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Flying the Not-So-Friendly Skies with Your Family

By Sara Horn

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It’s no secret air travel is challenging. It’s challenging for EVERYONE –  airlines, travel advisors, and travelers.

There are many reasons why this has happened. When the pandemic began, airlines laid off tens of thousands of workers including ground crew and pilots. When Covid-19 vaccines came out, most airlines required employees to get vaccinated. This caused more significant losses to worker numbers, forcing airlines to rework flight schedules and close a few hubs in smaller regions. 

Now that covid restrictions have lifted and everyone and their grandmothers are ready to travel again – air travel has hit the perfect storm of enormous demand… without much supply.

It’s extraordinary when you think about it. The travel industry let out a collective gasp this summer when Delta put out a never-done-before preemptive waiver before the 4th of July holiday pleading with customers to change travel plans to avoid massive delays and cancellations. London Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports, asked airlines to stop selling tickets for outbound travel for the remainder of the summer, attempting to limit daily departures to cope with demand and the struggle to hire staff. 

To throw more salt in the wound, the Department of Transportation has warned airlines if they don’t start doing a better job of allowing families to fly together, it will be regulated. At the time of this writing, it’s not clear how the airlines will respond. 

With fuel prices soaring, and ticket prices surging, here are some important air travel tips to consider: 

Know your travel distance

 Should you fly? As unappealing as a road trip might sound with four kids, air travel isn’t necessarily better, especially when you factor in high ticket prices, frustrating delays, and the higher risks of flight cancellations. Look at the total travel time and per-person-cost. Look at layover times for flights versus driving time on the road. If you’re traveling solo, a flight may be a no-brainer – but a family of five or six may be better off driving, even if there’s an overnight stay along the way. 

Pay for the seat

 Cheaper is not always better. If you’re using a third-party travel website like cheapo.com or kayak.com to book flights, make sure you read the fine print. The cheapest flights are typically basic economy – these tickets don’t come with seat assignments, and they are the first to be bumped in an oversold situation. If you purchase them for your family, you’re setting yourself up for stress and chaos when you get on the plane and your 3-year-old has been put in a seat at the back and you’re in the front. Never assume a nice businessman will give up his seat so your little girl can sit by you. Airlines have put a dollar amount on every seat – and people are reluctant to switch because they’ve paid for it – and looking back at you, wondering why you didn’t do the same. 

Early is better

Take the earliest scheduled flight. Early flights are less likely to experience delays and cancellations, and if there is a problem, you’ll have later flights as options. If you’re on the last flight of the night and something happens – you’re spending that night in the airport. 

Arrive early. Three hours for an international flight and two hours for a domestic flight is a good rule of thumb to avoid panic-inducing delays or backups through security, and if any issues arise with your tickets or flights, you’ve given yourself more time to fix them.

Sara Horn is a travel advisor and office manager at Zachary Travel, a locally owned travel agency that’s helped families in Zachary, Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas plan vacations and travel for almost 40 years. Contact us at 225.654.9210 or visit us at zacharytravel.com. 

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