Air travelers may be headed for a world of hurt this holiday season
Crowds, covid-related staffing shortages, and bad weather, will be tying passengers, airlines and airports into knots.
We asked experienced traveler Dave Grossman, a loyalty program consultant, speaker, author, and credit card rewards junkie who runs MilesTalk.com and YourBestCreditCards.com, what recommendations he has for air travelers headed to the airports during the holidays.
“It should go without saying, but check-in online the day before,” said Grossman. “There’s no reason not to check in online and, in the worst case scenario where a flight is oversold, the last one checked-in could be the first one off the list.”
“Plan for extra time at the airport,” he continued. “Especially if you are checking bags, but even if you aren’t. All the lines are likely to be longer and you can’t bank on your fellow stressed passengers letting you through security ahead of them just because you are running late. Everyone is running late….”
What should you do if your flight is cancelled?
“This depends on when its cancelled, but time is of the essence. Don’t wait. The second you get word of a cancellation you need to be on the phone getting rebooked. The agents will have a lot of leeway for what flight you get on, but there will be limited seats. Be at the front of the line. Better options are unlikely to open up later. If you have elite status and they don’t have any same day flights, you may be able to get rebooked on another carrier, though not if you are flying a low cost carrier like Southwest or JetBlue. No status? You may be out of luck in that scenario. Either way, find the available flights on your phone so you are armed with information when you get to the front of the queue.”
And what should a traveler do if their flight arrives late and they miss a connection?
“You can put yourself in a better position to recover if you know how to act quickly and efficiently. First, have the airline’s phone number in your phone. If you land and you’ve already missed it, a desk agent can definitely help. But they may also be helping 40 passengers ahead of you. So the second you land, get on the phone and see if an agent can help you. If you have elite status, even better, as your hold time will be less. But if you already know you are missing it while you are in the air, send a tweet on Twitter to the airline. They may respond quickly and they may not, but I’ve managed to get rebooked before I’ve even landed. It may even be worth paying a few bucks for the WiFi….”
Consumer Press gathered the following information from some of the major US airlines to help you get in touch if your flights are cancelled:
You can rebook cancelled flights and missed connections through the Delta app, plus check the status of flights, track baggage, check in and access your boarding passes, and view maps and weather information, amongst other things.
Delta’s 24 hour general customer service numbers are 800-221-1212 and, for SkyMiles members, 800-323-2323. The number for general flight information is 800-325-1999.
United Airlines’ app can be used to check in, check your flight’s status, view real time flight paths and weather conditions, track your bags, access your boarding pass, and change your flight during check in or from the ‘reservations’ section of the app.
United’s customer service number for reservations, flight changes and special needs is 1-800-864-8331.
There’s a page on United’s website that includes a flight status lookup form and a way to sign up for updates on the status of flights.
American Airlines’ app can be used to check in, rebook flights that are delayed or canceled, track bags, and offers free entertainment and food preordering from airport restaurants.
American Airlines’ customer service number for reservations and ticket changes is 1-800-433-7300, and they have a page on their site for special travel alerts.
The Southwest app can be used for check in, changing or canceling flights, EarlyBird check-ins, travel and weather alerts, and live chat (limited to travelers in their Rapid Rewards program).
Southwest’s 24 hour customer service number is 1-800-435-9792. They also have a flight status lookup on their website.
Air Canada’s mobile app can be used for booking, check in, to access your boarding pass, and to received notifications about changes to flight plans.
Alaska Airlines’ mobile app can be used for booking, check in, to access your boarding pass, sign health agreement, and to received notifications about changes to flight plans.
Alaska Airlines’ 24 hour customer service number is 1-800-252-7522. On their website they have a flight status checker.
The Jetblue Airways mobile app can be used for booking, check in, flight tracking, boarding pass, trip management, and live chat with customer support.
JetBlue Airways’ 24 hour customer service number is 1-800-538-2583. Here’s JetBlue’s flight status checker.
The Spirit Airlines mobile app can be used for booking, check in, flight tracking, boarding pass access and trip management.
Spirit Airlines customer service number is 855-728-3555. Here is their flight status checker.
Do you have more tips and advice for travelers flying over the holidays?
Leave your own tips here, and be sure to share this post with your friends, family and followers. If they are traveling or have family flying in, they’ll appreciate the info!
Editor’s note: Article originally published Nov 27, 2019.
Updated Nov 2, 2021 – information confirmed, updated, and additional airline information added.