Apr 26, 2023 - Business

Gear up for air travel hell this summer

Illustration of a golden airplane wing pin with a woozy or confused emoji.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

All signs point to a hectic travel season at Columbus' airports this summer, with passenger levels expected to return to — if not exceed — pre-pandemic levels.

Why it matters: It's a good idea to start planning ahead to mitigate what looks to be, as Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick puts it, a summer of air-travel hell.

State of play: About 7.75 million passengers traveled through John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) and Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK) in 2022, and the regional airport authority projects an even busier 2023.

  • Last year's total represented 87% of the record-breaking passenger total in 2019.

The big picture: The U.S. could see a potential record number of travelers passing through the country's airports this summer, Fitzpatrick writes.

Yes, but: That won't be easy amid airline staffing issues and technical problems like Southwest Airlines' latest nationwide snafu.

  • John Glenn typically fares better than the national average when it comes to flights departing on time, but our percentage tanked over a disastrous winter holiday season.

Threat level: That's if you even make it that far, which could be tricky for would-be international travelers looking to obtain or renew their passports.

  • Surging travel demand has created a backlog of passport applications and months-long waiting times.
  • Expedited processing is still taking seven to nine weeks, per the State Department.

Of note: CMH will debut a new airline next week, with the inaugural Sun Country flight leaving Columbus for Minneapolis-St. Paul.

  • That brings the number of airlines serving Columbus to 12, with nearly 50 nonstop destinations from both airports combined.

Be smart: We asked airport authority spokesperson Sarah McQuaide for some travel tips headed into the summer season. Her advice:

🚗 Plan ahead for parking. There's always the option of 24/7 valet if you're in a hurry.

⏰ Arrive early. It's cliche but true — you'll be glad for extra wiggle room when facing ticket issues or long security lines.

❌ Avoid packing pitfalls. Figure out what you can bring through security ahead of time.

📱 Stay updated. Download your airline's mobile app to be alerted to gate changes and flight delays.


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