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Tips to avoid air travel hassles

19 September 2007

The year 2007 has been the worst year ever in the United States for flight delays and cancellations, with planes being full, making it difficult to find a
seat on another flight should your flight experience problems.

Airfarewatchdog.com has come out with a few tips to help air travelers avoid inconvenience when traveling.

Avoid connecting flights altogether; they are the flyer’s worst enemy. Airlines do often charge more for non-stops, but it is worth the extra money.

Build longer layovers. If there is no non-stop flight, then build extra time into your itinerary for the connection. Do not take the connecting flight that gives you just 45 minutes to change planes at a busy airport. Instead, ask for a 2-hour to 4-hour layover to make the connection. You may not be able to do this online; you’ll have to call a travel agent or the airline directly.

Shun chronically late flights. Every domestic US flight is assigned a number from 1 to 10, with 1 meaning that the flight is historically on time between 0% and 10% of the time, and 10 meaning it is on time between 90% and 100% of the time. You can get this data on some airline sites, or call the airline to find it. Some flights are indeed late 100% of the time. Try to book only 9s and 10s.

Call your airline, frequently. Make sure you reconfirm that your flight is operating on time – or operating at all. Do this several weeks, several days, and several hours before your flight. Give them your phone number, email address, and mobile phone number. Don’t bet your trip on the expectation that they’ll call you.

Book the first flight of the day: Just as your doctor or dentist will see you on time if you are the first appointment, first-of-the-day flights tend to be on time as well.

Scout alternative flights: Know beforehand what your alternatives are on other airlines if you miss your connection or your initial outbound flight is canceled or delayed. Some airlines will put you on a competitor’s next flight out if the ‘flight irregularity’ (as they are called in airline-speak) was within their control (a mechanical problem, for instance). Others won’t. If you fly frequently, you might want to carry a printed or PDA copy of the Official Airline Guide (at www.oag.com) so you can propose alternate flights on the spot.

Line up, but call too. If your flight is cancelled or delayed, get in line with the other unfortunate passengers, but while waiting, call the airline on your
mobile phone to make other arrangements. By the time you get to the front of the line at the check-in desk, all the alternative seats may be booked.

Prepare for the worst. If all else fails, make sure that you (and your kids, if any) have books, games, and other distractions in your carry-on luggage. Many airlines sell day passes to their club lounges, a more attractive option than sitting at the gate listening to those awful TV and PA broadcasts.

Know your rights. If you are heading out to a wedding or other scheduled event (meeting, funeral, whatever), and you are going to miss it entirely because your outbound flight is cancelled or delayed, the airline is required to refund you in full even if you have a non-refundable ticket. You do not have to pay for a now-futile trip.




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