The most important thing you can take for the holidays this year is patience.

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Let us be clear, dear reader. People are traveling again. They party like it’s 2019. But while travelers have returned staff levels haven’t. This is not an exercise: reserve your rental cars as soon as possible. Get to the airport early. Read all the details of the COVID-19 testing requirements for restaurants, bars, amusement parks, stadiums, or any other country on your itinerary, then reread them. Read your airline’s cancellation policy. Hopefully, your experience is smoother than Nicole Kidman’s forehead, but just in case, you need to be prepared.

“It might sound cliché, but one of the most important things to pack this holiday season is your patience,” said Brian Hoyt, Global Communications Manager at Tripadvisor. “You know the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving are some of the busiest air travel days of the year, it will definitely be the case again. But we are really going through this period of tourism reset. We’re going to have a lot more chaotic days this season.

One sector that has been particularly affected by staffing levels is the airline industry. American Airlines and South West were both recently hit by a combination of bad weather and staff shortages. American announced last week that it was increasing flight attendant pay to avoid more cancellations and appease angry passengers.

“With the airlines, there have been a lot of staffing issues recently, and there are challenges there,” said Jonathan Kletzel, Head of Transportation and Logistics at PwC. “I think it’s a problem that can be solved. Can we fix it in time for the holidays? It’s a big question mark.

According to Michael Taylor, head of the travel intelligence practice at JD Power, airline staff shortages aren’t just about hiring more people.

“It’s about rehire and retraining,” Taylor said. “If a pilot hasn’t flown a plane in a year, he’s not just going to get back into a 737 and happily walk down the runway. The airline and the FAA would like to check them again, but they don’t build as many flight simulators. So you have a backlog of those. It’s not as rigorous, but it’s the same with airline crews.

It’s a perfect storm of staff shortages and increased travel demand. A survey of 1,800 travelers from OAG, a company that provides flight information, intelligence and analysis for airports, found that passenger numbers increased 81% from June to August compared to the same period in 2020. The company expects the holiday trend to continue. Zeta Global, a marketing technology company, found that travel in 2021 was up 94% from 2020. But all 1,000 people polled by Zeta said driving will remain their primary mode of transportation for this season. holidays, and that they would always prefer to stay close to home.

Also, keep in mind that there is not just an increase in domestic travel, but that you will be facing international travelers as well.

You have a few options if your flight is canceled – like sitting in a corner at the airport and crying – but experts recommend taking a more productive approach.

“I actually gave this advice to my friends and colleagues,” Kletzel said. “First, download and familiarize yourself with digital apps and airline websites. Because if something goes wrong, the chances of being able to get in-person assistance will be quite limited, so digital will be the key. “

After getting to know your airline digitally, he said to start looking at the cancellation and change policies of airlines, hotels and car rentals. He also recommends, if possible, purchasing the status from an airline.

“I know it’s an additional cost,” Kletzel said. “But if that generally concerns you, then having status with an airline puts you on the front line if your accommodation reservation is canceled.”

Alaska Airlines planes are shown with Mount Rainier in the background at sunrise at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport earlier this year. One way to avoid cancellations is to book the first flight of the day. Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Another important way to avoid cancellations is to book the first flight of the day. Bad weather often creates a domino effect and cancellations multiply throughout the day. Other simple steps can help keep your sanity, such as making sure all your devices are charged before arriving at the airport, given the scarcity of power outlets in some terminals.

No matter how perfectly planned everything is, it doesn’t hurt to have a back-up plan. Kletzel even suggests a back-up plan for driving. While your destination can be reached in 6, 8 or 10 hours by car, sometimes it is more efficient to drive than to fly if flight cancellations extend over several days.

But (and this is where I’m going to cry wolf again, and I really mean it), remember rental cars aren’t as plentiful as they were before the pandemic. The experts’ advice is to book your rental car even before you book the hotel. Don’t put it off at the last minute. Another tip – and car rental companies won’t like it – but book with multiple companies just to make sure. There is no penalty for bailing out a rental.

In May, there was a long line to rent cars at Miami <a class=International Airport. The experts’ advice is to book your rental car even before booking the hotel. Do not put it back.” class=”height_a width_full width_full–mobile width_full–tablet-only” src=”https://cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/bostonglobe/IYUC6K2XD5WKNRHOLV7LKTEHBA.jpg” bad-src=”https://bostonglobe-prod.cdn.arcpublishing.com/resizer/9WNi2TU22pNvfpwhVyQoKK-PNtA=/20×0/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/bostonglobe/IYUC6K2XD5WKNRHOLV7LKTEHBA.jpg”/>
In May, there was a long line to rent cars at Miami International Airport. The experts’ advice is to book your rental car even before booking the hotel. Do not put it back.Marta Lavandier / Associated press

“The shortage is acute in destination markets,” Taylor said. “There is a shortage of cars, as we all know. Companies sold a large chunk of their fleets during the height of the pandemic because they wanted to save money. But then demand returned faster than expected. It really is no one’s fault.

Because you will potentially be faced with large crowds and COVID-19 loves large crowds, is it worth traveling?

“I think people need to travel,” said Dr Teresa Bartlett, who advises businesses and institutions on medical strategies and best practices. “They need it for their mental health. They need to see their family and friends, to have a vacation and to experience life.

It goes without saying, but I say it anyway: get yourself vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask over your mouth and nose, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer.

But above all, just be nice to people. Do not start hitting other passengers or flight attendants. Don’t push, don’t yell and smile a lot.

“Be nice to the employees,” Kletzel said. “People are just trying to do a job. In general, the nicer you are to hotel and airport staff, the better your chances of having a good holiday experience.


Christopher Muther can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @Chris_Muther.



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