Archive for the travel tips Category

Air Travel Gotchas

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline cartoon, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot blog, airport, passenger bill of rights, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , on August 22, 2017 by Chris Manno

IMG_6734

There are “gotchas” in air travel you might not know about–but should. Many are of the “some restrictions apply” and “read the fine print” type; some are matters of inconvenience, some are very expensive. Here’s my “gotcha” list:

— “Volunteering” to be bumped for oversales. That’s fine, if you are assured of positive space on another flight. Sometimes (and some airlines) will give you the promised compensation (typically a travel voucher), but not positive space–you’re standby, and you may be stuck for a long time. Be sure to specify positive space before you accept the voucher and relinquish your seat. I’m just enough of a pain in the ass to ask for boarding passes just to be sure.

IMG_6192

Know your passenger rights.

–Misconnects. Know your rights, but as importantly, know the gotchas: if you used certain air travel broker sites (Travelocity, etc), your misconnect may not be covered for further travel by the airline. I’ve seen frantic passengers rush up to a gate where the flight had departed, asking to be put on the next flight. Problem is, the “CheapFlight.com” that sold you your ticket is not part of the airline and you may not be entitled to the next flight–or any flight other than the one that departed. Know this ahead of time or you may find yourself shipwrecked.

–Misconnects Part Two: compensation (hotel room, meals) will not be offered by or required of an airline for events beyond their control, like weather delays, diversions and cancellations. So, if your flight was the last of the day and you missed the flight due to circumstances like weather, plan to sleep in the terminal or spring for a hotel room yourself. which brings me to …

–Travel insurance. Buy this from a reputable travel agent or AAA. Policies can pay for that unexpected hotel room for a short overnight (tip: Minute Suites in many major airports have hourly rooms and they’re inside security, saving the screening time as well as the van ride to and from) and other incidentals and losses, like the vacation condo you’ve already paid for.

As importantly, a decent travel insurance policy can cover unforeseen costs like a rebooking fee if you become ill or some other exigence requires a change in your plans. Along those lines, you should be certain that your medical insurance will cover treatment in non-US locations and travel insurance can help cover the cost gaps.

Seems like few people consider travel insurance but with your vacation time being scarce and costs high, travel insurance makes sense.

IMG_6451

–Aircraft Power Ports. Many flight attendants don’t even know this: there’s a maximum amperage draw allowed for the entire cabin. Aircraft manufacturers design the system with an average amp load, but a full flight, depending on what passenger items are drawing power, the demand often exceeds the design limit. When that happens, no power for you, at least until someone else unplugs. Moral to the story: if you have a device that needs charging–plug it in as soon as permissable in flight.

–Aircraft WIFI. See above: the WIFI bandwidth is limited. If you have something important to up- or download, do it as soon as possible or you may find the internet crawling so slowly that your data will not be accessible or transmittable.

So there you have it. Some of these issues are nuisance items, other are major league expensive travel disasters. The moral to the story is to be prepared, consider the possible problems and decide how you’re going to handle them BEFORE you leave port.

gilligans island

 

Advertisements

Air Travel Delays: My Top 3 Cause Factors

Posted in air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, passenger, passenger bill of rights, pilot, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , on July 3, 2017 by Chris Manno

Look, I get it: I sit in both ends of the jet for some very long delays. My last two turnarounds were planned for 7 hours but turned into 8.5 and 9.1 respectively. That made my pilot duty day, with preflight and ground turnaround time, over 12 hours.

IMG_7123

Me deadheading in the very last row of coach, carefully not man-spreading and conceding the armrest to the middle seat passenger (basic air travel etiquette, BTW)

We waited over an hour for takeoff, then had additional holding in the air before landing at Philadelphia International Airport.

I’d deadheaded up to Philly to fly the jet back to DFW Airport but the result of the Air Traffic Control delays getting the jet off the ground in DFW and enroute to Philadelphia made our Philly-DFW flight well over an hour late into DFW.

That caused many passenger misconnects once we arrived at DFW after yet another round of airborne holding for nearly an hour. My flight plan from Philadelphia to DFW called for a flight time of 3:27 but with holding, the actual flight time became 4:30.

IMG_7122

That’s due to storms moving through the north Texas area faster and more southerly than predicted, constricting air traffic routes into DFW. So, we were delayed by ATC for an hour holding over a fix southeast of the airport after an enroute course refile to avoid weather.

I ain’t complaining, but I got home at 2am instead of 11pm. That’s my job and I did it correctly and safely for all 167 folks on board.

But that’s not the big picture. What’s driving ever-increasing air travel delays? Here’s my Top 3 Factors.

  1. Increased traffic volume. According to the DOT Bureau of Aircraft Statistics, airline departures have increased 5-7% annually since 2010. That means more aircraft crammed into exactly the same airspace, which means traffic flow abatement is ever-more necessary and unfortunately, more present: ground stops abound; inflight holding is often unavoidable even after enduring a ground stop.
  2. Weather predictive delays: the National Weather Service provides more and better predictive weather products that the FAA Air Traffic Control Center (ARTC) attempts to integrate into their traffic management constraints. In theory, this is a good thing but in practice, I question the effectiveness: air traffic is often preemptively ground-stopped or re-routed based on weather predictions, which aren’t always accurate (see above), meanwhile, air traffic then must be re-routed from the ARTC re-routes.
WSI 1

The storms often do not conform to the FAA predicted movement, causing yet another layer of reroutes and delays.

3. Airline “banking” (the grouping of inbound-outbound flight exchanges at hub airports) cannot handle the disruption of hours-long delays: when one complex or “bank” of flights is delayed outbound, there’s nowhere to park and deplane the next complex. This leads to individual airline-imposed ground stops: your flight will not be pushed off from your origin airport gate until there’s a reasonable expectation of gate availability at your arrival hub. This is to avoid the old “sitting on a tarmac with toilets overflowing waiting for a gate” urban legends that engendered the Passenger Bill of Rights.

IMG_7124

Given the ubiquitous eye of cellphone video and social media, passengers can count on more origin airport outbound delays: major carriers will always defer to the Passenger Bill of Rights, allowing you to deplane at will at the departure station rather than sit on board at your destination, trapped for hours waiting for a gate at a weather-affected hub while ranting on social media.

There are other factors creating and lengthening delays, like an industry-wide shortage of qualified airline pilots and airline planners who over-optimistically schedule aircraft, crews and connections.

But from a pilot viewpoint, the big three above seem to be what I most frequently encounter. So, in addition to packing your own food and water in your carry-ons, be sure to arrive at your departure airport with a plentiful supply of patience. This summer, you’ll need it it more than ever.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

IMG_7125

Get the entire insider airline cartoon collection

from Amazon Books for $7.99.

It’ll make your delay more enjoyable. Just click here.

 

The Big 3 Air Travel Hacks

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline cartoon, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2016 by Chris Manno

image

The airport today looks like a refugee crisis, with roiling crowds, congested waiting areas, interminable lines and rampant discontent. Regardless, here 3 vital but very simple air travel hacks that can ease your airport experience and set yourself far ahead of the madding crowd.

First, know your flight number(s). Simple enough: write them down, flight number and date.

image

Now, any time you need flight information, type your flight number into Google:

image

No more searching for a monitor or a customer service rep, and the information Google provides is even more current than the list any agent printed earlier in their shift. Things change — and Google grabs the latest, instantaneous info when you ask: gates, time.

image

It’s always a good idea to install the smart phone app for the airline you’re flying, because all of them will push notifications to your phone with any changes to gates and times, and some will even help you rebook in case of delays or cancellation.

But when all else fails, just Google your flight any time on departure day for the most current info — if you know your flight number.

1a591-14-nepiv-kwlnlszwsyti0a

Next, put all of your valuables in a locked, hand-carried bag before security screening. This includes your wallet, watch, and any jewelry. I cannot understand why anyone leaves such valuables in an open container that may be out of sight as you go through security. The free-for-all after screening as passengers frantically gather their belongings is the perfect set up for someone to grab yours — unless they’re in a locked bag.

There are disclaimers at the security checkpoint stating that screeners are not responsible for your personal belongings, even though they may pull you aside for further screening out of sight of your watch, wallet and other valuables laying un-monitored in an open bin.

c0bc6-1o9wijb18wrpqt1pj8irapw

If the security people need to inspect the contents of the bag, fine: after you unlock it, and watch any inspection. The TSA has fired a multitude of their own screeners for stealing from passenger bags — that won’t happen if you’re present when they inspect your valuables.

Finally, do not put anything you own into the seat back pocket in front of you in flight. I’ll never understand why we find wallets, passports, personal electronics and more in seat back pockets, typically well down-line and several flights after a passenger has stowed these items there.

image

In fact, we were preparing for landing at DFW after leaving Mexico City once when a flight attendant called to say a passenger had found a passport in the seat back pocket. Can you imagine the “oh shiitake” moment someone must be having in Mexican Customs, never mind returning through US Customs? Ditto your credit cards and identification. Can you do without any of these items at your destination?

If you take anything out of your hand carried bag — put it back in when you’re finished with it. This goes for personal electronic devices too: a notebook on the floor under the seat in front of you will slide three or more rows forward on descent and even further on landing with heavy reverse thrust. The “finder” in the forward cabin may or may not return your property. So, if you’re not using an item, keep it stowed in your hand-carried bag, not in the seat back pocket or on the floor.

That’s the big three: know your flight number, use Google or your airline app for current info, and keep your personal belongings stowed and secure through screening and in flight.

Really, that’s just common sense, which seems to be in short supply in all airports and aboard most airliners. Now that you know the big three, pass this along to friends who may not — they, and we all, will have a better trip if you do.

image

Summer Weather, Flight Delays and YOU.

Posted in air travel, airline, airline delays, airline pilot blog, airport, fear of flying, flight crew, flight delays, passenger, travel, travel tips, weather with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2013 by Chris Manno

fll sunsetYou can see the weather plain as day. But it’s miles away, right? How could that cause flight delays? Or worse, on a day that’s clear at the airport–yet your flight shows a one hour or longer departure day. Why?

Think big–or at least think far: miles translate into minutes in the air, and unlike your car on the freeway, we’re not creeping along under the storm–we have to get through it. At altitude, sure, we can go around weather or sometimes, even over a storm. But there’s the problem on take-off and landing: we are too low to do either.

First, let’s look at departure:

wx radar departure

Sure, the weather is nearly twenty miles away. But in flight time, we’re talking about maybe three minutes. Then what?

Normally, there are at least six eastbound routes available, but as you can see, due to the weather that extends from the north to the south, even twenty miles away, there are only two routes available to go east: straight north, or straight south. And guess what? They’re the same ones that will have to be used for the inbound aircraft–and they’re already in the air, many for over three hours inbound from the east coast, or up to nine hours from Europe. Guess who rightfully has priority on the clear routes?

Here’s more bad news for your outbound schedule:

lowgn4All of the departures–like the one pictured in above, and depicted on the navigation display with the radar image above–have very specific instructions for headings, altitudes and even speeds. But with the weather blanketing the area, no jet can comply with these very orderly instructions, so instead, air traffic controllers have to issue all headings and altitudes individually to each aircraft, checking to be sure that weather doesn’t interfere.

So the Air Traffic Control system must space jets by ten, sometimes ever twenty miles in trail to allow for the individual handling required, which means that instead of the usual interval of thirty seconds to a minute between launches, now takeoff will have to be 2-3 minutes in between.  You’re number ten for take-off? Count on at least 30 minutes, maybe more–especially if the weather arrives over the field while you wait.

flick

So, rather than have a traffic jam at the end of the runway waiting to take off, ATC issues all aircraft an “EDCT” (Expect Departure Clearance Time), or “edict,” as the acronym is typically mangled by crews, or even “wheels up time” in more common usage. This can usually mean an Air Traffic Control imposed delay on your pushback from the gate of forty-five minutes to an hour or more.

That presents another problem: while a delayed flight is held on the gate, the next aircraft scheduled for that gate will be delayed as well, either in the deplaning of passengers or the boarding of its next segment. At a major hub for any airline, there aren’t enough extra gates to make up for flights that must be held on their departure gates. If you arrive at the terminal and notice about double the normal amount of passengers milling about–that’s why: their outbound jet is waiting while a delayed flight sits on the gate, waiting for its EDCT time to roll around.

That’s what happens on the ground–here’s what happens in flight–which actually contributes to the confusion and delays on the ground.

wx radar arrivalSee the racetrack pattern near “CAPTI?” That’s where we’re going to be holding, hoping the weather clears within our allotted holding fuel, which is about 45 minutes. The airport is under the blob of storms at the convergence of all the lines.

The jet we’re flying is being ardently awaited at DFW by 160 passengers who plan to fly on it to LAX after we deplane our Dulles passengers at DFW. But, we’re now on our way–diverting–to New Orleans because DFW is still closed and won’t open for at least an hour.

Add to that the fact that my copilot and I started our flight day at 12:35pm. We leave New Orleans at 11pm, but have to fly all the way to Abilene before we can turn back to the east around the scythe of thunderstorms bisecting Texas. What’s normally a one hour and ten minute flight turns into two and a half hours, pushing my first officer to a 14 hour flight duty day, landing at 2:15am.

Not sure what happened to all the LAX-bound folks, whether they got a crew to fly the leg or not, or what happened to the connecting passengers on our flight arriving after 2am.

All I know is that this promises to once again be another season of crowded skies, summer storms, bone-achingly long flight days and above all, a challenge to everyone’s fortitude and patience. Now that you know the “what and why” of the weather story–maybe you could explain it to the guy seated next to you, wondering why everything is so messed up because of a little old storm?

ramp DFW

“Jetiquette:” Manners for the Refined Flyer.

Posted in air travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , on November 26, 2011 by Chris Manno

A few years back, I was flying a charter from Acapulco to DFW. On board were 130-some passengers who had just disembarked from a cruise ship there in the Acapulco harbor. On climb out, I had the passenger address system audio feed in my headset mix just low enough to hear it, but high enough to understand what was going on in back. And I was so shocked I had to take a look for myself.

“I want all of the hitting, pushing and name calling stopped right now,” a flight attendant said firmly, as if talking to a kindergarten class on a field trip. But I saw it with my own eyes: 130 senior citizens, cranky and bickering about god-knows-what. Which proves my main point.

That is, the main hassle for air travelers is other air travelers. Seriously.

And the most important thing for you to remember about your own air travel is that for other air travelers–you are the other air traveler.

Still with me? That was a roundabout way to say that if everyone on board worried about their own behavior, everyone on board would have a better travel experience.  What I’m talking about is “Jetiquette,” or proper manners on a jet. This it would seem is a lost art, but we can resurrect the basics and thereby rescue air travel from the cattle car experience it has devolved into.

Let’s start simple. Here is your on-board world.

Now looking at the spatial dimensions of this area designed for three butts, if you have one of these

don’t even ask, “Do you mind if I put the armrest up?” The answer is “Yes, I mind–I do not want your buttocks flowing over me like hail-damaged Naugahyde for the entire flight.”

Now, continuing with basic Jetiquette, how do you politely get out of your seat? Please tell me you use one or both of those armrests you see there. Because if you’re using the seatback in front of you to hoist your carcass out of your seat, you’re that rude guy on the plane.

The seat in front of you is not your handhold–somebody’s sitting in it and you disturb them rudely if you mess with their seat. Get it? Push yourself up using any part of your seat, don’t pull yourself up using someone else’s. It’s really not that hard–you just have to think about someone else for a change.

Seriously?

Face it, there isn’t much space but what little there is doesn’t all belong to you. So here’s a thought that seemingly doesn’t occur to many folks on-board the jet:

YOU’RE NOT AT HOME.

So basically, keep all of your clothing on–including your shoes. Nothing gets the galley mafia pissed off faster than seeing some slob with his or her feet up against the bulkhead. You will be “that guy,” the one they view with silent but distinct disgust, the one who will only get attention as a revolting example of poor public manners. And while we’re on the subject of bare or stocking feet:

Why do you suppose this guy is wearing layers of protective clothing? It’s because he’s servicing the lavatory where for some unknown reason, supposedly rational people are walking around without shoes. Now, we don’t mind you mopping up the lav floor for us, but it gags everyone on the crew to know you’re doing it.

Would you walk around barefoot here?

That’s pretty much what you’re doing in an airline lav in flight. So don’t.

Finally, let’s talk about personal space. Well, there isn’t any in coach. So Jetiquette demands that you at least keep your bodily smells–especially your breath–either inside at all times, or at least wash before you board and not incidentally, brush your teeth. Those seated next to you will appreciate your basic hygiene–or especially, the lack thereof.

Okay, that’s the basics of Jetiquette and if you’re planning to be aboard for any flight, you need to consider at least this much of the fundamentals.  If we all remember our manners, we can bring back the good old days of air travel that never really were–but the fable gives us all something to gripe about now.

And when all else fails:

Summer air travelers, beware: he’s out there!

Posted in air travel, airline delays, airliner, airlines, airport, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays, jet, jet flight, passenger, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2011 by Chris Manno

Summer air travelers, beware: he’s out there.

I mean that guy. The one who will make your travel a little less pleasant, probably unknowingly, but still.

For example, cruising at 40,000 feet northwest bound, the cabin interphone chimes. The First Officer and I exchange glances that ask hot, cold, or stupid? It’s too soon for crew meals—that’s where we’re stupid for eating them, but it’s something to do—and only minutes ago someone called to say it’s too hot in back.

Traditionally, within minutes, one of the other four Flight Attendants who don’t seem to be able to talk to each other will call and say it’s too cold.

But I answer the phone and this time, it’s stupid: “We just found a passport in seatback 30-A.” No, it’s not the flight attendant that’s stupid—it’s the passenger who on some previous flight for some odd reason decided to stash his passport in the seatback pocket.

Before our flight, the jet had come in from JFK. Maybe an international arrival, and now someone is enroute somewhere without a passport.

That’s where you come in: you’re in line at Mexican Customs in Los Cabos, and you’re sweating like a fat lady in a vinyl chair, waiting, waiting, waiting—because the guy ahead of you in line talking to the taciturn Customs agent is suddenly aware that he doesn’t have a passport. Your vacation is on hold just a little longer because like me in the super market, you got in the wrong line (“Price check on lane seven!”) while passengers to your right and left are breezing through and claiming their luggage (and maybe yours), heading for the beach.

Sure, it’s going to be worse for him—without a passport he’s not getting back into the United States without a major hassle and, you hope as payback for your delay, a strip search. But the lingering question is, why would anyone put anything of value in a seatback pocket on a plane?

But you’d be amazed at what you’d find back there after a flight. Well, what someone else would find back there: I’d sooner stick my hands into a trash can in a crack den than risk the snot rags and barf bags or kids’ diapers or half eaten ham sandwich that will be stuffed in there.

 

Still, people for some odd reason nonetheless sit down, empty their pockets, stash wallet, iPod, keys, camera, travel documents, passport—you name it, into the seatback pocket as if it were their glove compartment on their family car (okay, there may be a ham sandwich in mine, I admit).

Never mind the hassles going forward to recover a lost item, a headache made all the more difficult because the jet will crisscross several thousand of miles before the discovery of a missing item is made (call the lost and found in Seattle, Chicago and New York). The important thing is that the Stupid One is delaying your vacation.

And unbeknownst to you—he may already have delayed you. Remember sitting at the gate well past departure time? I can’t tell you how many times five or ten minutes from pushback to a resort destination in Mexico or the Caribbean when the agent steps into the cockpit and says “we have a problem.”

Let me guess: someone confirmed on the flight is in a bar somewhere starting on the umbrella drinks and about to miss their flight to the actual resort. Why? Because they can’t read a ticket? Don’t know their own itinerary? Can’t do the math on a time zone change? Are intellectually low functioning and were finished off by the TGI Friday’s Bloody Marys in the airport bar?

Doesn’t really matter. The point is, if they’re not on board we get to sit at the gate while the ground crew sorts through the cargo compartments crammed with the luggage of 160 passengers to pull their bags off. That takes a while. You get to wait, I get to wait, both of our days becomes a little longer.

Yes, it’s the lowest common denominator that dictates when we leave and when you arrive in paradise.

But there is justice in the situation, as I witnessed once at a departure gate as I waited for my inbound jet. Airport police officers had pulled a couple off to the side as passengers boarded a jet for Cancun.

Apparently the man and woman had been to the airport bar, and the man had clearly had a few too many. Federal law prohibits the boarding of any passenger who even appears to be intoxicated, and the airline agents had done the right thing: when in doubt, call law enforcement to sort out the situation in accordance with the law.

Sorry ma’am,” I heard an officer say as the man was being detained, “he’s going to be placed under arrest for public intoxication.”

I couldn’t hear the exact back and forth between the steamed woman and the officers, but in the end, it seemed the officers weren’t the cause of her anger: she grabbed her boarding pass, shot a pointed glance back at her handcuffed partner—then boarded the flight.

Just as well: he’d probably realize in the Customs line in Mexico that his passport was missing anyway.

Summer Air Travel: 3 Things You Need To Know.

Posted in air travel, airline delays, airliner, airlines, flight delays, jet, jet flight, passenger, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2011 by Chris Manno

You’re traveling by air this summer? Good. But there are a few things you should know and be sure of BEFORE you get to the airport. And, of course, some shortcuts and time-savers and more things you should be aware of once you get to the airport to avoid an ugly surprise on check-in.

Because it’s not enough to just show up on time any more. In fact, without attending to the things I list below, you’re really gambling with your trip and whatever you’d planned at your destination. Airlines typically have higher load factors in the summer, which means fewer seats available on every jet, and this summer has started with record-breaking crowds vying for seats.

Combine that with tight customer service staffing and you have the makings of a travel headache–which is preventable. Read on.

1. Get your seat. Yes, I know: you booked your flight. That’s not the same thing as having a seat. Made your reservation on-line? Be sure there is a specific seat listed–and check again 48 hours prior to departure. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the gate, trying to look inconspicuous, as an agent tries to explain to a passenger that no, they don’t have a seat assignment–and the flight is overbooked. Often, when reservations are made way in advance, there’s isn’t a specific seat listed–or between “way in advance” and the day of travel, the seat assignment disappears. To prevent that: print your boarding pass at home with the seat assignment–don’t wait until airport check-in. If you don’t see a seat assignment on your on-line boarding pass–get on-line and reserve a seat, even if you have to call the airline’s toll free number to do so.

2. Know your status. That is, are you protected from cancellations or delays? If you have a deadline at your destination–say, a time sensitive event (wedding, graduation, business meeting, etc) or follow-on reservations (a resort or cruise booking, or flight on another carrier), what  protection do you have in the event of a delay or cancellation?

Be aware that most airlines offer compensation or modified travel in the event of situations within their control (say, flight cancellations or mechanical delays), but most people don’t seem to know that airlines and federal regulations do not stipulate any accommodation for weather-related delays or cancellations. Thunderstorms at a major hub, in summer–what are the chances? Pretty darn good, unfortunately. And along with rain, hail, and damaging winds, storms usually bring delays, cancellations and misconnects.

Are you prepared to sleep on the floor of the terminal if weather delays you inbound and the last flight of the day to your destination has already departed? Don’t plan tight connections–or in my opinion, any connections to the last flight of the day, for exactly that reason. But if you must, be prepared to find an airport hotel on your own or, sleep in the terminal. Ugh.

One further note about “knowing your status,” and this is important: did you buy your ticket from an online source other than the airline itself? If so, read the “conditions of carriage” before you agree to the purchase of a ticket: many of the larger online travel sites sell bargain basement seats–but they are for a specific flight, with no recourse if you miss the flight. In other words, the deeply discounted seat does not come with any airline follow-on obligation–that’s how the online site got the cheap pricetag they sold you on. But again, if you misconnect for any reason, your travel is over.

No “stand-by” on the next flight or travel at another time or date. You agreed to buy a particular seat on a particular day and if you’re not in that seat when the plane departs, you have no further recourse with the airline–and good luck with the online agency you booked your travel through.

In both of these cases: trip insurance. It’s not that expensive and may be your only way to protect yourself from large out-of-pocket expenses due to missed bookings and events at your destination, or overnight delays enroute.

3. Damage control: when things start to go haywire due to delays, weather, cancellations or diversions, you need to act immediately. Before you leave home, do two simple things to ensure that you’re first in line when it comes to salvaging your travel plans.

First, sign up for whatever notification app your airline offers. Not only will this automatic function give you an immediate heads-up on your assigned gate and departure time via text message or email, many major airlines will also notify you of a cancellation or significant departure or arrival delay long before the delay appears on monitors in the terminal.

Why is that important? The advanced notice will allow you to find the next available flight to your destination and then pursue a confirmed seat before your fellow passengers even know there’s a reason to change. First come, first served when it comes to accommodating passengers from a cancelled flight.

Which brings us to the second must-do: pre-program the airline’s re-booking number into your phone for quick access. The re-booking number is NOT the same as the reservations or flight information phone numbers. Find it on your airline’s website or call their toll-free number and ask for it, then keep it handy on your trip. The alternative to calling the re-booking number is to stand in a long line of irritated passengers waiting for a few agents to fix things one at a time. Skip that–get on the re-booking line at the first sign of trouble.

Want to play Superman? Turn your cell phone on as soon as allowed after landing. You’ll be notified by text or email of any cancellation on your itinerary–then you can call the re-booking number on taxi-in and start damage control to save your trip. Same goes for the hours before your origination–keep listening for the text alert regarding your flight. Even if things go well, you’ll want to know what gate you’re scheduled to depart from. In all cases, have your reservation info handy for re-booking–an agent on the phone or face-to-face can access your itinerary instantly if you can provide the record identifier (usually a series of letters and/or numbers) on first contact.

It’s going to be a busy summer for air travel this year, with record crowds and limited customer service options in the case of weather-related delays. But these three simple steps will put you well ahead of the crowd all rushing to rebook flights or deal with a delay. Secure your seat, know your options, stay informed and be ready to rebook.

Number one above–seat assignment–is even more crucial if you’re traveling with others and want or need to sit together. Number two, know your passenger status and your options. And finally, line up your damage control options and beat the rush to re-book or make changes as the situation develops.

Once you’re on board and we’re off the gate, your work is done and I’ll take care of the rest of the flight. And as I say after every welcoming P.A., “Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.”

%d bloggers like this: