If you haven’t flown since last year’s vacation, there are changes you need to know about. They could save you money and they will save you time and aggravation.
This podcast featuring air travel expert Rick Seaney is well worth listening to, if you fly a little or a lot.
Airport security remains strict; you cannot carry more than 3.4 ounces of liquids through security checkpoints and most of us still have to remove jackets and shoes (the TSA website has a complete list of prohibited items), but some things are different.
Knife ban relaxed: Despite a lot of publicity, the TSA ultimately decided not to relax its knife ban to the extent of allowing small, pen knives on planes so be sure you do not carry any knives in pockets (it’s more common than you might think).
So-called naked photo machines gone: Those body scanners that showed a fair amount of anatomical detail are no longer in use in the nation’s airports. However, other scanners remain and you may be selected for this screening (the alternative is an enhanced pat-down).
Crowds: Forecasts say there will be a modest increase in the number of people flying this summer but that brings us very close to the all-time high of 217 million travelers that crowded U.S. airports in the summer of 2007. This can mean delays for passengers at security. For faster service, see if you qualify for the TSA’s faster PreCheck experience, or check the wait times at your airport (online or via app) to see if you need to arrive early.
Change fees rising: Several airlines have increased domestic change fees – the price you pay to make any changes to your flights. These include the Big Four: American, Delta, United and US Airways. If you are concerned you might have to change a flight, consider the more expensive refundable fares or look into trip insurance.
Carry-on and soft drink fees: Starting July 1, Frontier will charge all passengers $2 for a soft drink (soda, coffee, water) and the discount carrier has begun charging a carry-on fee for some passengers (and these fees can rise as high as $100). The airline is taking a page from Spirit and Allegiant’s playbook which already charge for soft drinks and hand luggage. The only airlines with free carry-ons and free checked-bags are JetBlue and Southwest.
Packed planes: The airlines continue to refine their strategy of cutting capacity, which means fewer empty seats. What this means is less space and fewer options when flights are delayed or canceled so pack some patience along with your bathing suit.