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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

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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.

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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.

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–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.

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Holiday Air Travel: Let the Games Begin.

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline cartoon, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, flight attendant, flight crew with tags , , , , , on November 18, 2016 by Chris Manno

It’s that time of year again: let’s spend a gazillion bucks on air travel to spend an awkward holiday with people who make you crazy.

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That’s the American way, squandering the mileage awards one  might want to blow on an exotic vacation for tickets to share regret with others who’ve also abandoned fun stuff for family stuff. That’s what holiday travel is all about, and even though you won’t feel better about the commitment later (sorry), the voyage itself will be memorable if only for the diminished expectations and unexpected turmoil. Ready to fly yet?

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Granted, I’m just the guy in the cockpit. I don’t have to smile and make nice at your family gathering (trust me, I have my own challenge waiting) and once we land, I’m turning around and flying back home to my crew base. Meanwhile, for your sake, let me point out the obvious.

First, expect things at the airport to run slower than you planned. So, plan an extra 1.75 in your time factor for scheduling. Meaning, whatever time you allotted for say, security, multiply that by 1.75 and determine how much time you’ll really need. Allowing two hours for check-in and security? Allow three and a half. Worst case, you’re through early but even so, your blood pressure will be lower. Trust me, “those people” travel on the holidays, only on the holidays, and tend to slow the process down in ways you never dreamed.

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Second, know your shiitake (I don’t want to write “shit,” but you need to know your shit) to include flight number and date. Then, just Google your flight to find out the latest gate and time info. You won’t need to line up at a service desk or call a toll free number–just move quickly to your next gate or to the proper baggage claim at your destination. You’ll be way ahead of the crowd.

Third, take care of yourself. Cough up the cash once you’re on the secure side of the airport for calories and water. Yes, they have some of the former and much of the latter, but neither on your schedule. If there’s a delay or, in flight, turbulence (not uncommon), there will be no food for sale or water poured–because I’ll have my crew seated until when and if ever the turbulence allows them to be up and about the cabin safely. So buy some type of carry-aboard food and beverage and forget the sticker shock: as Dear Abby said, “There’s what you spend, then there’s what you spend when you travel.” Do it. Take care of yourself and those in your travel party.

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Finally, bring your patience and remember, this isn’t the dentist’s office–you’re not at the airport and flying here to there for a cocktail party horror story: you knew up front that the airports and airplanes would be crammed full, that winter weather would delay flights, and that flight crews are human and have limits, too.

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Hey, shut up.

Stay cool, be patient; know your shiitake and be calorized and hydrated. The rest is just a matter of time: you’ll get to that crazy family holiday deal and if you take my advice, the trip will be both tolerable and memorable–for the right reasons.

See you at the airport.

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