The Check-In: Brace for busy airports, a goodbye to first class, and more

Introducing our new weekend travel column!

Welcome to The Check-In, our new weekend feature that will focus on all things travel. Expect tips and tricks from experts, guides on things to do and places to see, and news from all corners of the travel industry. Off we go!

Airports are expecting a busy (2019 levels busy!) holiday season

If you thought air travel was hectic this summer, buckle up for the holidays.

Airport officials and travel experts are confident that from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, U.S. passenger traffic will hit or exceed 2019 levels, when 93 million people traveled by plane. Transportation Security Administration data analyzed by Bloomberg shows that over the summer, passenger traffic was at about 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, with Las Vegas, Orlando, and Miami seeing the biggest increase.

Passengers stand in the security line at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

There were a few reasons why air travel was rough over the summer — pilot shortages led to flight delays and cancelations and airport staff shortages resulted in more lost luggage than usual — and many of those issues have yet to be resolved. Still, facilities say they are doing what they can to brace for higher crowds; Los Angeles International Airport, for example, is planning to deploy extra staff, including air traffic controllers and customer service teams, through the holidays, Heath Montgomery, the airport's director of public relations, told Bloomberg.

Wherever you end up going, make sure to pack your patience (just don't check it in!).

American Airlines to bid adieu to international first class

It's business class or bust for American Airlines, with the company's chief commercial officer announcing in a call to investors last week that by 2024, first-class seats will be a thing of the past on its international flights.

"First class will not exist on the 777, or for that matter at American Airlines, for the simple reason that our customers aren't buying it," American Airlines CCO Vasu Rija said. Passengers are snapping up business class seats, which have cheaper price tags with many of the same amenities and perks.

An American Airlines plane flies over London.

Nik Oiko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Last month, American Airlines revealed that starting next year, it is installing new Flagship Suite business class seats on Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9 planes. They'll come with doors for privacy, a chaise lounge seat option, and more storage space. To make room for these luxe new offerings, American has to get rid of the first-class section — and the company is betting on its customers approving. "Frankly, by removing it, we can provide more business class seats, which is what our customers most want or are most willing to pay for," Rija said.

Note: While you won't be able to live it up in first class for much longer on international flights, American Airlines will still have a first-class section — fancy ice cream sundaes and all — on domestic flights.

Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason recommends … Iceland's east coast

The midnight sun is over, but the northern lights are just getting started — much to the delight of the tourists giving Iceland in the fall a try.

Exploring Iceland is an adventure any time of year, Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason tells The Week. "I know a lot of people from abroad who love to come in the summer, and say next time they'll come in the winter," he said. "When it's snowy, it can be spectacular, and that goes for all parts of Iceland — the east coast, northern part, the west. The season doesn't matter, you're always experiencing something unique."

Bogi Bogason.

Courtesy of Icelandair

Right in the middle of the Atlantic between North America and Europe, Iceland —population 372,295 — is known for its magical landscape. The waterfalls, lagoons, ice caves, and fjords are a "very short and easy flight from the [U.S.]  East Coast," Bogason said. "It's actually shorter than flying to the West Coast." There's also the stopover option, which lets travelers flying on Icelandair stay in Iceland for up to seven days before heading to their final destination, all on the same ticket.

A rainbow at the Skogar waterfall.

Tim Graham/Getty Images

There's a lot you can do with a week in Iceland: Exploring the capital of Reykjavík, driving the Golden Circle, and visiting outdoor spas and natural lagoons. Bogason, however, recommends getting out to the country's eastern region. That's where he grew up, in the fishing town of Eskifjordur. "There are high mountains and it's very peaceful, with great nature," Bogason said. "Tourists tend to stay in the southwestern part of Iceland, but I always encourage my friends from abroad to visit the east coast."

If you find yourself in Iceland during the fall or winter, don't forget to look up. "Many households have hot tubs and we sit in the evening and watch the sky, the northern lights," Bogason said. "It's a spectacular show."

Northern lights over Eskifjordur, Iceland.

Gungör Tamzok

Plan accordingly: Upcoming events to add to your calendar

Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time to remember those who have passed on, honoring them with ofrendas (altars) adorned with their photos, favorite food and drinks, calaveras (sugar skulls), candles, and flowers. Primarily celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2, it has deep roots in Mexico, going back about 3,000 years. While that's where it is largely observed, celebrations of all sizes are also held in cities across the United States — Lonely Planet has a great guide to Día de Muertos events happening in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, Fort Lauderdale, San Antonio, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Austin, and New York City.

An ofrenda in Ocotepec, Mexico.

Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

A few times a year, National Park Services sites that typically charge an entrance fee will waive admission — yes, that means you can see the beauty of Bryce Canyon and the glory of Grand Teton at no charge. The next free day is Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

The sun sets on Bryce Canyon National Park.

George Rose/Getty Images

For more travel news and features, sign up for The Week U.K.'s Travel newsletter, delivered to your inbox every two weeks.


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