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Podcast: Airline Quality Rating holiday travel forecast

Monday, October 03, 2011 | Share

This WSU Newsline Podcast is available at http://www.wichita.edu/newslinepodcast. See the transcript below:

You’re listening to the podcast edition of the Wichita State University audio newsline. Learn more about WSU — the home of Thinkers, Doers, Movers and Shockers — on the Web at wichita.edu.

Dean Headley
Dean Headley
The season of turkey, snow and mistletoe also is the season of flight delays, overcrowded airports and flight cancellations. Dean Headley, co-author of the national Airline Quality Rating from Wichita State University, says travelers on U.S. airlines have reason to be concerned this holiday travel season.

Headley: “This holiday season has the possibility of being better, but on the outset it’s most likely the most hassled time of year to travel. More people fly. Want to be somewhere at a certain time; that always presents problems for people.”

Headley offers some tips on having a better holiday travel experience.

Headley: “Maybe things will be better if you proactively book early. Leave a little room for schedule changes. I do think the airlines have a better chance now of being on time with fewer flights in the air, so book early and plan for some schedule changes, because they probably will happen.”

According to Headley, weather and canceled flights are two potential problems facing airline passengers during the holiday season.

Headley: “During the holiday season we always have weather. It’s a hit or miss proposition, so weather is always a big factor. The process when a flight is canceled, which inevitably happens, there’s no room for error. There’s no other plane in 30 minutes to book you on, so be prepared for delays. That will be a problem.”

Air travelers during the holidays also can expect to feel some pain in the pocketbook, as Headley explains.

Headley: “Air travel is certainly costing more than it has. The flight numbers have been restricted. The number of seats available is restricted. When that happens, prices can go up. Not only do you have higher ticket prices, sometimes noticeably higher ticket prices, you also have the inevitable ancillary fees — fees for bags, for pillows or food or whatever it may be. That has to be added in.”

But for those whose priority it is to spend time with family or friends during the holidays, Headley has this advice.

Headley: “My suggestion is book early, and try not to fly on the day right before like, say, Thanksgiving. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving are the two busiest travel days of the year. Go on Thanksgiving Day and the Saturday after. Get a little off peak if you would. Your travel experience will be far more likely to happen as planned.”

Headley says during the last several years the holiday travel period has been a struggle for airline passengers. He says at some point the cost of air travel may cause some people to think twice before flying during the holidays.

Headley: “Flying at the holidays is driven by mostly emotional or family reasons. At some point those get overridden by the hassle of it and the price. And depending on what your experience was last year and maybe your travel experiences during the year, you may make the choice to say, ‘It’s just not worth it this time. It’s too much money, too much trouble. I think I’ll stay home.’”

The average domestic airfare for the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas is $383, 4 percent higher than last year, according to Expedia.

Travel columnist James Wysong suggests adjusting your attitude. He says if you expect your flight to be a nonstop pain in the neck, then it probably will be. If you approach it as an adventure with interesting ups and downs, you might actually enjoy yourself. Wysong says he loves holiday flying because it brings out the variety in passengers, and there is always a sense of excitement in the air.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

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Created on Monday, October 03, 2011; Last modified on Wednesday, October 05, 2011