Taking the Kids: Returning to the (not always friendly) skies
Everyone on our flight was compensated with a complimentary airport hotel and airline credit — not cash. For those who had travel insurance, they also would be compensated for their pre-paid hotel. I could not get an answer on whether a repeat COVID test would be covered. The passengers also lamented they could not get their lost day of vacation back — their first since the pandemic.
Such are the trials of summer air travel this year, which are only exacerbated when kids are part of the equation.
All I can say is be prepared for delayed flights, missed connections, jammed food courts, ridiculously expensive car rentals and long lines for everything, including shuttles to and from airport parking lots. Count yourselves lucky if your trip goes without too many hitches. A comfortable mask is a must since it is required in the airport and on the plane (except when you are eating, whether you are vaccinated or not.)
Whenever possible, bring food and a reusable water bottle with you. (You can fill it after you go through security.) We discovered places were out of food near the gates and again there were long lines and surly servers. We also discovered that despite hours-long waits on our flight, Jet Blue didn’t have food we could purchase.
Know that if weather is causing the delay or canceled flight, the airline won’t cover your out-of-pocket costs, though typically the change fee is waived.
Whenever possible, opt for nonstop flights, even if they cost more. Having to connect multiplies your chances of missing a connection and getting delayed mid-trip. (Yes, that’s happened to me.)
It’s maddening to try to reach an airline on the phone as waits can be several hours. You can try tweeting at your airline customer service. That may get you a quicker response.
Better communication would be a start. Passengers from our flight were needlessly being sent around the airport because no one seemed able to give passengers a straight answer about what they needed to do to get a hotel voucher, retrieve their bags, and get their flight re-booked.
Consider applying for TSA Pre Check (five years for $85 with children under 12 accompanying a parent without charge) that enables you to go through shorter security lines without taking off shoes or anything out of your bag. However, it can take several weeks to get approved.,
If you must travel overseas and need to get or renew a passport, be forewarned that even using an expedited passport service can take up to 12 weeks, according to the U.S. Department of State, because of mail delays.
Be wary of flying with unvaccinated kids, especially as the very contagious Delta Variant surges, hospitalizing many.
Travel with carry-on bags whenever possible — not only to save on checked-bag fees but to prevent interminable waits to retrieve bags. (Perhaps there aren’t enough baggage handlers either.)
One bright spot: By downloading your airline’s app (before you fly) you have access to a wide range of TV, movies, games, and Wi-Fi, just remember portable batteries. You’ll need them when you are delayed.
“I hope you can tell the higher-ups what is going on,” said one harried Jet Blue agent, who was trying to accommodate a long line of frustrated travelers. “They don’t listen to us.”
(For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow TakingTheKids on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. The Kid’s Guide to Philadelphia, the 13th in the kid’s guide series, was published in 2020, with The Kid’s Guide to Camping coming in 2021.)
©2021 Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.(c) 2021 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.