Airline employee shares his best travel tips before the summer wave
With warm weather on the horizon, experts predict more travelers will be flying in this summer. If you’re one of the many thinking of a vacation after two years there during the pandemic, this spring might be the time to consider a summer travel offer and plan ahead.
Travel preparation is particularly important as airlines continue to respond to weather changes like ongoing wildfires and major disruptions like pilot shortages.
To help you get started, “Good Morning America” spoke with Natalie Houston, the airline employee behind the viral tiktok video offering “tips and tricks for delayed or canceled flights”.
Houston, 33, works as a gate agent for an airline in Nashville, Tennessee, and is one half of the duo behind “The Adventures of Matt and Nat.”
Here are her top summer travel tips:
Book directly with an airline and use their app.
“If something happens, we’re able to help you out a little bit more, like our hands aren’t tied,” Houston said. “Sometimes we walk into a reservation and we’re like, ‘I’m so sorry. It is with a third party, nothing can be done.
“You’ll have to call customer support, whose lines are beyond crazy at the moment, to call for help.”
Another good tip? Houston asks customers to download the app for the airline they’re traveling with, if available.
“The app is really helpful,” Houston said, noting that many features offer airport maps and airport dining options. “It gives you, the customer, sometimes more up-to-date notifications than we as airline employees will know.”
Use a flight tracking tool.
One of Houston’s most frequently asked questions to customers is, “Where’s my plane?” She recommends everyone to use a flight tracking tool like the Flight Aware website and the app, which shows specific details like a map and where a plane has traveled from and the destination it’s expected to fly to.
“It’s something we use, something pilots use, and it lets you know where your plane is in the sky,” Houston said.
“If you’re leaving later in the evening, I would still recommend checking in in the morning because you can see, ‘OK, well, there are four different flights this plane is taking.’ At any time, it could be delayed, so you already know, “OK, everything is going well. Everything is on time. My plane tonight should also take off on time. … It’s not a guaranteed, but it kind of gives you a bit more insider knowledge of what was going on.
Talk to the ticket agent or airline staff.
“If you’ve never flown before or it’s been a long time since you’ve flown, always let the counter representative know,” Houston suggests.
“We’re so much more inclined to guide you through the process because we just assume that when you arrive you’ve flown before. We don’t want to be pushy or guide you too much, so when people say that, it’s It’s like “Oh ok, let me go through the steps”, to make you more comfortable… we’ll even upgrade your seat. We want this experience to be fun for you.
Do your research.
Houston said one piece of advice she often gives is to research an airline’s fine print.
“I always say to Google people ‘bill of rights’ or ‘contract of carriage.’ It just lets people know what compensation you’ll get if something were to happen, maybe you’re on the tarmac, or there’s a cancelation or delay.
Choose a direct flight and fly in the morning.
“Fly straight, if you can,” Houston recommended. “You are much less likely to be delayed on a connecting flight.”
“Try to fly in the morning, if you can, because they can get you on the next flight, so if it’s the last flight of the night, you’ll probably be spending the night at the airport or at a hotel to catch the next flight, which is in the morning, so I would try to do it as early as possible in the morning as you are less likely to be delayed or cancelled,” she said.
Give yourself enough time to travel.
If you plan to travel within the United States, Houston recommends that you arrive at your departure airport at least an hour and a half or two hours before your flight, and give yourself even more time if you are traveling to the stranger.
the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not specify how far in advance, but recommends passengers “allow time for parking/shuttle transportation, airline check-in, obtaining an ID card, boarding and security screening process, which includes checking your carry-on bag.
Houston also said to consider adding days into your itinerary to budget for any unexpected events, echoing advice the Hopper economist Hayley Berg told “GMA” this week.
“I recommend, especially with summer travel right now, that people fly out the day before they leave, so don’t leave in the morning and go on a cruise that afternoon,” Houston said. “You must leave at least the day before a wedding or something very important because you need a travel day just in case of delay, cancellation.
“It stinks that you need to have another day off, but I think that’s what we’re going to be looking at this summer, it’s a continuation of canceled flights and delays, especially with the weather.”
Get travel insurance.
“I also think travel insurance is a really great thing, especially for summer travel,” Houston said. “There are going to be so many people traveling this summer, way more than we have been used to for the past two years… It even helps with delays and hotels and so it’s not just if you miss your cruise , it’s anything in between from the time you start traveling until the time you end your journey. Anything that happens in between that wasn’t planned, travel insurance will help take care of.