The frequent fliers who depart from Northwest Arkansas National Airport know how to navigate flight delays and cancellations with expert precision.
For everyone else, a long flight delay or cancellation disrupts travel, spoils the fun of jetting off on a getaway and creates incredible stress.
If you’re flying this weekend, things don’t look good if your goal is to fly trouble-free. Airlines are short-staffed. They don’t have enough pilots. Weather issues are always a possibility.
Moreover, this will be one of the busiest travel weekends of the entire summer.
It’s such a wretched combination that Delta Air Lines notified its passengers that they can move their flights to different times and days at no additional cost. It’s possible other airlines will do the same.
With all that in mind, FareFlightNWA created a list of things to consider in advance of the Fourth of July weekend if your plan is to take to the skies. Here it goes.
Download the app
You may never need it, but if your flight is impacted in some way, you’ll have to either call the airline or communicate with the airline via its app. For some airlines, such as Breeze Airways, the app is really the only option.
In fact, download the app of the airline you are scheduled to fly and then download the app of any airline that could end up becoming part of your back-up plan. For example, if you’re on United Airlines to Chicago O’Hare, download the American Airlines app because it also flies nonstop to Chicago from XNA.
Find the phone numbers
Go ahead and find the right phone number for your airline if you need to reschedule and put it in your phone now. While there’s a decent chance the airline will send you that phone number in an email if your flight is impacted, and they might even go ahead and schedule you automatically on a later flight, it can’t hurt to be prepared.
And if you do end up talking to someone on the phone, don’t yell at them. The person you’re talking to didn’t cancel your flight, and you’ll do better if you’re calm. Moreover, people in Arkansas are required to be nice. It’s a state law.
Don’t rely on public announcements
The people who are working for understaffed airlines are so, so busy that it’s possible you won’t hear about your flight’s delay or cancellation in the airport terminal at the moment it occurs.
It can’t hurt to track what’s happening with your flight via your airline’s app and via other travel-focused apps.
Avoid last flight of the day
Experts will tell you to avoid being on the day’s latest flight to a destination because the cancellation of that flight is just about certain to mean you won’t be flying until the following day.
So if you’re a Delta customer who is flying this weekend, make sure you are flying earlier in the day. If you aren’t, move to an earlier time. On Delta, that move is free. We just told you that, so take advantage of that option.
Track your plane
The FlightView app makes it easy to see where your plane is now and how on-schedule it’s staying. Use it.
As an example, a plane departs from XNA bound for Chicago O’Hare at 5:36 p.m. today. The app makes it possible to see that it was on the ground early this morning in Manchester, N.H. It headed early this morning to Chicago and made it on time. It’ll head to XNA later today.
No one at XNA will announce on the intercom that your plane has departed Chicago on time and it’s bound for XNA, but don’t you want to know? It’s a great way to get a feel for how on-schedule your plane is. Things could still go wrong, but it’s a good hint at what’s possible.
Define your best alternatives
If your flight is from XNA to St. Louis or somewhere that’s less than a five-hour drive from Northwest Arkansas, can we just agree that your best alternative is to drive to that destination? Yes, we can.
If it’s a longer drive, the best option is to figure out now how you’d get to your destination if your original plan goes kaput.
Some decisions are obvious. If your flight is to Atlanta, it probably makes the most sense to jump on the next Delta Air Lines flight to Atlanta, assuming it’s not full already. If your flight is to Fort Lauderdale, where Allegiant flies just twice a week, it’s way more complicated and probably involves a different airline.
Take the nonstop
Travel this weekend is about decreasing risk exposure. More flying increases the possibility of a cancellation or delay.
If you can take just one flight to your destination and avoid connections, do it.
If you must connect, consider where your layover airport will be and how this weekend’s weather might impact it. The WeatherBug app is a great way to see what’s happening in every city where you’ll be flying.
Do you really need a checked bag?
Checked bags are one more thing that can create havoc on this busy travel weekend if they don’t make it to the destination.
Is it possible that everything you need can fit into a carry-on? If you wear your biggest shoes and your bulkiest clothing, does that create space in your carry-on? If your personal item is a computer and its bag, can you stuff a shirt and all the socks in an outside pocket or make it part of the padding to protect your MacBook?
You can do it.