Listen up: COVID is slowly transitioning from pandemic to endemic. This will affect many aspects of life, including travel. I think many of us (I’ve fallen into this as well) are looking forward to a return to “normalcy”. Honestly, though, we may never truly get back to how travel used to be before COVID.
Instead of pontificating about Why or What the Government Should Have Done, I’d rather just deal with What Is.
Travel is different, and I do not think it will return to what it was any time soon. So what skills do we need to be savvy travelers in this new world? Let’s begin this new series with a simple but powerful concept: Gardening Your Reservations.
Let’s start off with this picture.
It’s a picture of a shrub on my balcony. What’s the big deal, right? Ok fine, fine, it’s supposed to be a hydrangea plant, but it just doesn’t get enough sunlight for hydrangeas to bloom but that’s beside the point. It’s a shrub.
Imagine this shrub represents all of your travel reservations. It looks healthy, and it is healthy.
But, lying in the shadows, what is going on?
One of the little plants I planted isn’t making it. I need to make a change, so it’s off to the plant nursery to find something that handles the shade better.
…what does this have to do with travel reservations?
Gardening your Reservations
Let’s take a look at what’s going on in the aviation world right now:
- Airlines had to shed staff and jets when the COVID decline happened
- Flight crew and jets are not coming back as rapidly as they went away.
- Airlines are running on very thin operational margins right now, in other words they have fewer reserve aircraft and fewer reserve crew to step in if there are any irregular operations
Taking all of this into consideration, we end up at the following reality: there’s a decent chance your flight reservations will be changed. It could be moving the schedule an hour or two, it could be changing the routing, or it could be changing the date itself.
Sometimes you’ll get an email letting you know these changes, and sometimes you won’t.
So here’s the tip: get in the practice of checking your reservations. For me it’s usually a quick check each morning, but I’m a bit obsessed I know 🙂
Here’s the gist of it though: understand the amount of flexibility you have for each trip and check your reservations to make sure that what you thought was a 9am arrival in Milan is still a 9am arrival in Milan. Maybe it’s checking your reservations weekly if your trip is far into the future, but as my trips get closer I’m taking a look every single day.
So…what happens if your reservations are changed?
If you see a reservation change that you don’t like, should Calling the Airline be your first move? Surprisingly, no.
Here’s the trick: know what you’d like from the airline to make your schedule right. If you call the airline and tell them their schedule change doesn’t work for you, it’s really just up to the airline agent at the point to see what they can do for you. On the other hand, if you begin the call with “hi, I see my schedule has changed in a way that does not work for my schedule. Could you please put me on flight xxxx routing via ORD instead so I can make there around the original time?” you’ve made it really easy for the agent to take care of you and move on to the next caller.
Also, it needs to be said, calling the airline is not always the quickest way to get a resolution. Even if you do not plan on Tweeting, get a Twitter account. Every airline has Twitter-based customer service via Direct Message. I visited the American Twitter desk a few years ago and got to see first-hand just how capable they are of handling customer issues across a wide variety of disciplines.
It boils down to this
- Schedule changes happen
- In this COVID-endemic world, schedule changes are likely to be more frequent, at least near-term
- Check your reservations at regular intervals, in case a schedule change happens and they don’t send a notification
- If something changes, have a few ideas of what you want the airline to do before contacting the airline
How has travel changed for you during COVID? What skills do you think travelers need going in this new world?