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Use these tips to keep your time at the airport as easy as possible


OK, so you stayed in the house as much as possible. You've worn your mask when you had to. You saved your money like you were supposed to. And now you're finally ready to go on that trip, only to find out that your flight is canceled or delayed. If this is you, it probably doesn't make you feel better to know this, but you're not alone. Pent-up demand for travel, shortages of pilots and other crew have created chaos at airports across the U.S. and, frankly, around the world. What might make you feel better is some knowledge about what, if anything, you can do to make your trip as smooth as possible. So we called Benet Wilson for this. She's a longtime travel and aviation reporter, and she's senior editor at the travel website The Points Guy. And she's with us now. Benet Wilson, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

BENET WILSON: Michel, thank you for having me.

MARTIN: I just want to start by trying to put this moment into context. Are the problems that passengers and airlines are experiencing - there is a great demand to travel - that the airlines are shorthanded? Because, you know, I think they probably let a lot of people go or retire during COVID because there was so little travel going on, so they're short staffed. I think people are probably still getting COVID. Is there anything else that I missed that's contributing to this problem?

WILSON: Yes. You know, we have airlines trying to hire more pilots, and you can't just hire a pilot one day and then put them in the cockpit the next day. They have raised salaries. They're offering sign-up bonuses. But, you know, that takes time. And it's - to a lesser extent, it's the same with the flight attendants. They have to be trained. So it's just really a mess.

MARTIN: So let's get to some advice. What are some things that you could recommend to people to try to make this less terrible? I mean, the first thing that comes to mind is, does it make sense, if you can afford it, to try to build in a grace period? Like, for example, if you need to arrive at a wedding on Saturday, maybe try to go Thursday.

WILSON: What I tell people is if you can go to where you're supposed to be the day before, do that. I always catch the first flight out in the morning. Nine times of the 10, the plane is already there. I try to do only nonstops or the one stop where you stay on the plane and don't have to change. I never check a bag. And I did this even before the pandemic, but I don't check a bag. You know, we've seen the nightmare photos of airports with baggage piling up. And pack your patience because it's going to be crowded. People are going to be cranky. And, you know, we're not seeing any end to this anytime soon.

MARTIN: Traveling with small children - now, again, some people - I'm just keeping it real here. I think a lot of business travelers don't necessarily have a lot of patience for this. Do you have some thoughts about traveling with young kids, even in this kind of difficult moment for travel? Or is your advice don't?

WILSON: I sure do have advice. What I always tell parents is you're putting your kid in a metal tube for hours on end. So be prepared. Bring them little snacks. Bring them - I always had the little iPad for my child to download movies. You know, if they want to take a nap, let them take a nap. But just keep them amused. My child was a fabulous flyer because we were always careful to prepare because kids want to know what's going on. So when they know what's going on, you know, you treat it as an adventure and you're prepared, you can do this.

MARTIN: Do you see this issue being resolved any time soon, or is this just what air travel is going to be for the foreseeable future?

WILSON: I think we're going to see it through the holidays, but I think this problem will kind of subside a little in the fall travel, which tends to be slower. But once we get to November and the holiday season, I see this flaring up again.

MARTIN: Benet Wilson is a senior editor at The Points Guy. Benet, thanks so much for joining us.

WILSON: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.