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  • Writer's pictureJulie Prusak

A Practical Guide to Minimizing International Flight Challenges Post-pandemic

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

Whether you are flying a seven-hour non-stop to Europe or the new nearly 17-hour journey from Auckland to New York, lengthy flights can be uncomfortable, unhealthy, and exhausting. To help you plan a smoother trip with lower stress and fewer disappointments, here is my practical guide to minimizing your international flight challenges in 2022 and beyond.

You likely know about the recent unprecedented travel challenges at major airports. Maybe you heard stories from friends returning from long-awaited European vacations who are still waiting for their luggage to return home months later.

Maybe you experienced delayed or even canceled flights yourself…I spent an unscheduled, unwanted, and all-expense paid night in Warsaw courtesy of LOT Polish Airlines recently. Or you might have decided to vacation closer to home to avoid the risks and challenges of international travel.

The causes of airport woes are obvious, but the solutions are not. The increased volume of air travelers, combined with airline staffing challenges, airport construction projects, and more extreme weather conditions, has led to longer lines, flight delays, and even cancellations. Add in labor strikes by baggage handlers and air traffic controllers, which continue to impact passengers.

The airline industry is not projected to “normalize” until 2025. Until then, these tips may help reduce your anxiety about flying and encourage you to embark on that well-deserved vacation.

Plan Ahead

The best way to solve a problem is to prevent it. Follow these tips to avoid or reduce problems before you travel.

  • Carry essentials with you, or better yet, only pack carry-on luggage. For longer trips, consider shipping your luggage ahead to your cruise ship or hotel using a service such as Luggage Free.

  • Book early departures and ample connection times if you can’t fly nonstop.

  • Plan to check in early. When possible, check in online.

  • If a layover is unavoidable, book the entire itinerary with the same carrier or partner (for example, Delta and Air France).

  • Avoid airports with known connection challenges. For example, at JFK, the T2 parking garage and AirTrain station are closed (check Passengers must walk between T1 and T2, and all passengers currently must take the JFK Jitney (a bus that drives on the tarmac) to get to the international terminal. There is no way to walk and no way to know how long the line will be to catch your bus. LAX has been under construction for over a decade. Last summer, the only runway at Jackson, WY was closed for weeks to extend it.

  • Avoid overbooked flights. Fly midweek instead of weekends.

  • Join Trusted Traveler Programs to access the TSA Pre-check line and expedite reentry into the U.S. from international destinations. Better yet, join CLEAR to skip the line completely when departing from most major U.S. airports.

  • Travel insured and pack proof of coverage in your carry-on.

  • Wear comfortable clothing and pack layers. Even if your flight is headed to the Caribbean, the airplane may be too cold for comfort without a sweater.

Manage your expectations at the airport

Everything takes longer and costs more than it used to.

  • Even if you have high status with multiple airline lounges, you may not be able to access the clubs. They may be closed or operate reduced hours due to staffing shortages. Supply chain issues may impact food and beverage offerings. Priority Pass members are now turned away at most airports.

  • Pack your patience. Expect long lines…everywhere (the security line, the food court, the bathroom, even the Delta Lounge). Overcrowded airports result in overworked staff. Recently, while waiting for our flight from JFK to NCE, we waited 20 minutes after confirming our eligibility to actually enter the Delta Lounge. Thankfully, we were welcomed with champagne and feasted on a delicious buffet.

  • Pack your preferred snack or meal, especially if you have dietary restrictions.

  • Keep informed about your flight status. Some airline websites and apps allow you to track the whereabouts of the plane you'll be taking. Or download a flight-tracking app like Flighty to be notified automatically about flight delays and gate changes.

On the plane

Congratulations, you are on your way to your destination!

  • Stay hydrated! More water, less wine.

  • Get up and walk around and do leg exercises while seated. Deep vein thrombosis can kill or, at a minimum, require hospitalization.

  • Pack and wear noise-canceling headphones.

  • Manage your attitude. Meditate. Watch the new comedy, not the horror film. Try taking a course instead of binging a crime series.

  • Be nice…to your seatmates and flight attendants. Simple kindness may result in an unexpected upgrade or at least a warm smile.

If a problem does happen, know your rights which vary depending on several factors. Click here to review your rights in the European Union. Take action to resolve the problem before you leave the airport!

These tips are based on my recent international travel experiences and years of experience planning luxury vacations for my clients.

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