LUXEMBURG (NBC 26) — COVID-19 outbreaks are stranding travelers during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, with airlines across the country canceling thousands of flights over the Christmas holiday.
According to Flight Aware, a website that tracks airline cancellations and delays worldwide, thousands of flights were canceled in the U.S over Christmas weekend, with 1,500 flights canceled on Sunday alone.
“Right now with so many staff shortages, the airlines just don’t have the personnel to operate flights safely so that’s why you’re seeing all these cancellations,” said Pete Monfre, owner of Midwest Travel Club.
Once your flight is canceled, it can be a mad dash to book a new flight with your airline. Other passengers have to vie for a seat, a process that can sometimes take days.
“Basically the race is on because the people that get through first are going to be the ones that get those first open seats,” Monfre said.
But travel agents say there are several steps you can take to stay prepared. The first is to download your airline’s app and check your flight status frequently. Anne Kulhanek, the owner of Premier Travel, says this is often her first piece of advise for clients because it lets them to know right away if their flight has been delayed or canceled.
“We try to prepare them by having them download the airlines app so they can keep track of it so it’s in their hands constantly as well as checking in 24 hours in advance,” Kulhanek said.
In addition, travel agents also recommend reading your airline's terms and conditions to learn their refund policy or consider getting travel insurance for unforeseen cancellations.
“With all the new rules and regulation changes, if you’re ever caught in a situation where you’re going to have to re-book a flight or have to stay a couple extra days or maybe your COVID test comes back positive and you have to quarantine you have to know that you’re going to be protected and covered," Monfre said.
Above all, agents encourage travelers to have patience with airline workers as they work through staffing shortages amid the pandemic.
“Those airline employees are very much overworked and very stressed out and you’ll get a lot further being nice, being kind, being polite, than you will being upset," Monfre said. "So just kind of know that going in, make it part of the experience and get through it and just have a positive attitude.”