— As our memories of summer vacations fade, it’s time to start making travel plans for the holidays.
Coordinating schedules with friends, family and the airlines is hard enough, but this year there are business headlines and health news we must factor into our decisions.
Flight delays down, lost bags up
Statistics released by the Transportation Department earlier this month show complaints about lost luggage inched higher in August while airlines showed a slight improvement in on-time arrivals.
Airlines may be having an easier time getting from here to there because fewer people are flying and there are fewer jets in the air. According to a report released by the Brookings Institution, however, delays will most certainly get worse — especially in the 26 metropolitan hubs that serve about 75 percent of all domestic travelers.
The authors of the Brookings report had some ideas on how to ease and avert future congestion in the skies (investing in high-speed rail for short haul travel is one of them), but fliers booked on full flights this holiday season might keep their sanity — and their luggage — if they keep these tips in mind:
This year, the holiday fare increase comes in the form of a $10, one-way peak-travel “surcharge” on travel days right around the major holidays. So far, American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United and US Airlines have adopted the charge.
What can you do?
Flee the flu
Some experts say it’s a myth that the recirculated air on airplanes spreads colds and other maladies. But it’s not a myth that you need to protect yourself from the germs spread by folks sniffling and sneezing around you, especially with double threat of the seasonal flu and H1N1, or swine flu, ready to pounce.
What can you do?
Watch what you drink
While it’s a good idea to stay hydrated, you may reconsider what you drink, or decline to drink, on an airplane. Five years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested the tap water served to airline passengers. In late 2004, the water on nearly 20 percent of the airplanes tested fell below EPA standards and had unacceptable, and in some cases dangerous, levels of bacteria. Since then, many airlines have been voluntarily monitoring their tap water and reporting back to agency, but last week it issued rules that spell out exactly how often airlines must clean and disinfect airplane water systems and test for coliform bacteria.
Airlines have up to two years to comply with those rules, so in the meantime, it’s a good idea to: