Traveling For The Holidays?

How to handle airport delays

Ecstatic about going home for the Christmas holiday, Brooklyn, New York, native and radio producer Michelle Anton and her teenage daughter boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, with loads of gifts. They joined the 52 million passengers who took to the skies in December 2000, according to the Air Transport Association of America Inc., a trade organization for U.S. airlines, in Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, lingering thoughts about the recent terrorist attack on New York has her feeling uneasy about this year’s trip. “Rushing around, buying last-minute gifts, and anticipating emergencies, I don’t want to [have to] think about busy airports. I understand they’re safe, but I still won’t fly.”

September 11, 2001, changed the way Americans think about air travel. Anxiety and outright fear have captured our emotions and toyed with our sensibilities. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed a new set of security requirements at the nation’s airports. Gone is curbside check-ins at some airports, or the act of escorting loved ones to the departure gate. New measures are in place to match tickets and baggage to passengers, not to mention increased hand checks of carry-on luggage. The most significant security measure will be planes protected by FAA Federal Air Marshals, specially trained for deployment on antihijacking missions, who will be flying on select flights anonymously.

If you’re like Anton, many of you have already canceled holiday travel plans or have chosen an alternate mode of transportation. But Air Transport Association spokesperson Steve Russell believes most Americans will regain confidence in air travel and fly during the holidays. Cathy Keefe, of the Travel Industry Association of America, echoed those sentiments. “I believe the need for people to be with their families during the holidays will help increase travel and may alleviate some of the fear of flying,” says Keefe.

These tips will help Anton and you combat stress, anxiety, and safety concerns associated with air travel:
Book early for a cheaper airfare and more flights from which to choose.

  • Double check with your travel agent or air carrier the day before your departure. A bad snowstorm in one part of the country can cripple air transportation, causing delays or cancellations.
  • Arrive early at the airport–at least two hours before departure for domestic flights and three hours before departure for international flights. Added security checks, heavy traffic, and long ticket lines could mean missed flights. If you don’t check in on time, you could get bumped.
  • Printed tickets are better than e-tickets, especially if you’re changing flights, because they speed up the process and you’ll clear security faster. If you book online, you will only get an e-ticket. Call the airline or demand a paper ticket when you arrive at the airport. Many airlines charge a $10 fee for a printed ticket, but the added expense is worth it.
  • Limit carry-on luggage that security officials must check or that you have to keep an eye on. Remember, anything that
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