Airport and Flight Delays and Lost Luggage: How to Survive Travel Chaos

You need to be exceptionally risk-tolerant not to feel at least a little anxious about flying right now.

Even if you’re comfortable being confined to a crowded cabin of potential Covid carriers, the widespread disruptions at New Zealand and overseas airports recently are enough to make even usually easy travel veterans feel uneasy to live.

Stories of canceled flights, long lines at check-in and security, and luggage that goes missing for days or weeks or looks like it went through a wood chipper can make you wonder if travel by plane are worth it right now. .

As a travel journalist, of course, I’ll tell you, but hear me out. Travel is one of life’s greatest gifts. The experiences it opens up, the connections it makes possible, and the exhilarating respite from routine it provides are priceless. We just need to be very prepared and zen right now to get from A to B and come back with at least reasonably intact sanity. Here are 10 tips for surviving the so-called “airmageddon”.

* Lost airline baggage: how to retrieve your baggage and get what is rightfully yours
* What to pack in your carry-on amid the chaos of travel
* How to travel light to reduce carbon emissions (and save on checked baggage)

Use a travel agency

When you can find cheap flights yourself online, it’s tempting to do a do-it-yourself job when booking a trip. Before the pandemic, the chances of our efforts failing were quite low, but they have increased dramatically in the current climate. More than one Kiwi traveler has been left with thousands of dollars out of pocket after booking an itinerary online that turned out to be unusable.

Shortages at airports, airlines and ground handling companies have caused widespread disruption at airports around the world.

Frank Augstein/AP

Shortages at airports, airlines and ground handling companies have caused widespread disruption at airports around the world.

Travel agents are aware of Covid-related travel requirements and which airlines and routes are experiencing the least disruption. They also have access to offers not available to the general public and are happy (or at least paid) to help you whenever things go wrong. We know you have much better things to do with your time than listening to back-to-back Elemeno P tracks while waiting on the national carrier for hours.

Prepare for the worst

I don’t encourage catastrophizing in general, but amid the current disruption, it’s helpful to know what you will do if things don’t go your way. Have at least a plan B, and ideally a plan C and D.

Know your rights if your flight is canceled and what you will do if this happens. An airline must re-book you on an alternative service or compensate you if a cancellation was within its control and, in the event of a long delay, it may also provide accommodation and meal vouchers.

When a cancellation is beyond an airline’s control, compensation may be more difficult to obtain, especially if you don’t have a flexible fare or travel insurance.

Decide what you will do if you cannot get to your destination when you planned. Do you have your airline’s customer service number? How about contact details for your accommodation so you can let them know your plans have changed?

Air New Zealand is offering additional peace of mind to domestic and international passengers through August 31 with its Covid-19 flexibility policy.


Air New Zealand is offering additional peace of mind to domestic and international passengers through August 31 with its Covid-19 flexibility policy.

It’s also worth thinking about what to do if your luggage goes missing and how you’ll cope if you catch Covid while you’re away and have to self-isolate. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress if you don’t have to think right away.

Air New Zealand’s Covid-19 flexibility provides some peace of mind for customers traveling until August 31 – domestic and international passengers can cancel their bookings for any reason and get a credit towards their fares.

Arrive early at the airport

I booked a 6am flight to Melbourne earlier this year, didn’t take that advice and found myself at the end of a check-in queue that was so long that I had to sprint to the gate. Save yourself the stress and get to the airport when your airline tells you to. Typically this is at least an hour before a domestic flight (longer if you need to check baggage) and three to four hours before an international flight. Check in online before heading to the airport if you can.

Track your luggage

Staffing shortages at airlines and ground handling companies have led to long delays in reuniting travelers with lost luggage, prompting some to put tracking devices in their bags so they can locate them while the airlines were still looking. Apple’s AirTag and platform-agnostic Tile are both affordable Bluetooth trackers, but those with expensive hardware in their bags may want to invest in a more expensive but more capable GPS tracker, such as GEO GPS .

Travel light

The only surefire way to ensure you don’t get caught up in the chaos of lost luggage: travel with only hand luggage. You’ll save yourself the cost of checked bags and glide past the poor souls waiting in vain for their luggage at the carousel. Just make sure you have these 10 things in your carry-on. Unable to travel light? Read our guide on what to do if your luggage goes missing in the action.

be careful

Travel can be stressful at the best of times and these are definitely not those. Meditation apps and soothing music playlists can work wonders on tired nerves. Smiling Mind, a free nonprofit app developed by psychologists, offers several meditations designed to calm and soothe the mind, including several specifically for commuting or airplane travel. Calming supplements such as Rescue Remedy or Brave Face and lavender oil, which have been shown to reduce anxiety, restlessness and nervousness, might also be helpful.

Get boosted and pack some meds

Catching Covid could completely derail your travel plans, so make sure you’re up to date with vaccinations and boosters before you go. As a traveller, you are at particularly high risk of catching the virus, so stock up on medication just in case, such as painkillers, moisturizing tablets and throat lozenges.

Pack lots of snacks

Snacks make waiting in airport terminals a lot easier, especially if you have kids in tow. Energy-dense foods that will pass through security are your best bet. Think dried fruits, nuts and energy and chocolate bars. Items prohibited for safety reasons include foods with a high liquid content such as cream, oil, sauces and soups, and spreadable items such as butter, margarine and chocolate spread. There is more leeway if you are traveling with a young child. Milk, formula and baby food can be safely transported, as can fruit drinks and sterile water in refillable bottles.

Bring things to do

You can’t – and probably shouldn’t – spend all your waiting time eating, so be sure to pack some things to do, too. Load up a lightweight device with movies, music, or TV shows, or download a book or two to a Kindle. If you’re traveling with kids and want to limit their screen time, consider books, coloring books and crayons and a selection of inexpensive new toys. If you’re lucky, the novelty factor will keep them busy both at the airport and for much of the flight.

Take out travel insurance

You would have to be reckless enough not to take out travel insurance right now. Not all policies are created equal, so do your homework and pick one that will cover you for delays and cancellations, Covid-related disruptions and medical expenses, and any valuables you’re carrying. Buy it right after you book your trip so you don’t find yourself strapped for cash if your plans are thwarted before you’ve even left.