4 reasons why: it’s summertime and the flyin’ ain’t easy

by Janice Hough on June 19, 2012

Many travelers dread winter travel with all the potential storms that can close airports and delay flights. But, while a major snowstorm can cause havoc, I find summer travel, especially with connecting flights, to be as bad or worse in terms of travel problems.

Here are four considerations to ponder, especially before booking a tight connection in summertime. The flyin’ ain’t always so easy.

1. Thunderstorms can be almost a daily occurrence in parts of the country. While these storms won’t close down an airport for days like snow will, they can cause serious flight delays of hours, with domino effects that throw schedules into chaos.

In addition, since these storms can come and go quickly, they can result in delays after a plane has left the gate, reducing travelers’ options for rebooking a later connecting flight. (Sometimes airlines will allow the use of cellphones during delays, but not always.)

2. Planes are packed. This means the next flight after a missed connection may be much later, perhaps even the next day. (And in a few cases, longer than that.) In winter, except around the holidays, there’s a little more “give” in the system.

Another issue that I’ve discovered is that with full planes, airlines are more likely to give reservations away when passengers don’t make it to the gate by the required time. (Yes, a boarding pass helps, but does not alleviate the need to physically be in the gate area.)

3. Lots of checked baggage. Full planes and vacationing travelers means lots of baggage in the bellies of the planes. This means a better chance that when travelers barely make their connecting flight, luggage may not.

4. Amateur hour. Summer means more families and “amateur” travelers, which means everything from check-in to security lines to boarding and disembarking planes may take longer than usual.

A few minutes may not make that much of a difference, but with a close connection, those minutes might be the ones needed to catch the plane.

Sometimes two flights with “minimum connecting time” (the least amount of time legally allowed by the airline) are the only option. If travel isn’t very time-sensitive, it may be worth taking the risk. Otherwise, give yourself plenty of transfer time.

(To be honest, I’ve flown my share of tight connections, but almost never when it was critically time-sensitive.)

Many travelers who wouldn’t think of booking connections of less than an hour or 90 minutes in Chicago, Denver or Dallas in the winter, assume it will be easy connecting in the summer. That kind of thinking can be an easy prelude to spending a LONG time in one of those and other airports.

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  • Anonymous

    we used to fly between Champaign, IL and Cleveland a lot and NEVER had a problem in the winter. however, at least 3 times we had problems in the summer–always thunderstorms or tornados.

  • http://www.northkingsfield.co.uk/ North Kingsfield

     Calamities and other unexpected problems occur but still I’m sure that all are aware to proper procedures and Know how to deal in times of bad situation.

  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    Wow … you actually got flight service out of Wilard? Last time I tried to flight out of Chambana it was ugly. Drove after that.

  • Graham

    People who travel frequently think they understand the system.   Believe me, they don’t.    In the end we are all passengers, plain and simple, no “amateurs”.   The Professionals are the people who work in the industry but only when doing their specific job otherwise they are passengers just like you and me.

    And don’t give me a load of xxxx about 1k travellers etc.   I’ve been there, it makes no difference to how much I do know or don’t know, I might be a little more experienced and be prepared to roll with the punches and then get up but I am still a passenger like everyone else.

  • Frank

    As a flight attendant, I did the ORIGINATORS out in the morning for almost a decade.  They have a VERY HIGH on-time rate.  First flights out in the morning are hard to get up for, but, trust me, start your day out on-time.

  • Jimtbay

    4. Amateur hour. Summer means more families and “amateur” travelers, which means everything from check-in to security lines to boarding and disembarking planes may take longer than usual.
    Not sure I follow.  Maybe what you really mean is that during the peak travel season you may experience longer lines.  Your gripe should be directed at the airline, not a person who worked all year to take his/her family on a vacation to have some self entitled business traveler scoff and expect us to move aside for them. 

  • Pingback: 4 reasons why: it’s summertime and the flyin’ ain’t easy | Travelgist

  • Scott

    That is not what she means.  People who don’t travel and are unfamiliar with the process slow everything down, on top of longer lines.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think Janice is suggesting that anyone “move aside”.  But, as Scott tries to say, folks who are unfamiliar with the whole process tend to take more time, thus making the lines move slower, and that regular travelers should build in extra time to their travel schedules. 

  • Anonymous

    Just wanted to point out, you have the Dallas thing backwards.  Yes, a freak snow or ice storm down in these parts is going to cripple DFW, but that normally happens at most once a year, and in some years, not at all (and anyway, they are usually forecasted sufficiently far enough in advance that you know the apocalypse is coming, and can change your plans). 

    You’re FAR more at risk in the spring and summer due to severe thunderstorms that can be impossible to predict until they’re right on top of you, like the tornadoes/hailstorms that struck back in April.  Hundreds of cancellations occurred due to having to inspect each plane for hail damage, and it took until Sunday morning to get back to normal – just in time for another band of training thunderstorms to set up shop right over DFW, resulting in yet another round of multi-hour delays.

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