eve, but there are options to help limit the hassle for people who have limited recourse.
Janine Iannarelli is a Houston-based air travel expert who has little love for the industry, these days.
"Someone asked me, last week, would I travel anytime soon?" she says. "Outside of a revenue-generating need to travel: No."
Iannarelli says, while weather and Covid, have not been kind to travel schedules, troubles started for the airline industry early in the pandemic when there were virtually no travelers as carriers decommissioned jets and routes, furloughed crews, and retirements took their toll.
"They're slowing trying to bring things back online, which I think is driven mostly by demand, but we're just not there yet," she says.
So what to do to avoid getting stuck? The most effective steps come when you're making plans. Start with booking flights on off-peak times, like Sunday mornings, Thursday nights, and Friday mornings, to avoid the crush of people. Also, look for direct flights on major routes, including trips that might not get you all the way, to limit chances of a cancellation.
"If there is a major hub nearby to your final destination, consider not taking a commuter into a regional airport, or changing planes," explains Iannerelli. "Perhaps it might be feasible to drive the rest of the distance."
For those who do get stuck, there's no magic number to call, but being a 'squeaky wheel' may help to get them on their way.
"Stay after the customer service office; be persistent; be patient," recommends Iannerelli. "You'll get a response, sooner or later."
It may, even, be a favorable response.
She believes airlines should be able to sift through the current trouble in the coming days, but expects long-term challenges to continue for a couple of years and leave travelers with a lot of time to practice getting where they're going.