The Federal Aviation Administration states that weather is the leading cause of flight delays. However, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, most of the delays last summer were man-made. From June to August last year, 8 percent of delays were caused by airlines and about 5 percent were attributed to problems with the national aviation system, which include problems with air traffic control. BTS data shows less than 1 percent of the delays were due to weather.
The FAA recently took steps to prevent possible chaos this summer. This allows airlines like Delta, United, and American to operate fewer flights and instead use larger planes that can carry more passengers.
The change will help “reduce the risk of delays and cancellations,” said Michael McCormick, an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a former FAA control tower operator.
The agency has also announced 169 new routes along the east coast, which it says are more direct.
But that doesn’t mean things won’t go awry, and it’s important to know your rights.
Airlines in the US are not required to compensate travelers for delays and cancellations. But all ten major airlines will rebook passengers on another flight if the situation is under the airline’s control and will pay for meals if travelers have waited three hours or more.
The Department of Transportation tracks delays and sets refund and cancellation policies for controllable circumstances in its airline customer service dashboard.
Airlines could soon be required to offer cash, meals and hotel accommodations for airline-caused slowdowns of three hours or more if a rule recently proposed by President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg goes into effect.
Travel advisors recommended considering travel insurance, which typically covers flight delays, and checking credit card policies for travel accident reimbursement. It’s also a good idea to monitor airline apps and opt in for text updates, they said. And if your flight is delayed, it’s best to stay close to the gate.
If you have achieved frequent flyer status or have purchased premium tickets or priority status, there is a priority line or phone number at the check-in counter where service is faster, said InteleTravel founder James Ferrara. a global vendor travel advisor network.
Many airlines offer robust and fast customer service through Twitter. But it’s not the only way to reach them. Call the airline’s international phone number, which won’t be as heavily loaded in a downturn, said Scott Keyes, founder of Going.com, a site that sends alerts about travel deals. Delta also has a dedicated hotline for travelers with flights within the next 48 hours, Mr. Keyes added.
Experts say it has also become easier to rebook yourself online or via the airline’s app.
Mr McCormick advised travelers to have a backup plan in case flights go wrong and to choose flights “wisely” by assessing their options for connecting flights. He recommends avoiding routes that require transfers at airports, where summer weather like thunderstorms and hurricanes regularly cause cancellations and delays. “Choose different flights,” he said.
A general rule of thumb for summer travel is to book flights before 3pm, Mr Ferrara said, adding that cancellations and delays tend to happen later in the day. It’s also always an option to stay home for the holidays when cancellations and delays pile up, Mr Ferrara said, or “consider driving”.
If possible, book a non-stop flight and don’t check bags, Mr. Keyes said.