Flight cancellations stranded St. Kitts passengers for 4 days: Here's how to prepare for the worst
It's been a rough week for 200 passengers on board flight AA318. The daily American Airlines service from St. Kitts to Miami was delayed for four days, leaving travelers not only frazzled but, in some cases, short on essential medications and unable to get back to work.
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Passenger Doug Hinkin from Kansas City, Kansas, was packed and ready to leave the idyllic Caribbean island after a seven-night vacation with his wife and brother when he received notification that his flight home had been canceled. Originally scheduled to depart Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport (SKB) on Sunday, Feb. 6, the flight was repeatedly delayed before ultimately being canceled due to crew shortages and maintenance issues, according to American Airlines spokesperson Laura Masvidal.
The airline compensated passengers with accommodations at the nearby St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino and meal vouchers in the sum of $12. Medical crews were ushered to the hotel on a daily basis to administer COVID-19 tests required for return to the U.S., though the $55 charge came at the traveler's expense.
After days of long lines, lack of transparency and poor communication, including one where Hinkin says he waited at the airport for more than seven hours even after an American Airlines mechanical crew was flown in to assess the situation, he and 50 of his fellow travelers finally landed in Miami last night.
Hinkin isn't the only one who's recently dealt with days of travel headaches, though. Travel has become more unpredictable than ever, with pent-up desires to travel dampened by acute crew shortages and extreme weather conditions across the country. If delays drag on, minor gripes and inconveniences can swiftly become bigger issues.
To help you plan for the worst when flying, here is everything you need to do before your trip begins.
Related: How to prepare for any kind of travel disaster
Bring extra medication
One of the most urgent issues that arises from flight delays or enforced quarantine in the age of COVID-19 is running out of prescription medications.
If there is a medicine you take regularly, consult your doctor before your trip to decide how much of your medicine you should pack. Generally, traveling with a supply that can carry you through at least a week of unexpected delays is recommended. Pack a first-aid kit and at least half of your medicine in your carry-on bag or personal item so you have immediate access throughout your journey.
If you check a bag, keep a copy of your prescription on you and pack some of your medicinal cache in your checked luggage in case airport security confiscates the medications you plan on bringing on board.
Adopt a policy of media and entertainment overload
Whether you're traveling alone or with children, odds are you'll want to bring some digital devices to help alleviate stress and kill time in the airport, especially if an unexpected delay comes up.
Bring your work laptop if your employer isn't flexible about additional time off so you can stay connected should your travel plans change. Also pack chargers and tech items, plus any necessary adapters for international travel, in your carry-on, and download movies, television shows and audiobooks ahead of your trip to pass the time. If little ones are in tow, save room for portable games, books and toys so they have plenty of distractions.
Craft an on-the-go capsule wardrobe and toiletry kit
Overnight stays at an airport are never fun, but if you don’t have all of the clothing and toiletry essentials (think: a change of clothes, a toothbrush and contact lens solution) with you, the experience can be even more unpleasant.
Pack versatile lightweight items that can be layered, as well as travel-size toiletries that meet Transportation Security Administration guidelines. Remember, liquid containers should not exceed 3.4 ounces and be stored in a clear plastic bag. Noise-canceling headphones, ear plugs, an eye mask and a travel pillow are additional travel enhancers that can help you sleep better both on the plane and in the airport.
Pack healthy snacks
Many airports around the world still haven’t fully reopened their stores and restaurants due to the pandemic, so you may find yourself with few food options (if any) while waiting at your gate.
To tide you over, bring plenty of heathy snacks. Nutritionally dense items like protein bars, nuts, trail mix and string cheese are portable, help you feel full longer and are easy to graze on throughout your trip. Should you have young children with you, also make sure you pack multiple bottles, an adequate supply of formula and any required breastfeeding accessories.
Create a contingency plan
If your flight is showing as on time, allot your usual amount of time for getting to the airport. The TSA suggests arriving at least two hours before a domestic flight and a minimum of three hours before an international flight.
Even if your flight is delayed, remember that this estimated departure time is subject to change. Turbulent weather may cause a temporary ground stop that could be lifted sooner than anticipated, or cabin crew staffing shortages may be hastily resolved. Airlines will always endeavor to get their flights off the ground as soon as possible, but sometimes, unplanned events may trigger further delays. To avoid scrambling alongside other travelers when a flight gets canceled, check additional routes and times with the same airline and its competitors prior to arriving at your gate.