Christmas travel rush
Youll have lots of company at the airport if youre flying for Christmas or New Year’s.
Airlines are preparing for a record 51 million passengers for the holiday season, a 3.5% increase from the previous peak of 49.3 million last year. airlines say theyre offering 91,000 more seats per day to meet the demand for flights from Dec. 15 through Jan. 4.
The busiest travel days, with about 2.7 million passengers each, will be Thursday Dec. 21, Friday Dec. 22 and Tuesday Dec. 26, according to the trade group Airlines for America. Here’s what you should know if you’re one of them.
New this year
A new requirement by the Transportation Security Administration means that all electronics larger than a cellphone must be removed from carry on bags from screening. Fliers will be required to place these items by themselves in bins to go through scanning. Eligible fliers selected to use the Precheck lines will be exempt, but all fliers should pack knowing that its possible these devices might have to be removed for screening.
MORE:Flying for the holidays? Here’s what you need to know about the TSA’s new security rules
Allow extra time, expect busy terminals
No one wants to spend more time than necessary waiting in an airport terminal. However, this isnt the time of year to test how close you can cut it. Aside from the possibility of busy terminals and long lines at check in and security, expect heavier than usual traffic on entrance roadways, parking shuttles and public transportation. Inside the terminal, unusually heavy crowds may lead to back ups at check in counters and security lines.
A good rule of thumb: Arrive at the airport 45 to 60 minutes earlier than you normally would. Youll be glad you did, especially if you find yourself stuck in a security line filled with slow moving families making their once a year holiday trip. If you know your airport is especially prone to long holiday lines, consider arriving up to 90 minutes earlier than normal. Remember: If you miss your flight, this is a tough time of the year to find empty seats on other flights.
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Dogs go through TSA training in San Antonio
Pack your carry ons with security lines in mind. Remember, that unless youre eligible for the TSAs Precheck lines, laptops and liquids must come out separately to go through the screening checkpoints. Thats especially important this year with new TSA electronics rules.
For the infrequent fliers, remember that most liquids are prohibited from carry ons unless they are in containers of 3.4 ounces or less and are held in a clear quart sized plastic bag. (See the TSAs full 3 1 1 rules on liquids)Some exceptions are made for liquids related to medical or childcare needs, but it may be smart to brush up on those rules. In addition, certain food items may be difficult to bring through security lines.
Pack so that your laptops, liquids and other items can be quickly taken in and out of your luggage. That will not only speed up your trip through security, but will also shorten the wait for those behind you. And if youre bringing presents, hold off on wrapping them. The TSA doesnt prohibit wrapped presents, but it does warn that you may have to unwrap them if something inside raises alarms.
Keep an eye on potential travel trouble spots
Watch the weather starting as early as 72 hours leading up to your flight. It may be sunny and warm where you are, but there could be problems between you and your destination. If theres poor weather at home or at your destination monitor your airlines website for potential updates. In some cases, airlines will issue weather waivers that may allow you to move your flight at no cost to avoid weather related disruptions.
Nearly every carriers website now lets you check the status of your flight. On the day of your flight (or the evening before), keep tabs on your flight status. The sooner you know theres a cancellation or delay that could affect your travel, the sooner youll be able to troubleshoot it with your airline or travel agent.
FLIGHT TRACKER: Is your flight on time?
If your flight is canceled or delayed and you need to book a new flight, most people wait at their gate or head to an airline customer service desk to get help with a new ticket. While waiting, try the airline’s reservation number to ask for help in getting a new flight, and you may beat those in line to a seat.
Also, most airlines have added rebooking features on their mobile apps that allow customers to select new flights during so called “irregular” operations. If your carrier’s mobile app has such a feature, strike quickly as you’ll have much competition for limited seats.
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Pack your patience
Perhaps the golden rule of travel, this is especially important during the busy holiday rush. Lines are longer and airports and airplanes are more crowded than normal. Nerves fray easier. But even when things get stressful, take a deep breath and smile. A courteous nod to a fellow traveler will increase the chances thatll theyll be courteous to you.
And never take out your frustrations out on airline employees, most of whom are conscientious workers doing their best to get everyone on their way during an intensely busy time.
Even if youre convinced your airline has wronged you, remember that these front line workers often control your fate in getting to your final destination. Being polite and respectful will bring better service than being hostile or rude. Ask for a supervisor if you must, but know he or she may not have a different answer than the one youve already been given. Above all, always try to show everyone along the way the same respect youd want.