Travel Problems – The New York Times

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For many travelers, cancellations and other hiccups have made this summer particularly frustrating. To help you understand how we got here and how to get the most out of your own travels, two travel experts from The Times – Niraj Chokshi, who covers transport, and Heather Murphy, who reports on how people travel – answered questions from readers.

Why are so many flights being cancelled? —Anna, South Bend, Ind.

Niraj: It’s a confluence of issues. The demand is quite high. After two years of people not being able to travel or feeling unsafe due to Covid, summer travel is busy again. The other problem: labor is scarce. Airlines and airports are struggling to hire, meaning there haven’t been enough baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, ramp attendants – right down to pilots.

To some extent, this is a problem of the airlines’ own creation. Early in the pandemic, as they sought to cut costs, airlines encouraged many employees to leave through buyouts or early retirements. In the end, it seems like it came back to bite them.

Will the summer travel issues end by October for my destination wedding? — Martina Matheis, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

Niraj: There is some hope. Major airlines have been recruiting aggressively and these new employees should soon be fully trained. The industry should also benefit from some relief thanks to seasonality: autumn is traditionally less busy. Also, some parts of the economy aren’t doing too well, which could mean fewer people will be flying.

Do you think the price of plane tickets will one day come down? I’m broke, but I need a vacation. — Cynthia Soegiharto, South Portland, Maine

Heather: A number of apps and websites, including Hopper, Kayak and Skyscanner, allow you, when looking for your flight, to see what the prices will be at different times. I appreciate that the Hopper app tells you if you should book right away as the prices are likely to go up or wait for them to go down further.

Also many airlines still allow people to change most flights free of charge so you can buy a flight and then if you can find a cheaper flight on that same airline you can change it and get a credit.

If an airline cancels your flight, what rights do you have regarding refunds or vouchers? — Susan, Southern New Jersey

Heather: If your airline cancels your flight or significantly changes it, you’re supposed to get your money back. This is something that people don’t realize, and airlines sometimes give people vouchers when they owe you that money. If you are not automatically reimbursed, you may need to call the airline or fill out an online form. If the money hasn’t appeared in your bank account within weeks of your request, you should let your credit card company know, and it can help you get your money back.

What steps should you take to plan for Covid contraction support while on vacation? — Libby Bucholz, Cary, North Carolina

Heather: It’s tempting to push it out of our minds, but it’s wise to come up with a plan ahead of time. Some, but not all, travel insurance policies will cover an additional seven days of hotel costs as well as medical costs if you test positive. Particularly if you are over 65 or medically compromised, you should consult your GP and find out if they can prescribe Paxlovid for you when you are on the road.

You no longer need to test to return to the US or travel to most countries, so it’s really up to you to identify if you have Covid before you go home. CDC guidelines say that if you test positive, you must self-isolate for five days and then wear a mask for the next five days. (Heather gave more advice for post-restrictions travel here.)

What can I do to reduce the carbon footprint of my vacation? — Kevin Moroney, State College, Pennsylvania.

Niraj: The airlines I cover won’t appreciate me saying that, but: fly less. Flying is a huge contributor to anyone’s carbon footprint and if it’s important to you, it’s worth considering reconsidering how much and how far you fly.

Should I ship my luggage overseas to avoid the chaos of losing it? — Carolyn Adams, Hilton Head Island, SC

Heather: If you need to travel with something that is so precious to you that if lost it would destroy your life, then put it in your carry-on. If it’s too big, it’s not a bad idea to ship it. But I don’t think we’re at the point yet where people have to stop checking their luggage.

For a big trip, is it better to use a travel agency or organize it myself? —June Sambrowski, Morris Plains, New Jersey

Heather: Travel agents are great if you have the money to spend on them. With all the chaos of travel and the horrible customer service offered by so many airlines, if you have a travel agent, they’ll be the one waiting on the phone for four hours for you.

Before working in journalism, Heather Murphy taught English at an institute in Chile with unconventional notions of essential words. Niraj Chokshi covers transportation, but his favorite way to get around is walking with his wife and their dog, Kevin.

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Sunday’s question: what does the death of Ayman al-Zawahri mean?

Assassination of al-Qaeda leader shows US can still fight terrorism without troops in Afghanistan, says Brookings Institution Vanda Felbab-Brown. But Zawahri’s presence in Kabul suggests that last year’s US withdrawal and the return of the Taliban have once again turned the country into a haven for terrorists, Asfandyar Mir written in The Times.

The book review podcast: Elisa Gabbert talks about poetic criticism.

Thank you for spending part of your weekend with The Times.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can join the team at [email protected].

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