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Airport Chaos 2022: What’s Going On & How to Prepare for It

Lost luggage. Queues snaking out of airports. An abundance of flight delays and cancellations. These are just a few of the things characterising air travel in 2022, both in Australia and around the world. If you’ve flown recently, you likely encountered this airport chaos firsthand. On the other hand, if you’re preparing to travel in the coming months, you might be wondering: what exactly should I expect? 

In this guide, we seek to answer this question. Let’s outline what’s causing the airport chaos in 2022 and how you can prepare to travel smarter.

What’s going on in airports in 2022? A brief explainer

Australia is currently experiencing its highest rate of flight cancellations and delays in recorded history. According to the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics, during June 2022, only 63 per cent of Qantas, Virgin, Rex Airlines and Jetstar flights arrived on time. Similarly, only 61.9 per cent of flights with these airlines departed on time during the same period. Flight cancellation rates during June 2022 were also more than double the long-term average figure of 2.1 per cent.

Recent data also shows that Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport is ranked among the top 10 worst airports in the world for both flight delays and cancellations. However, the data shows that these struggles are being felt elsewhere too, with other airports on the list based in North America and Europe.

Why is this happening?

In short, there’s no easy answer to this question. There are a few key driving forces behind the airport chaos currently unfolding around the globe. 

After roughly two years of travel standstills amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people are now able to travel quite freely, both domestically and internationally. However, the pandemic also caused airports and airlines to lay off a significant portion of their staff. So, while travel levels are on the rise, airport and airline staff shortages are causing major challenges in the sector. 

Absenteeism is also a problem. Because COVID-19 and influenza infection rates are holding steady, many workers are falling ill and having to take time off work. 

Unfortunately, this airport chaos may soon reach new heights. Dubai National Air Travel Agency (known as Dnata) plans to apply to the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday 2 August to conduct a vote on pursuing potential strike action. Dnata offers baggage handling services for up to 20 airlines, such as Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Air ­Canada, meaning the challenges from a strike could be exponential. Workers are considering strike action due to pay issues and poor working conditions.

How to prepare yourself

If you’re travelling soon, it’s important to be as prepared as possible. Here are some tips to help you manage the ongoing airport chaos in 2022: 

Bring printed copies of travel documents 

To avoid any technology-related delays (e.g. an e-ticket not scanning properly), it’s a good idea to have printed copies of all your travel documents in a designated folder. That way, if you need to show any additional documentation, you can simply pull out your folder rather than searching through your phone and having to rely on Wi-Fi or mobile data. 

Grab a luggage tracker

Worried about your luggage getting lost? Investing in a luggage-tracking device – such as an Apple Air Tag – can offer some peace of mind. Simply throw it in your checked baggage and you’ll be able to see exactly where your bag is as you travel. Just remember to check the regulations and restrictions around what you can have in your luggage (e.g. nothing with a lithium battery). 

Dress the part

These days, when you walk into an airport, you can’t know exactly what to expect. If your flight is delayed, you could be sitting in the terminal for hours waiting for the next one. If that’s the case, you want to make sure you’re dressed comfortably. Ideally, dress in layered clothing and slip-on shoes that are easy to take on and off. 

Do your research 

It’s important to know what to do in the event of a flight cancellation or delay. Check out our guide on what to do if your flight is cancelled and ways to kill time at the airport if your flight is delayed for some inspiration.

Be patient

Travel is extremely challenging right now for everyone involved – including the workers. If you do experience a flight delay, cancellation or some other form of airport chaos, remember not to take out your frustrations on the staff. Be kind and remind yourself that they are doing their best to get you where you need to go.