M.I.S.S. Jet Set: Little Things Can Trip You Up

Traveling should be an easy thing, right? You hop a jet from LA to New York and boom! A few hours later, you’re down in SoHo having a drink with your best friend from college.Everything’s good … until suddenly, everything isn’t.

To help keep your air travel surprises to a minimum, here are a few things you should know.

(1) There are rumors some airlines are thinking of adopting a “one carry-on bag only” policy, meaning just that: only one carry-on bag. This means that soon, that purse you’re carrying may be considered your carry-on bag, period. Before every air travel experience, go to your airline’s website and make sure you know how many bags you’re allowed. It may save you some surprises at the airport.

(2) You may not “willfully separate” from your checked luggage. If you DO check a bag and your flight is cancelled or rescheduled, you may NOT under federal law make your own arrangements, skip your rescheduled flight and pick up your luggage arbitrarily. Here’s an example: Say you’re flying X Airline and have a layover in Atlanta. You checked one piece of luggage at your point of origin. Your connecting flight leaving Atlanta is cancelled, and X Airline books you on their first flight out the next day. You can NOT book an earlier flight on Y Airline, and just claim your luggage later at your destination point. This would constitute a “willful separation” from your luggage, and is illegal. Yet another reason you should try to do the carry-on bag thing!

(3) If your flight is cancelled due to weather or other natural occurences and you cannot fly out until the next day, your airline is not obligated to pay for your overnight accommodations. Many travelers don’t know this, and pitch a real hissy at the counter people when it happens, threatening to take their business to another airline. Some airlines, though very few, will cover the cost of overnight accommodations for their preferred travelers. For the rest of us Coach Class lackies, though, most airlines will offer a discount slip with several names and numbers of hotels that can put you up for the night for an “under the counter” discounted rate. Just calm down, pick a hotel, call, get your confirmation number, and eat the room cost. Airlines can’t do anything about the weather, folks.

(4) It is usually quicker to get results by calling the airline directly to rearrange a flight than waiting in line at the airport for a ticket agent. This goes without saying, really, but every time I fly, I see people who are unprepared for delays and/or reschedules, and end up frustrated and angry waiting in line to talk to a “real person.” This could be eliminated entirely by simply programming in the toll-free number for your airline into your cell phone before you leave on a trip. Something happens to delay you or you need to rearrange flights, all you do is pick up your phone and call. There are a lot more “real people” available by phone than at your departure gate.

(5) If you DO have to work with a ticket agent one on one in the airport, courtesy can get you everywhere. Know your airline’s policies and regulations, and then be very very nice to the people who can help you. Who do you think gets better service, the person screaming at the ticket agent or the person politely and patiently speaking to the agent? Particularly in a hectic situation where an agent is rearranging dozens of flights, using the good manners your parents taught you can really help diffuse an already tense situation, and who knows? You might get a Business Class seat for your courtesy.

Happy travels, all!

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