|Publication: Travel Tips|
Getting There On Time
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COOL TRAVEL MAIL'S
Tips & Advice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike!
Feb. 19, 2008
You’ve got a job interview in another city at noon Friday,
but your kid's got a Little League game Thursday evening.
No problem. Just book yourself on an early morning flight
and, with a little rushing around, you should bet to the
appointment on time. You always have in the past.
Wait. Why are you laughing?
This week's edition includes:
* THE LAZY, HAZY DAYS OF FLIGHT DELAYS
* GETTING THERE ON TIME
* LEAVE EARLY, CHECK OFTEN
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SUNSHINE PROJECTION NIGHT LIGHT
THE LAZY, HAZY DAYS OF FLIGHT DELAYS
Welcome to the new normal.
With airlines stuffing more people into few seats on fewer
flights, with flight staffs and ground crews stretched thin
by layoffs and attrition, and with the world's weather
patterns growing more unpredictable, flight schedules have
become little more than optimistic guidelines.
During the first half of this year, the nation's airlines
experienced their worst delays in 13 years, and the number
of cancelled flights rose by a staggering 80 percent,
according to the federal Department of Transportation.
With a record 209 million passengers projected to pass
through the nation's airports this summer, airlines are
trying to keep airplanes as full as possible, giving them
little room to maneuver when things go wrong. That
increasingly leaves you, their customers, frantically
rescheduling appointments and meetings from the airport
So, as you prepare to face the rest of what's shaping up to
be the most frustrating summer for air travel in a decade,
here are some things to keep in mind:
* Airlines do not guarantee their schedules.
Read the fine print. They'll try very hard to adhere to
their published schedules because they are, after all, a
business, and don’t want to lose customers. And keeping a
schedule is a lot easier than rebooking dozens - if not
hundreds - of frustrated and angry passengers.
* The starting gate keeps moving.
If your flight is delayed, you will naturally ask how late
it will be so that you can evaluate your options. And
whichever airline employee you speak with will naturally
give you an answer.
keep in mind, however, that it is sometimes difficult for
airlines to estimate the total duration of a delay.
Especially during its early stages, and if it is caused by
something that happened a couple of connecting flights away
from the airport you're sitting in.
Weather that had been forecast to improve can instead
deteriorate, or a mechanical problem can turn out to be more
complex than initially expected.
That's when you get "creeping delays," projected takeoff
times that keep getting moved an hour or more into the
future just as you start to pull your carry-on stuff
together to board.
What can you do about it? Not much, except adjust your
expectations and take whatever the harried airline employee
tells you with a grain of salt.
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GETTING THERE ON TIME
* You're usually faster than the airline
If your flight is canceled, most airlines will rebook you on
their next flight to your destination on which space is
available, at no additional charge.
If this involves a significant delay, don't just sit there
and grumble. Find out if another carrier has seats and ask
the first airline to endorse your ticket to that carrier.
Finding extra seats may be difficult, especially over
holidays and other peak travel times, but it's worth a shot.
Chances are, whatever seat is open is going to go to someone
from your delayed flight You want it to be you; not whoever
the delayed airline deems should have it.
Make sure you do not have to pay a penalty or higher fare
for changing your reservations. If you manage to find a
flight on another airline, ask the first airline to endorse
your ticket to the new carrier. That could save you a fare
There is, however, no rule requiring an airline to do this.
If you are using an electronic ticket, you will probably
have to get paper documentation issued before it can be
endorsed to another carrier.
* Weather limits options
Keep in mind that, if the problem is with local weather or
air traffic control, all flights from your airport will
probably be late and there is not much you or the airline
can do to speed up your departure.
If the problem is a mechanical glitch with the plane for
your particular flight or if the crew is delayed on an
incoming flight, you're best bet is probably trying to
arrange another flight.
* You're on your own
Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for
delayed passengers waiting at the airport. There are no
federal requirements that they do anything at all, so stop
threatening to call the local D.A.
If you are delayed, ask the airline staff if they will pay
for meals or phone calls. Some do not provide any amenities
to stranded passengers. Others may not offer amenities if
bad weather or something else beyond the airline’s control
causes the delay.
Before you leave for the airport, check the web site of your
carrier for its voluntary customer service plan. That lists
the amenities that those airlines will provide to passengers
when things go wrong, and lets you know exactly what you are
* Don't bother calling your lawyer.
People will tell you differently, but airlines are not
required to compensate passengers for "damages" when flights
are delayed or canceled.
Compensation is required by law only when you are "bumped"
from a flight that is oversold. Airlines almost always
refuse to pay passengers for financial losses resulting from
a delayed flight.
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LEAVE EARLY, CHECK OFTEN
* Build in a buffer
Leave early. Schedule your flight for the day BEFORE you
need to be somewhere to close a big business deal, give a
speech or lecture, attend a family function, or get to any
It might cost you an extra night in a hotel, but it might be
worth it considering what you might lose if you don‘t get
there on time.
* Check your flight status
Never leave home for the airport before getting status
updates both on your flight, as well as checking for news of
any circumstances that might affect its departure or your
ability to get to the gate on time.
You can call your carrier, but that can often be a
frustrating experience. The automatic information is often
outdated and it's difficult to get a live person on the
You're better off on the Internet. Most airline Web sites
make it easy to check on estimated departure times. But
flight information can be limited. It's not up to the minute
and won't include warnings about weather and air traffic
conditions that may affect flight schedules at your
connecting or destination airports.
Another option is checking with Flightstats.com
( http://www.flightstats.com ) Its computers automatically
assemble, assimilate and analyze real time data from
airlines, airports, weather services and the FAA to produce
a more predictive collection of factors could affect your
* Think about insurance
I generally think it's not worth the extra money, even in
our new, delay-prone world. But if you have invested a lot
of money in deposits for your travel arrangements, it might
be worthwhile to call a trip insurance agent and at least
hear what they can offer you.
Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and
questions coming in.
You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce
Until next week, thanks for reading.
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