From staff shortages to strikes, the air travel industry is seeing an unprecedented increase in travel disruptions in Europe this summer. Since the start of summer, thousands of passengers have faced abrupt flight cancellations and delays, or have missed flights due to long queues at security and check-in desks, and had to deal with their luggage going missing. And with strikes scheduled for the remainder of summer across Europe, it’s very unlikely that the current situation will improve anytime soon.
I was flying from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Split Airport at the start of summer and endured a very hectic journey. I ended up queuing for almost 4 hours to get through security. Only to find once I had got through that my flight had been moved up by 30 minutes so I ended up missing it! Luckily, I was rescheduled to a later flight and was ready to get my trip back on track and forget all the mishaps…But once I landed in Split, I realized my luggage hadn’t made it. I ended up spending a week in Croatia at a music festival with no clothing! It took 19 days to retrieve it, by which time I was already home and my holiday had been seriously impacted.
I learned a lot along the way, I guess the silver lining to all this is that I’m now able to share some advice and help you manage these hurdles! Keep reading for practical tips to lessen the impacts of travel disruptions so you can still make the most of your trips this summer.
Buy travel insurance before you go.
Download the airline’s and the airport’s apps for updates.
Airline apps will help you preempt any delays or cancellations, and help you assess what you need to do to manage travel disruptions better. Some apps will even send you immediate alerts (if you turn on the app’s notifications) when delays or cancellations are announced. You’ll be able to assess what your re-booking options are and whether you still want to travel.
Airport apps will give you an accurate reading of their security screening waiting times so you can plan your arrival time and check-in accordingly.
Travel on nonstop flights and avoid short layovers.
Keep in mind that the less time you have to get from one flight to another, the less time airport staff has to transfer your bag to your next flight. Seeing as most airports are short-staffed, chances have increased significantly that your bags can be delayed or lost.
Put a travel lock, a tag and something unique that stands out on your luggage.
On the bright side, when my suitcase was finally returned to me nothing was stolen, as I had put a reliable lock on it. So in the end, it could have been much worse had I not taken some security precautions before travelling.
Put a travel tag and something recognisable (like a ribbon for example) around the handles of your luggage. Anything that would help it stand out from a lineup of other bags and would enable the airline to identify it quickly.
If you put a travel tag on your luggage, make sure that the name on the tag matches the name on your booking. I have a friend who was travelling with her partner’s suitcase and his name was on the travel tag. When the bag went missing, the airline completely overlooked their bag in their search because her name wasn’t on the luggage tag so they assumed it wasn’t hers!
Take only hand luggage if possible.
The advice I’m giving everyone this summer is to travel with hand luggage only. Pack the essentials like shoes and clothing, and buy toiletries when you arrive so you save some packing space/weight. The risk of having your luggage lost is one thing, but there are also really long waiting times for bags in the arrivals hall. People are waiting over 3 hours for their luggage at major airports across the continent. Packing light will ensure you have what you need for your holiday and will save you heaps of time!
In some cases, you may be able to drop your bag ahead of time.
Some airlines allow their passengers to check their luggage in a day before departure. Contact your airline to find out if are able to do this, it will definitely take some of the pressure off and help you focus on other hurdles you might face on the day you travel to avoid travel disruptions.
If you plan to check in your luggage, put an AirTag in it.
In hindsight, this is something I wish I had done before the airline lost my luggage. My suitcase went missing for 19 days and because the airline was so overwhelmed with customer queries, I wasn’t getting any updates from them. For days, all the airline could tell me is that they were still trying to trace my bag and find out where it is. I felt completely powerless in the situation. An AirTag could help you track and locate where your bag is, this may speed up the tracing process.
Take a photo of the items you packed and the suitcase you’re checking in.
Taking pictures of your belongings isn’t something you think of doing before departure, but you’ll instantly regret not having done it if your bag goes missing. One of the first questions you’ll be asked when you report your luggage as missing is what your bag looks like and what unique items you can identify inside the bag. If you’re able to show pictures they can include them in your lost luggage report, this will help the airline to locate your bag.
Even if you check luggage in, pack hand luggage with essentials and items of value.
It could take anywhere between a few days and a few weeks to retrieve your luggage so I recommend taking some items of clothing and toiletries in your hand luggage. And bring all items of value on the flight with you, just in case. This way you’ll have what you need when you land. it will definitely alleviate some of the frustration and stress you’ll be feeling from your luggage going missing.
Get to the airport early and bring snacks.
My holiday got off to a bad start when we got to the airport and were told that the queue for security would take us about 3 hours. And they weren’t kidding! They handed out a small bottle of water whilst we queued but we didn’t have any food on us. Not to mention that a lot of the airport’s shops and restaurants were closed due to staff shortages. The few places that were open didn’t have much food left on the shelves either. Come prepared with snacks to help you keep going throughout your trip.
Bring a portable phone charger.
The same goes for a portable charger. You just don’t know when you’ll next be able to sit down somewhere and charge your phone. A trip could easily turn sourer if you end up stranded somewhere without a means to contact someone for assistance. Be prepared for every case scenario to lessen any potential impact of travel disruptions on your trip.
If your luggage doesn’t make it, don’t panic and go to the luggage claims office.
So your suitcase hasn’t made it to your destination, don’t panic! The first thing to do is to locate the luggage claims office and file a report. Some airlines require that you report a lost bag within a certain number of hours, so get it done as soon as possible. Filing a report lets the airline know they need to locate your bag and it creates a paper trail that will enable you to receive reimbursement for items you purchase or costs incurred because of your missing bag.
You’ll be given a copy of the report with an identification number, keep hold of this as you’ll need to quote it when you reach out to the airline for updates. Be sure to also keep your boarding pass and luggage tag receipt safe, don’t throw them away!
Find out what compensation you’re entitled to.
This isn’t something that airlines and airports are openly advertising, you need to do a bit of digging yourself. Make sure you know what compensation is available to you if your flight is delayed, cancelled or your luggage goes missing. This way you don’t waste any time and can start taking the right steps to get compensated fairly when a mistake is made!
Follow up with the airline and don’t lose hope.
Whenever you start to feel like you won’t ever get your luggage back, just remind yourself that 90% of baggage ends back in the hands of its owner. Those are very good odds! But whatever you do, don’t wait for the airline to call you, be proactive and get updates.
Reconsider your means of transport or your trip altogether.
There is absolutely no shame in reconsidering your trip and rebooking it for another (quieter!) time of year to avoid mishaps or travel disruptions. Most airlines are issuing refunds and accepting last-minute changes to bookings so you can always change your mind and save yourself all this hassle!