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Pack patience when traveling for the holidays

Air travel is challenging any time of the year. But holiday travel is especially stressful.

Financially troubled carriers have cut flights, and planes will be full.

“The system is constricted considerably over the last couple of years, and we just don’t have that many seats for people to buy anymore,” said Dean Headley, co-author of the annual Airline Quality Rating at Wichita State University.

The good news is that with fewer flights, the industry’s operating record is improving. But it’s bad news if the weather or other issues delay or cancel a flight, Headley said. You may have a tough time finding a seat on another flight.

“There just isn’t any slack in the system,” he said.

On-time performance of the airlines last year was worse in December than September, October and November, when it was around 80 to 85 percent. In December, that fell to 65 percent.

Headley expects the same thing to happen this year.