As someone who works for an airline, I know how hectic travel has been lately. Lost bags, canceled flights, long lines, labor strikes…it has not been a good scene. That being said Andrew and I just got back from Paris. Yep, even though I know first hand how crazy airports have been the want to travel was greater than the possible stress that may come with our choice. Some problems that may arise are out of your control. Airline staffing issues for example, but there are some things that you can do to make your European travel go a little more smoothly.
I have said this before and I will say it again, DO NOT CHECK A BAG IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO! Bringing just a small roller bag or travel backpack on your Europe trip guarantees that your luggage will arrive when you do. It also saves you time by not having to stop at baggage claim, you can just start your holiday the minute you land. Another bonus of carrying-on is that it’s easier for you to grab a replacement flight or make last minute travel changes without the worry of rerouting your checked bags.
Fly Direct (if possible)
The airport that I work at (PWM) is small and has no direct flights to Europe. Often we end up flying PWM-JFK and then to our final European destination. This summer though, I know that JFK has been cancelling flights, even to Europe, so I wanted to avoid possibly being stuck at the airport. Boston Logan International is a two hour bus ride from Portland, Maine and has direct flights to where we wanted to go. Yes, this took some additional time and planning but we got on the flight with no issues. If you must make a connection because you have no other options, pay attention to how that connecting airport is doing this summer. Are they canceling flights regularly? Have they been on the news for baggage issues? Do a little research so you know what to expect.
Avoid Problem Airports
This is not the right time to visit Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport or London’s Heathrow. They have been having major baggage issues/delays and have recently put a hold on the capacity they can handle. If possible try flying into an airport that hasn’t been in the news for chaos. If you have booked hotels and plane tickets already see if you can change your flight to a nearby airport. Like flying into Paris and taking the train to London or even Amsterdam. Public transportation in Europe is fantastic but again, stay informed because they can go on strike too.
Stay Away From Third-Party Sites
Speaking of doing a little research, I know that I would always scour the internet looking for the best deals on flights while planning a trip. I have learned though, that saving a little money isn’t worth it when problems arise. Third-party booking sites like Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity are basically online travel agencies. In other words, your reservation is with them and not the airline itself. That means that if you miss your flight due to traffic, long TSA lines, you overslept… the employees at the airport cannot help you. They will try, but their hands are tied. You must contact the site you used for customer service instead of the airline. Booking directly from the airline’s website ensures that someone at the airport can help you when things go wrong. Plus you can earn loyalty points for upgrades, which are really nice when traveling to Europe.
Download the app of the airline that you are flying to make checking in and being up to date on your flight a breeze. Many airlines now offer the option of uploading passport and Covid information before your flight too. (Delta uses Fly Ready) This will save you so much time at the airport because if you’re not checking a bag(remember you’re carrying-on) you don’t need to check in at the ticket counter and can go straight to security. If you’re old school and want a paper boarding pass just quickly scan your passport at a kiosk. I also check out the airline and airport social media pages. They tend to post updates and tips on what to expect when while travelling.
Pack Your Patience and Be Polite
Staffing shortages are impacting airlines and airports in every area. From TSA to Baggage Claim and everywhere in between. Remember, the employees that are there are doing the best that they can given these stressful circumstances and also probably haven’t had a break in awhile. Being polite to airline customer service representatives, whether in person or on the phone, is not only a nice thing to do but people are more willing and wanting to help you if you are nice. You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar right?
More likely than not your Europe travel plans may be disrupted in some way so packing your patience is an important tool for coping with the stress of the situation. If you start to feel overwhelmed try taking some deep breaths or stepping away to have a coffee or juice to give you that moment of calm that you may need. I would avoid that glass of wine or beer though.
Bottom Line: Air travel to and around Europe this summer may be challenging due to a variety of issues. So, should you still travel this summer? Most definitely! Could you encounter some problems along the way? Maybe, but you do have some control. Andrew and I just got back from a wonderful stay in Paris and because I insisted we follow these tips it was drama free. This meant not bringing fancy French wine or mustard home with us but that is ok. We came home with some fresh Coq Sportif sneakers, some new tops and a ornament to add to our tree this Christmas.
Have fun and get out and explore this summer! Just remember to pack that patience 🙂