You can disagree with me, but weather problems during the holiday season are as common as holly and ivy.
If you are heading to or passing through Lower 48, you may be affected by turbulent weather events. This means you may face flight delays, cancellations and lost baggage. You may end up sleeping at the airport.
There is another thing to remember. Even if the airport is sunny, the plane and crew have to come from somewhere. And you might start your trip in a hub like Seattle or Chicago where the weather is bad.
Airlines are actively canceling flights in anticipation of bad weather. Additionally, they are reaching out to passengers and encouraging them to reschedule their trips without penalty.
While hubs such as Seattle and Portland are under pressure from severe weather and record passenger numbers, Alaska’s remote airlines are dealing with their own weather and operational challenges.
Grant Aviation operates 54 aircraft in dozens of communities in Alaska. Grant CEO Rob Kelley said:
By “weather” in this issue, I mean the wind, which kept planes from taking off in Bethel and other parts of western Alaska last Friday morning. Grant is based in King His Salmon, Dutch His Harbor, Dillingham.
Matt Atkinson of Wright Air Service in Utqiaġvik is mainly concerned about pilots running out of time before the end of the year. FAA regulations limit a pilot’s annual flight hours to 1,000 hours. “It’s nice weather to fly,” said Atkinson. “But it’s a challenge to get the crew together here.”
Andy Klein of Juneau’s Alaska Seaplanes appreciates the good weather. However, the staff is gearing up for the Christmas blizzard. “This weekend really depends on the weather,” he said. The company’s 14 planes do not fly on Christmas Day.
Seattle and Portland airports have been tripped by freezing rain. “Stay home,” said Dave Saleski, a former Alaska native who is now chief meteorologist at KATU-TV in Portland. Salesky warned of gusts in excess of 80 mph at Portland Airport.
“It’s such a shame to have hummingbirds in the garage,” he said.
Seattle and Portland airports are technically open, but there is no guarantee that flights will operate on time.
John Discala wrote the popular Johnny Jet blog and was planning to travel this weekend. But as snow and high winds began to ravage the Midwest and East Coast, he decided to stay around his home in Los Angeles, where it’s 80 degrees and sunny. Or offers some advice for those willing to take the risk.
“Get to the airport early,” he warns. “If you miss your flight, it may take several days before you can catch the next flight.”
Discala also recommends grabbing some snacks and any necessary medications and putting them in your carry-on.
“Don’t check your bags,” Warns Discara. “Or, if you do, put an AirTag in there so it can be found.”
A weekend like this perfectly illustrates why you should get Global Entry for security. The program is designed for international travelers, but as a side benefit, you can always get her TSA precheck.
Weather isn’t the only factor travelers should consider. Earlier this week, there was a security breach at Sea-Tac airport. It didn’t last long, but the wait for security was over an hour for him. The exception was the pre-check line which showed a wait time of less than 5 minutes.
This weekend is also a great example of the benefits of having travel insurance. This is especially important in the event of flight cancellations or lost luggage.
I received a note from a traveler who lost 5 bags. She and her travel companion were in Utah for a five day ski trip. Please note that your credit card may include some travel insurance as part of its benefits. You’ll have to read the fine print to make sure.
My phone has mobile apps for Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and American Airlines. Mobile apps can help alert you to flight delays, cancellations and gate changes.
DiScala recommends travelers have a backup plan in case their flight is cancelled. For many travelers, that means spending vacations at home rather than with friends and relatives.
Another X factor that will always be with vacation travel is that there are thousands of people who fly infrequently. They have slow security. They ask the gate agent a lot of questions while you wait patiently. This is one of the great reasons to allow extra time (at least 2 hours) before your flight. This is why you should be careful with tight connections (less than an hour) between flights.
Wherever you spend your vacation, make it great. And get ready to welcome the New Year!
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