There’s probably a good chance that you or a family member will be traveling by air this summer. While we all enjoy the long days of sunshine the season brings, summer also presents unique travel challenges. Passengers line up inside crowded airport terminals, as lines of thunderstorms percolate outside.

Already one major U.S. carrier announced that they have a record number of advance summer bookings, so it’s shaping up to be a busy season. Last year, passenger numbers equaled or exceeded pre-pandemic numbers, especially over holidays, according to the Transportation Security Association (TSA).

The total number of U.S. domestic flights are actually still down compared to pre-pandemic 2019. And airlines are operating larger aircraft on many routes, in part to offset the many smaller jets parked by regional carriers, as the challenges of the recent pilot shortage linger.

Good news for ticket buyers is that due to stabilizing supply and demand, volatile airfares should hold a bit steadier. According to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) data, 2023’s average domestic airfare was 3% lower than 2022, and 10% lower than 2018. And this may come as a pleasant surprise: adjusting for inflation, average airfares were down an impressive 30% compared to the year 2000 when prices reached a historical peak.


The DOT recently released a new final rule requiring airlines to provide cash refunds in lieu of vouchers. U.S. carriers will be required to issue refunds when they cancel or significantly change flights, significantly delay checked bags, or fail to provide promised extra services.

The DOT now identifies a qualifying delay as when a domestic flight is more than three hours behind schedule, or six hours for an international flight. The new delay rule and others are expected to take 6-12 months for full implementation.

The DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection website provides side-by-side comparisons of what each of the top ten largest U.S. airlines presently offer in the event of flight delays and cancellations.

Here are some of our top FlightAware travel tips to help keep your summer air travel smooth and hassle-free

1. Be the early bird. Thunderstorms and widespread storm fronts can wreak havoc with airline schedules during the summer so getting the earliest morning departure means significantly less chances of a cancelled flight or long delay. Delays can domino enough that by the evening hours there may not be a spare aircraft available, or a flight crew that hasn’t timed out. FlightAware data supports that the earlier you fly, the greater the chance for an on-time arrival.

2. Fly nonstop if possible. Because there are less flights overall compared to 2019, the reality is if you miss a connecting flight, there are less available flights to get rebooked on and with high passenger loads, less chance of getting a seat. If your itinerary does include a connecting flight, check the time between the two flights to make sure it’s reasonable. Carriers can book connecting flights with as little as 25 minutes between connections. That may not be realistic when there’s a long distance between gates or terminals, or if you’re traveling with young children or people who may need assistance. 

3. Review the National Weather Service’s prediction center website two or three days before your flight to get a big-picture overview of major weather events affecting the country. Remember, storms in one region can have significant impact on delays and cancellations at airports hundreds or even thousands of miles away. The exceptionally accurate National Forecast Chart is easy to understand and depicts major U.S. weather fronts and areas of precipitation 1-3 days in advance. 

4. Download your carrier’s app to get the fastest access to any changes you might need, and the most real-time communications from the airline. If faced with a long delay or cancellation while at the airport, it can still be worth standing in line to talk with an airline employee face-to-face, but make sure you’re still working the app just to make sure – for example an open seat you need to book – isn’t taken before you get to the counter.

Many major airline carriers have interline agreements with each other to rebook passengers. Use that to your advantage. Patiently explain what happened, what you need, what options you already know exist, and ask what other options they might suggest.

5. Always have a back-up plan. If the worst-case scenario occurs – your airline strands you at an interim airport or at your destination airport – have a plan to either continue your trip or get home. Consider what you’d do if your wallet and/or your phone were lost or stolen. Have a secure plan on how you would retrieve critical information such as your bank, credit card holder, important personal contacts, and your passport number if traveling internationally. 

6. If traveling with children check out the DOT’s Family Seating Dashboard. This handy dashboard addresses how to plan to make sure children ages thirteen and younger are seated next to a parent or guardian while flying.

7. Use a Map. Your smart phone has maps but travelers often overlook using them. If, for example, your flight out of Newark is cancelled and the airline can’t find you an open seat until tomorrow (make sure they check their interline agreements if applicable), then check if they could get you on a flight out of nearby JFK or LGA. Even Philadelphia (PHL) is only about 99 miles away if you really need to get a flight to your destination (think family wedding or business emergency).

Or let’s say you’re flying to Tampa, but there’s no flights or seats available. Pull out a map. Does the carrier have a flight to nearby St. Petersburg or Sarasota? Or even Orlando, about a 90-minute rental car drive.

8. Don’t confuse the two types of carry-on bags. When flying with two carry-on bags, meaning a ‘roller bag’ that goes in the overhead bins and a smaller ‘personal’ or ‘under the seat’ bag, make sure all your valuables - computer, passport, medications, phone, jewelry, and anything else expensive or hard to replace - goes in your under the seat bag. 

Why? As the overhead bins fill, it’s common now on full flights for carriers to check roller bags when there’s no space left. That’s an opportunity for you to get separated from your bag, with the possibility of it – and those important items you need - getting delayed or lost. Also remember that the Federal Aviation Administration regulations say domestic carry-on items can't exceed dimensions of 22 by 14 by 9 inches, though you might find an inch or two of difference depending on the airline. Each carrier’s exact dimension limits can be found on their website or app.  

9. Use the FAA’s National Airspace Status website to find up-to-the-minute information on Air Traffic Control (ATC) delays and airport ground stops. Sometimes overlooked by travelers, this site lets you know the why behind delays (high winds, heavy precipitation, computer system outages) and how long they might last.

10. How do professional pilots track flights? They use FlightAware to track flights not only when they’re on duty, but also to stay on top of loved one’s air travel. FlightAware tracks every airline flight, and supplies air carriers the most up-to-the-minute information on the location and predicted movements and ETA’s (Estimated Time of Arrival) of their fleet. That’s why FlightAware often alerts travelers, even before carriers do, when there is a flight delay, diversion, or cancellation.

To get up-to-the-minute information on your flight or the flight of a family, friend, or business associate, just type in the flight number or the city pairing on flightaware.com.

To receive convenient flight alerts, simply download the free app and choose what events you want to receive notifications on such as takeoff, delays, diversions, at the gate, and more. You decide how you’d like to receive alerts: either via email or text message.

One of the most popular FlightAware features, ‘Where is My Plane Now’, empowers you to track the exact whereabouts of the specific aircraft scheduled for your flight. Airlines may make an equipment change – fly a different aircraft than scheduled – for a variety of operational reasons. That’s critical information you can use to stay ahead of potential delays and possible cancellations. Simply type in your flight number, or enter the airports traveling between, and choose from the selected flights. Then click on ‘Where is my Plane Now’ to identify your aircraft and if its present location means any delays for you.


Wondering when to hop in the car to pick someone up at the airport? Dread circling the terminal or idling in the cell phone lot as you wait for a text that they’re finally at a gate? With FlightAware’s 'Minutes Out' feature, a notification will alert you when any flight is 45 minutes away from its destination.


FlightAware’s famed ‘Misery Map’ provides an at-a-glance overview of US airports and routes most impacted that hour and day by delays and provides a ‘big-picture’ view of what’s happening across the country before you even leave home to catch your flight.

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Have a Great Flight!

From seatback screens to wireless streaming, from wheel brakes to cabin seats, and from state of the art cockpit avionics and weather radar to blank, Collins Aerospace has your air travel experience covered. And behind the scenes, FlightAware is collaborating with the airlines and our technology partners every step of your journey, from long before departure to after arrival.

From the flight deck to the tail, Collins Aerospace continues to pioneer new technologies that transform ideas into solutions and help make your future airline flights enjoyable, safe, and informed - for this summer and beyond.


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