If you’re packing for a summer trip, and you plan to fly — bring Advil.
Northern Kentucky native Stephanie Brockhoeft said she, and her husband, were able to get away to Punta Cana one week ago. The trip was an opportunity to relieve some stress.
Instead, they got more than they bargained for on their connecting flight at the Newark International Airport.
“Some of the most stress I’ve ever been in,” Brockhoeft said. "You don’t know what you’re going to do."
The couple arrived at Newark at about 8 p.m. and had an overnight layover. They got a hotel room for several hours before finding out at 1 a.m. their flight was canceled.
“They sent a link saying we could rebook through here. There was nothing. No flights at all,” she said. “The man at the counter was like we’re so sorry. We don’t have information. We don’t know.”
Brockhoeft then headed straight for the car rental area of the airport. It cost them $500 out-of-pocket, and they made the 10+ hour trek back to Cincinnati.
“They sent our refund today, and it was $100 per person,” Brockhoeft said.
When it comes to future travel, Brockhoeft said their family will be driving.
“We won’t take a flight that has a layover anytime in the future," Brockhoeft said. "It’s one thing to be stranded at your house, or where your destination is, but to be stranded in an unknown city with no means of leaving that city. That’s a problem.”
Jay Ratliff, an aviation expert, said this summer travel season will make for quite the trip.
“We’re enduring travel. There’s no other way to put it," Ratliff said. "The idea of actually enjoying the experience is not really going to be for this summer."
How did we get here?
“Right now airlines are simply not able to put those airplanes in the sky," Ratliff said. "Here’s the problem. The same way airlines overbook flights where they know certain people aren’t going to show up, they therefore increase their chances of booking a flight when it’s dispatched by overbooking the flight. They’re doing the same mentality for the flight schedule."
The Air Line Pilots Association said 8,000 pilots have been trained over the past 12 months. They believe that number is adequate for scheduling.
Airline companies say otherwise. Southwest Airlines is removing 20,000 flights this summer. For Delta Airlines, that number is around 6,000.
“It’s difficult. We’re right now on such thin ice. I hope everyone shows up for work every day, and we have no storms till August," Ratliff said. "Then I think we’re okay. Obviously, neither of those are going to take place."
Ratliff said it’s important for travelers to understand how they can get the upper hand if they’re dealing with cancellations.
He said if your flight is canceled for anything other than an “Act of God” you ‘may’ be entitled to compensation.
“At airports around the country, you’re going to think you’re at church. I say that because you’re going to hear this term, ‘An act of God,'" Ratliff said. "If my flight is canceled or delayed because of weather, it’s an act of God. Airlines have no responsibility to provide food, overnight accommodations."
Ratliff said if a flight is canceled, travelers have a few options. First, they can talk with a customer service agent at the airport for the airline carrier. They can also try to garner a response from the airline on social media apps.
If that doesn’t work — Ratliff said people can file a complaint through the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"Keep it brief,” he said. “Just say here’s my six-digit record locator. My confirmation number. I traveled on these dates. This is what happened, and this is what the airlines responded with.”
Ratliff said the airline will have 30 days to respond to the complaint.
Brockhoeft said her family will be looking into filing a complaint with the DOT.
“We just talked to United," said Brockhoeft. "That’s not very easy to do. I’ll look into the other option."