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4 Tips to Avoid Current International Travel Issues

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Last week we talked about strategies that might help you avoid and manage travel delays when traveling domestically. Now we’re going to tackle ways to minimize your stress when traveling internationally. Many of the issues causing domestic air travel troubles are the same ones plaguing international air travel.
There are special situations you should be aware of while traveling across borders this summer and through the end of the year.

1. Choose Airports Wisely

Every different country is in a different state of post-pandemic recovery. The main airport or largest airport in each country is most likely to have better staffing levels, since these were the first destinations to re-open to air travel as pandemic restrictions lifted. So, if you need to make a connection in Spain, it would be better to choose Madrid as opposed to Barcelona, even though both airports are open.

A good rule of thumb to follow is that the longer the country has been open for international visitors, the more time it has had to acquire suitable staff to cover flight loads. They’re still dealing with a shortfall due to the summer travel surge, but more staff usually means fewer delays and related problems.

One resource you can use when selecting airports in the Cirium Airport On-Time Performance Report. The free report highlights the top on-time airports from around the world each month. You just have to set up a free account to access any and all reports from any month.

Another resource comes from the Official Aviation Guide (OAG). Every month, the OAG On-Time Performance Guide not only publishes the best performances, but also the worst on-time performances from airports around the world – and the list is searchable by airport name or airport code. If your desired airport is at the bottom of the list, you may want to look at other airports that may service your destination.

2. Customs Delays Are Terrible Right Now – Skip Whatever You Can

You won’t be able to avoid the customs and immigration interview in the country or countries you’re visiting, but you CAN simplify the luggage and declarations process to move towards your next flight, hotel, or other destination quicker.

If you don’t want to stand in line with your luggage and customs declaration form, let someone else do it for you. If you ship your luggage, as we suggested in our domestic air travel article, all the proper customs documentation travels with your luggage and moves directly on to your final destination.

If you prefer to stay with your luggage, having Global Entry (for U.S. Citizens), EasyPASS (for Europeans, Americans, and citizens of Hong Kong), Registered Traveller (for frequent travelers to the UK), or Privium/FLUX (for travel in and out of Amsterdam) can speed you through customs with guaranteed expedited service.

An Important Note: Global Entry is not the same as TSA PreCheck and the latter will not grant you expedited customs processing. Each program has its own application rates and processing time, and an in-person interview may be required and might take a few weeks to schedule. Please be sure to review these requirements well ahead of your travel dates.

3. Fly On Weekdays

All airports across the globe experience travel surges on weekends. However, the situation is even worse abroad these days as post-pandemic travelers want to “see the world” in greater-than-ever numbers. If you have the flexibility to fly in the middle of the week on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, not only are you less likely to encounter flight issues, you’re likely to save money on your fare as well.

4. Brush Up on the Local Language

With staffing issues present everywhere, don’t expect there will be someone present speaking your native language in a foreign country. Having a few essential phrases memorized can go a long way towards airport or airline personnel being willing to try and help you, or just pass you on to the next person who may speak your language.

Final Takeaway

IATA, the world governing board on airport compliance, safety, and passenger service says fixing congested airports and resuming more on-time operations is a top priority for every airport in the world. Unfortunately, it takes time to train and hire qualified staff, and that happens at a different speed in every country. Being a smart traveler can take you much further these days than simply expecting the status quo.

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