When you book, how you book and when you plan to travel matters more than ever.
ATLANTA — Traveling this year for Memorial Day weekend obviously ran into challenges.
Thousands of flights were cancelled, airports were packed, delays forced people to rush through airports to avoid missing a flight and further encroaching on their trip. According to flight tracking website FlightAware, nearly 5,000 flights were canceled between Friday and Sunday.
Staffing issues have prompted airlines to cancel flights. Those same staffing issues could persist well into the summer, with the Transportation Bureau reporting that the airline industry is still down about 7,000 employees from February 2020.
It may not be a problem that will be solved quickly, but there are always lessons to be learned.
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First, industry experts say to book now if people plan to travel from June to September. Jet fuel prices can drive up the cost of tickets as summer winds down, and flights should be booked weeks in advance.
Second, avoid flying on July 1 if you can. Fridays are notoriously more expensive and busier than normal days. This year, the price of a ticket on July 1 falls on a Friday and is expected to be 25% higher than the rest of the summer due to the July 4 holiday.
Third, consider August and even September. Currently, August is the cheapest summer month to fly. For those who want to push travel dates a bit further, September flights are even better.
Fourth, book through the airline. As seen on Memorial Day, flights can be canceled at the last minute. But, by booking through the airline, travelers are protected by the US Department of Transportation.
If you book a flight and cancel it within 24 hours, you are also entitled to a full refund. Additionally, if an airline cancels a traveler’s flight and decides not to travel, the buyer is entitled to a full refund. For those with a non-refundable ticket who experience a cancellation, you can obtain a travel credit or voucher (although it depends on the airline for non-refundable tickets.) However, the DOT states that airlines must deliver on the promises they make to customers.
If an airline refuses to refund you, you can file a complaint online through the DOT website.