Updated, Friday, June 30.
You can turn on any TV newscast and the first thing you’ll see for the next couple of days is what a hot mess the airlines are. Maybe the hottest mess the industry has seen in several years.
For Friday alone, FlightAware reported total delays within, into, or out of the United States today sat at 1,219, and total cancellations at 922.
“This is not what we want to hear going into a big holiday weekend,” said Teresa Murray, consumer watchdog at U.S. PIRG Education Fund.
“People planning to travel this weekend should take steps now to protect themselves, including learning about their rights, putting trackers in their bags, getting their airline’s app on their phone so they can receive real-time notifications and saving the DOT link that spells out their airline’s guarantees in case of cancellations or delays."
Unfortunately, the potential flood of frustration doesn’t get much attention and ConsumerAffairs thought we’d fill you in on some things you should know about just in case you’re flying out this weekend. Here are some things that you should know about.
The biggest problem no one's talking about
This Saturday, July 1, is the day when wireless carriers can boost their 5G signals. That’s a good thing for those of us on the ground, but it could cause cancellations and delays in situations for planes using older equipment, especially when there’s nasty weather or low visibility.
And it’s not just a handful of planes, either. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that up to 20% of planes serving U.S. airports don’t yet have updated equipment.
Misery loves company
Because of the hub-and-spoke system that airlines use, if something goes wrong in, say, Houston, it can affect flights to Phoenix, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, etc.
As of early Thursday, according to FlightAware, the top three problem spots on its MiseryMap are O'Hare, Newark, and Boston Logan. After those airports, the other major troubles are at Houston's IAH, Denver, and Atlanta. Most everything out West is fairly smooth sailing, although there were six delays in Phoenix, Seattle, and at Los Angeles' LAX.
Do you have your TSA PreCheck mark on your boarding pass?
You probably assume that the TSA automatically takes care of synching everything up with the airlines, but the answer is no.
If you do not have a TSA PreCheck indicator on your boarding pass, call the TSA Contact Center at (866) 289-9673, or contact them at @AskTSA on Twitter and Facebook Messenger.
Pack an empty bag and know before you go
When airline passengers begin packing for travel, TSA says they should do it carefully, especially on the return trip when they may have picked up a few items not allowed aboard the aircraft. Screening the bag's contents means you are less likely to be stopped at the security checkpoint for having prohibited items and adding 10-15 minutes of patdowns and inspections.
Prior to packing that empty bag, check TSA’s “What Can I Bring?” tool to know what is prohibited. The most common prohibited items at the TSA checkpoint are drinks and foods that are prohibited according to the liquids, gels and aerosols rule.
They lost your bags? Sorry, but…
A lot of bags will be lost this holiday weekend. Possibly well into the thousands. US Pirg’s flier’s bill of rights says that if your bag is delayed overnight, most airlines set guidelines that allow their employees to reimburse you for some emergency expenses. Plus airlines must refund any checked baggage fees, and reimburse you for the lost items up to $3,800.
It may be too late, but if you have an iPhone, you may want to consider getting an AirTag that would enable you to track your luggage.
Don’t lose your wheels if something goes wrong
If anything takes a turn for the worse, keep your cool. Airlines, airports, local police, and TSA are in harmony anytime someone acts up. If you blow your cool, you run the risk of missing your flight, getting arrested, getting fined or any combination of the three.
Yes, and that includes giving a flight attendant grief. All it takes is one p-o’ed flight attendant to ask the pilot to turn the airplane around and take you back to where you came from and causing you to miss your flight.