Senior citizens are particularly affected by airline travel issues. Seniors may face lengthy TSA check in processes, long treks at the airport with heavy luggage, or having to sleep on an airport bench waiting for a delayed flight, each of which creates physical and mental hardships. Thus, it is likely advantageous to plan for trips and vacations, particularly when it comes to flying, so that things like transport and hotel arrangements go smoothly.
The airline industry has historically faced its ups and downs, from the rough early days of air travel to modern day booms and declines. Following the global pandemic, airlines suffered tremendous economic setbacks related to travel restrictions. Toward the end of 2022, things did not look good for smaller airports. The New York Times relayed that small-market airports bore the brunt of scheduled cutbacks, with some losing commercial service entirely due to “an unexpected hangover of the pandemic.” As a result, air travelers began to face steeper fares, inconvenient routes, and longer drives to larger airports. Now, consumers are having to work harder to find less expensive flights, seek ones with fewer layovers, and make better travel arrangements. Not only does air travel planning reduce physical and mental fatigue, but it also saves time and money and reduces aggravation. In other words, planning offers peace of mind, especially for senior citizens who may face in-airport and related travel challenges. Learn how to avoid airline issues, from seat discomfort to delays and cancellations, by preparing ahead.
- Plan your itinerary. Most seniors don’t like the tight middle seats or sitting in the back of the plane. Book your trip early so that you may have your choice of seating. Track your flight to gain departure and arrival information and to see if your flight is on time. You can use an app or simply use your iPhone or iPad which has a built-in flight tracker in messenger. This can be accessed when someone sends you a flight number in a message, or you send them yours. Simply tap the number in the sent text, select preview flight, and click on the details. When planning your trip, understand how long it takes to get to the airport and how you will get there, the times your flight departs and lands, your gate number, and other pertinent information. Give yourself plenty of time to check luggage and get through airport security. Frequent travelers should consider TSA PreCheck (website listed below) which allows them to expedite the security process. Typically, arrive at the airport 2 hours prior for domestic flights and 3 hours for international ones. You’ll want to be at your boarding gate about 45 minutes prior to boarding. Airports are generally large, and some gates are far. For this reason, do wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Should you need in-airport assistance, it’s important to prearrange how you will get around in the facility. Note that airlines offer air travel assistance for seniors, including boarding, deplaning, and making connections to next flights. Call your airline at least 72 hours before your trip to request transportation service. Note that if using wheelchair assistance, it is appropriate to tip your attendant. Also make plans after you land. For example, will you pre-reserve a rental car? Is someone meeting you at the airport? Or will you schedule a taxi or car service? Be ready to have a backup plan should flights be delayed.
- Pack light. Before leaving home, understand airline restrictions for luggage and measure and weigh your luggage if possible. Seniors who may struggle with heavy bags should pack light. Consider the 5-4-3-2-1 rule for long weekend vacations. (That’s 5 outfits from 4 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 pairs of shoes, and 1 dress for women.) A single non-heavy bag is optimal for carryon. Heavier luggage should be checked at the airport or shipped ahead to your destination. Should a carryon be too heavy or large, it will need to be checked. Passengers will be required to pay out-of-pocket for overweight luggage or be forced to remove nonessentials. Traveling with medication or medical equipment can be challenging. Per current airline rules, one may bring medication in pill or solid form in unlimited amounts if it is screened. However, it’s best to keep medicines in their original labeled containers. Visit the TSA’s official website below to ascertain how to travel with liquid medications as special rules apply. For extended trips, especially those overseas, talk to your healthcare provider to find out how to obtain refills. Bring along a list of your current medications as well as any prescriptions the doctor has given you. Since checked baggage has the potential to be lost, it’s best to carry on medications.
- Think insurance. Since many variables can affect business and pleasure trips, most people like the security provided by a standard travel insurance policy featuring trip cancellation coverage. Typical policies will generally cover medical emergencies and evacuation, trip cancellations and interruptions, travel mishaps such as missed connections, and damaged, lost, or stolen luggage. Comprehensive travel insurance typically covers canceled flights that delay your trip for at least 3 to 12 hours. And one may qualify for trip cancellation coverage if the flight is delayed more than 12 hours. The main purpose of travel insurance is to reimburse travelers for their insured prepaid and nonrefundable trip costs for cancelled trips due to covered reasons. Note that flight insurance alone protects only the cost of your flight. It is especially important to have comprehensive protection for high-cost trips. You can typically buy travel insurance from an insurance company, a broker, a travel agent, a tour-operator, or possibly a third-party broker who is properly vetted. Travel insurance policies are regulated by the state and coverage options may be limited depending upon state regulations Ask questions and learn what’s included and excluded in the policy. Also understand all associated costs and do some comparison shopping. It’s equally important for all travelers to consider the level of healthcare offered at one’s travel destination and to understand how medical insurance applies when traveling out of the country. If you have a pre-existing condition, talk to your doctor for health care recommendations before booking your trip.
It is true that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When it comes to travel, let your first step be securing your travel safety, comfort, and wellbeing. Organizing an itinerary, navigating steps along the way, and securing travel protection can help seniors to gain advantages. Following recent COVID-19 flight restrictions, airlines suffered across the globe. Travelers in the United States were affected by the fallout to include steeper fares, inconvenient routes, and longer drives to airports after local airport closures. Those on fixed budgets, including many senior citizens, must work harder to find close and cheap flights with minimal layovers. To ease the in-airport travel burden, seniors can remain educated on airport procedures and policies and address potential issues ahead to ensure a trouble-free journey.
For TSA PreCheck and transportation security information, visit www.tsa.gov
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My biggest peeve with airline travel is the allowance to let people board and grab seats to “upgrade” their seating arrangements. I always plan ahead and pay extra for certain seating and don’t like the aggregation I have to deal with when someone happens to jump into my seat who didn’t plan seating but bargain-priced for the last-minute price deal. My last flight was ruined because a family of 6, didn’t pre-select their seats and wanted to sit together in one row. I made sure that they heard me announce my displeasure in their assumption that I wouldn’t mind moving my seat. (I didn’t go to their empty seat in the back, I sat in front of them in the row that has no fold-down tray). I made the airline know of my disappointment that my reserved paid seat was just taken) I intend to travel in a higher class seat from now on–no more coach seats-only will accept seating that is guaranteed and can not be taken by someone trying to bargain their way to an upgrade on my dime. Bad enough that I have to deal with children being not watched by their parents– don’t tell me to have empathy when I have traveled with 2 children whose seats I paid for and kept them entertained and quiet for the entire trip because it can be done.