We’ve all seen the wall-to-wall videos and Twitter threads of passenger meltdowns, miles-long security lines, lost luggage, congested terminals, and the constant cancellations. The whole Mad Max scenario of flying feels very “I’m gonna need a vacation from my vacation.” 

This summer, air travel is a scoach more chaotic, frustrating, and stressful than in previous years. But believe it or not, with a little insight and preparation, it’s possible to have a pleasant flying experience. 

To get the inside scoop on flying a friendlier sky, we spoke with Sheree Twitty, who knows a little something about air travel. A flight attendant with over 20 years experience, Sheree shared insider info as to why this summer has been a wonky mess; her predictions for the future of air travel; and some tips on how to create the best flying experience possible. 

Greetings, Earthling 
Why does air traveling seem so chaotic this summer?

Sheree Twitty 
Even before the pandemic, airlines were already experiencing a pilot shortage. When COVID hit, air travel stopped for the most part. A lot of major carriers, including my own, offered an early retirement package and several pilots and crew took it. 

Everyone’s come out of quarantine, guns blazing, ready to fly. But we don’t have enough pilots because it takes them about three months to go through training, then additional time in air training or observation. Flight attendants take about seven weeks, but we’re still down baggage handlers, ticket agents, etc.

Also, there are so many more people traveling for fun now - as opposed to business. A lot of these resort travelers don’t have much experience flying, and they’re unfamiliar with the routines. 

Are airlines overbooking?

Airlines aren’t necessarily overbooking. They’ve scheduled flights reflecting the recent surge in demand. 

But some things are out of our control, especially the weather. We may have a week of flying when nothing happens: no maintenance issues, no weather, or anything. Then you’ll get two days of pure hell because weather across the country is so unpredictable. It’s not just storms; it’s the heat, too. Some airports on the West Coast will even shut down for a few hours because of the heat. 

Also, certain cities have restrictions on how late an aircraft can take off or land. So if you’re delayed taking off from, say, Chicago heading to San Diego, you won’t be able to land after 10pm. On top of that, there are FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) crew timeouts. Once a pilot has clocked 16 hours, they’re off duty. Finding replacement crew can be near impossible because of shortages. 

So much of flying is determined by unpredictable events, like the weather, and it can feel out of our control. Unpredictability causes anxiety and stress. That’s when people get irritated. 



Streamline Your Itinerary 
Try to book direct flights, but if you connect, allow for a minimum three hour layover in case of delays.

Pack Smart
One week before, create your packing list. In your carry-on, pack at least one outfit plus masks, hand sanitizer, and anything you’d need for a day or two in case you’re separated from your luggage.

Slip an air tag into each piece of luggage so you’ll always know where it is, especially if it did make the connecting flight and you did not. 

Backup Your Travel Docs
Photocopy all IDs and travel docs and email them to yourself for easy access.


Maybe have a drink. Or anxiety meds. Or a meditation app. Whatever you need to find your calm. But definitely do not get drunk. Or else we’ll be forced to pull you from the flight - FAA regulations. 

Carry a Clean Canteen
Bring a refillable water bottle through TSA and fill it from a water refilling station now in terminals everywhere. Of course, you can get water once you’re on board but if the flight is turbulent, we may not be able to serve you. It’s better to come prepared. 

Keep it 100
Make sure all of your devices are charged and your entertainment downloaded. Sometimes we have chargers, but it’s best to have that all sorted before boarding. 

Tiptoe Through TSA 
Wear grippy socks when you go through TSA. Trust me. Once through, immediately take them off and store them in a Ziploc bag to prevent athlete’s foot. 

Above All, Be Patient
Keep calm. Expect chaos and dig deep for that wellspring of patience. Allow yourself extra time at every step from curb to gate. 


Create a Personal Zone
Headphones. Sometimes I just don’t want to talk to anyone. It’s my recharge time. So even if you’re faking it or listening to a meditation app, create that little bubble for yourself. 

Disinfect Your Space
Wipe down your seat, arm rests, etc. Hand sanitizer – keep a couple bottles handy in your carry on. If you’re more comfortable, mask up even though it's not mandatory. There are so many new COVID variants. Even if it’s a “mild case” it’s better to avoid getting sick at all. 

Mitigate the Pressure
Compression socks are great for long flights. Avoid overly salty food. Single serve electrolyte drink powders help with hydration. 

Be Mysterious
Maintain an air of intrigue and lay off the attendant call button. Every time it goes off, we’re anticipating an emergency. 

Flight attendants do a lot more than serve drinks. From boarding, we’re surveying passengers for potential allies, strong bodies, medical professionals, and during the flight, we’re listening for mechanical issues, or internal sounds that could indicate any kind of emergency. We’re constantly on alert. It can be exhausting. Even when we’re in the galley taking lunch, know that we’re constantly working, constantly on alert. 

Enjoy the Easy Part
Turbulence is nothing to worry about. It’s the landing and takeoff that are critical because of other plane traffic and potential miscommunication. Unless you’re walking around the cabin or in the lav – be cautious when that seat-belt sign is engaged. 

Don’t Be a Hero 
It may seem like there are more disruptive passengers than ever before, but that’s simply not the case. They’ve always been around but we’re just more aware of them because of social media and a camera in every pocket. Personally, I haven’t experienced a lot of rude passengers. Mostly, people are anxious or frustrated and can be calmed down with a few words.

But in the event of an unruly passenger, stay out of it. Unless you’re being physically attacked, and of course you have a right to defend yourself, don’t get involved. The crew is trained in de-escalation – we’re professionals and know how to handle it. If you get involved, you could end up on the no-fly list. Stay calm and stay neutral. 

What to Do When Your Plans SNAFU

Hope for the Best, Prepare for Everything Else
You will most likely experience some kind of delay or cancellation, so be mentally prepared to be flexible and patient. 

Early Bird Gets the Flight
Try to book the earliest flights of the day. You’re less likely to have the crew timeout or delays from weather or airport flight curfews. 

Patient Persistence
If you need to reschedule a canceled flight - be the squeaky wheel. Don’t sit in the terminal and expect them to come get you. Be polite, but be persistent. 

Last but Definitely not Least of All
Be kind and patient with your flight attendants. 

What’s the best way to show appreciation to the crew?

It’s welcome of course, but not necessary. We’re always happy to receive Starbucks gift cards or wrapped chocolates and the like. Nothing homemade. Just know that we’re delighted to help make your flight comfortable, safe, and enjoyable. 

Have patience, relax, and enjoy the ride.