The number of overseas flights has doubled since March, but many are feeling anxious to get back on the plane. Here’s how to prepare for an international flight
Your friends’ Instagram profiles are flooded with pictures of sunsets in Greece.
Facebook feeds are full of your high school acquaintances who enjoy wine and ice cream in Italy.
It’s not just you, it’s summer in Europe. Which means almost everyone you know is on vacation.
But for many, traveling during the pandemic elicits feelings of dread and anxiety.
If you feel unprepared for the administration that comes with planning a trip abroad, here’s how to calm those travel nerves when you decide to take off.
Do I need travel or medical insurance?
Travel insurance is just as important as your passport, according to CHOICE Money and Travel Manager Jodi Both.
Flight delays, cancellations and lost luggage are just a fraction of the inconvenience travelers face.
Travel insurance can cover them and more.
“If it’s not travel insurance, then medical insurance is an absolute must,” Mr Both said.
Think about what could happen if you catch COVID-19 while on vacation.
Depending on where you are, you may need to self-isolate or seek hospital treatment, which will affect your accommodation, transit and who you travel with.
Despite working in the travel industry for more than 20 years, Brisbane Airport Corporation terminal operations manager Stacey Pollard says she still has comprehensive travel and medical insurance.
Both Mr. Both and Ms. Pollard recommend use the Australian government’s Smartraveller website to research the requirements of the country you are visiting to better understand the type of travel insurance you will need.
What time should I arrive before my international flight?
When to report to the airport: Everyone’s favorite game.
Your sister says three hours before your flight. Your friend says two. And your dad? He says four.
“A lot of people I see arriving at the international airport arrive five or six hours before their flight opens, and there’s no one to help them,” Ms Pollard said.
Mr Both said it all comes down to keeping up to date with the latest information from the airline you are flying with.
“They will often post flight updates on their website or social media pages,” he said.
Generally, you must leave at least four hours before your flight.
And yes, arriving at the airport “too early” does exist.
Both said it not only forces you to sit and wait for hours, but it can also cause issues with overcrowding, which you don’t want to risk.
What’s wrong with flight cancellations? Should I be worried?
Ms Pollard says international flights seem fairly stable, but domestic flights “may be a different story”.
“What we find is that most cancellations are due to crew shortages,” she said.
“In the pre-COVID era, you didn’t have that problem. If a plane was canceled, it was usually due to an engineering issue.”
Mrs Pollard says the airline is usually aware of any crew shortages in advance.
“Again, check in with your airline and check your flight details before you even leave home to make sure you are aware of any changes.”
Beware of Uber cancellations and rideshare delays
If you plan on using a ride-sharing service to take you to the airport, make sure you have a plan B.
Rising fuel costs and increased demand as travelers return to pre-pandemic habits are driving more Uber cancellations.
So, before you open a ridesharing service app, make sure you’ve considered all of your options, including:
- Train/airport shuttle: Most states have their own direct train and/or bus connections between domestic and international airports, for less than half the price of an Uber.
- Ask someone you know to drop you off: If you have a friend or family member who doesn’t live too far from you (and is kind enough to drop you off), they can drop you off at the terminal.
Are you worried about losing your luggage? Consider a digital bag tag
Thanks to the digital age we live in, things like electronic bag tags exist.
There are various battery-free permanent bag tags on the market. Qantas even has its own Q Bag Tags.
These tags work by allowing you to check in online through your airline. It then syncs your information on your boarding pass with your baggage.
How can I be sure to get the cheapest flights?
Ms Pollard has a trip to the United States planned for the end of October. She was about to book her flights one evening when she decided to wait until the next day.
“I woke up the next morning and those same flights were $650 cheaper,” she said.
Ms. Pollard recommends the following:
- Set up alerts for flights from online travel websites, such as Expedia and Skyscanner
- Sign up to receive emails or push notifications when travel websites have a sale
- Monitor these websites and their social media accounts daily
- Explore other methods of travel: Ms Pollard says while direct flights are great, you should also consider connecting flights
“How long it takes to book your flight also has an impact on the price you’ll pay,” Ms Pollard said.
“For some, six months before your flight might be the cheapest option. For others, it might be three months.”
Airport arrival tips from the pros
Be patient and understand that the process is slower than normal
Mr Both said that during the early shutdowns of 2020 there were reports that the airline industry and international travel would return to their 2019 state in 2024.
“It actually seems pretty accurate,” he said.
“Within a year or two, we’ll start to get back to normal.”
Learn about airport security rules
Ms Pollard recalls countless times she saw people arrive at the security screening area not knowing what they were supposed to do.
“The number of people I see going up through security with their electronics still in their bags, their jackets not removed or their belts not removed,” she said.
“They end up delaying and blocking a queue of people who also feel rusty and restless.”
Ms Pollard says that when you arrive at the airport, you have to ask yourself: How can I help this process to be as smooth as possible?
- Remove all electronic equipment from your luggage and place it on a tray
- Place liquids, aerosols and gels in a clear snap-top bag to scan and present powders separately
- Remove your shoes or belt if you think there might be a metal arch or steel cap triggering the detector
Find your portal and familiarize yourself with your surroundings
Once you’re out of safety, don’t park at the nearest cafe for the next few hours, only to rush in a panic towards your gate.
Locate your boarding gate first, so you can get back there easily.
Boarding gates generally open 20 to 40 minutes before flight departure.
So once you’ve grabbed a bite to eat or a book to read, arrive at your doorstep within that time frame.