Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fly like a pro part 3

Finally, the big day is here. All your bags are packed, you're ready to go, I'm standing here outside your door . . . wait a sec, I just went completely John Denver today. Sorry, it shall not happen again. You've still got a few hours to go before you head to the airport. What to do in those last few moments before braving the ticket counter and security lines? Never fear, I've got a few suggestions. As always, contact your air carrier for specific information regarding their services.

Before going to the airport
*Call the airline within 24 hours of departure to confirm your reservations. Also call to confirm your flight's status before leaving to go to the airport if there are any weather issues that may affect your flight. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and you may be able to save yourself a headache.
* Check in online. If you're only taking carry on bags and have an Eticket, there is no reason to not do this. You can save yourself time by not having to go through the ticket counter line. And if you do have luggage, double check with the airline whether they have curbside service or a central baggage collection area outside of the ticket line.
* Check in at the kiosk. Don't have access to a computer and the ticket counter line is three miles long? Again, our good friend the Eticket comes to the rescue. Most major airlines now have kiosks near checkin and security areas which allow you to check yourself in at the airport. It will print your boarding passes for you and your can proceed to security, all without waiting for an airport employee assistance.
* Early check in does not supercede the security line. Plan to give yourself enough time to get through security. Most flights begin boarding a half hour prior to departure and close the door 10 minutes later. If you have not given yourself enough time to get through security, you may be denied boarding.
* Pack any essential items in your carry on luggage, such as medicine, money, cameras, and even a change of clothes if you can fit them. This is just in case your luggage does not make it to your destination with you.
* Weather and Holidays can and will affect checkin times and lines. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport. If you're leaving a car at the airport, be sure to call ahead and make sure the airport has parking available, or try off site airport parking (check your local yellow pages).
*Have your ID ready. All commercial flights in the United States require that all adults show positive picture identification. For domestic travel, a driver's license is sufficient. If there's been a name change due to a recent marriage or divorce, bring the apporpriate legal document verifying the name change. For international travel, contact the airline for customs and visa information specific to the country you are going to visit, as well as for re-entry back into your own country. You will be required to show it at the ticket counter and security, and many airports require positive ID at the gate prior to boarding. If you have an infant who will be travelling as a lap child, bring a copy of the birth certificate to verify the child's age. Children deemed to be two years or older at time of travel are required to have a purchased seat, and airport agents may require the unprepared parent to purchase a full priced seat (at last minute rates) for a child they do not believe is under the age of two. Keep all ID in an area where it can be easily accessible for you, as you may need to access it several times at the airport, but be aware of your surroundings and always know where it is at to avoid identity theives.
* Visit the TSA's website for the most up to date list of items that are not allowed onboard the aircraft. You may be surprised by both what is on and not on the list. It is also a great resource on current policy regarding all transportation systems, including airline, bus, and rail, as well as travel tips to help avoid any problems with security.

That's it for part 3. Next, we'll discuss what to do once your at the airport. Again, policies may be different betwen airlines. Always contact your carrier for any questions specific to your flight plans. These posts are developed after years of assisting passengers with questions and are not intended to supercede or affect any airlines policies, nor do they reflect any one airline's policies.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Flying like a pro part 2


To preface today's notes, think of a ticket as a contract. Passenger X agrees to pay for a ticket to travel from point A to point B on a certain date. Airline Z agrees to provide service on flt 123 from point A to point B on that date. Between the time the ticket is purchased until the flight leaves, a myriad of things may happen that may keep either party from keeping their end of the contract. Passenger X may have to work on the day he planned on travelling. Airline Z may have to cancel the flight. Both parties have obligations based on the terms set up when the ticket was purchased (remember, read everything before buying). Whether you read over the terms or not, once the ticket is purchased you and the airline agree to the airline's contract of carriage (most airlines provide this contract through their websites), as well as all rules for reaccomodation. As always, policies may be different between airlines.

If you make the change
* Confirm the change policy of the airline. Most tickets are non-refundable. A reissue fee on such tickets may carry a penalty of around $100 per passenger. You may also have to pay the difference between the value of your current ticket and the price of the new itinerary. The airline will price the new itinerary at today's price, not the price it may have been back when you originally purchased your ticket. If you know that you need to make a change, the sooner it can be made, the better it may be price wise. Keep in mind however, if you need to change the ticket a second time, you may be charged a second reissue fee. Check with your airline.

If the airline makes the change
* The airline wants your business. Flight changes are not personal and the airline does not take pleasure in making several thousands of passengers upset that their plans have been changed. Airlines adjust their flights several times througout the year, based on how full the flights may be. A flight which is full every day stands little chance of changing the time, in fact the airline may switch the aircraft for a larger sized plane to increase their revenue. However, a flight which goes out half full five days out of the week is not profitable, and in todays economy, airlines cannot afford to even fly the planes with so few passngers aboard.
* Airlines will look at all options - conditionally. Though your flight may be cancelled several weeks in advance, the airline can offer alternate itineraries. They may not (and probably will not) look at accomdations on other airlines for a schedule change made several weeks before the flight is scheduled to leave.
*Day of departure. Any number of things can affect a flight on the day of departure. There may be a mechanical problem requiring serious attention. Weather can stop all traffic into a city faster than you may realize. Air traffic control is God when it comes to any operation. Crews, which may have had a later flight, are required to wait for a specific amount of time before they can work again.
*If your flight is cancelled or a delay will affect another flight - speak with a gate agent. Unless the agents tell you to call the airline's reservation system, only airport agents are allowed to make changes to a passengers itinerary once the passenger is checked in. Lines will be long and tempers will be hot. Please keep in mind that the ultimate reason the flight has been cancelled is that it has been determined that it is unsafe for passengers to travel on that particular flight, and the airline or air traffic control is protecting every passenger on that flight.
*Reacommodation to another airline is not always an option. For example, if Airline Z cannot fly to Duluth because of a snowstorm, neither can Airline Y. Most reaccomdation policies are determined at the time the cancellation occurs.
*Have some way to contact someone outside the airport. Take a cell phone, use the pay phones, please have some way to contact a family member or friend.

Again, policies may be different betwen airlines. Always contact your carrier for any questions specific to your flight plans. These posts are developed after years of assisting passengers with questions and are not intended to supercede or affect any airlines policies, nor do they reflect any one airline's policies.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Flying like a pro part 1

Working inside the airline industry has really opened my eyes to the other side of the coin. Just watching an episode of Airline can really give you a good idea of what airline employees face every day. As my little contribution, I'm beginning a multi part listing to give you an idea of how to make the most of your flight. Policies may vary between airlines, so always verify and double check with your carrier if you have any questions.

Before Buying
* Be flexible. Many travel websites can offer multiple fares if you travel one day earlier or later. Some will show the rate even before looking at itineraries. Also, fares can differ on different flights.
* When pricing flights, be sure to specify the number of seats that you are looking for. You may find a great rate, but it may only be for one person, and not available for your party of six.
* Consider insurance. Flight insurance may be an option that can save you money if your flight needs to be changed. Most insurance policies will not cover changes that are not related to illness or emergency.
* Read Everything. Your ticket may have fees for itinerary changes.
* Double check. Be sure that you are purchasing the flight that you want to take. Any change could be costly.

After Purchasing
* Double check again. - even if you have not received an email, verify your flights with the airline before midnight just in case you find out your flying to Minneapolis instead of New Orleans.

Tomorrow: Changes

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Leavin' on a jet plane . . .

One of the best benefits of working for an airline is called "Non Revving." Employees and family members are able to travel anywhere on their airline, somethime for free, sometimes for a small fee. Most of the trips my family has taken has been to visit extended family, but we've also tried to make the most of this opportunity. In 2004, we purchased annual passes for Disneyland. We were able to fly out and visit several times that year. We've also spent time in San Diego just wandering around and finding something new everytime. We plan on visiting Pennsylvania, Oregon, Florida, and Washington DC.
The downside of this benefit is that we must rely on open space. Even with tickets as expensive as they have been recently, we can only fly if there's an empty seat. Sometimes it makes for long waits at the airport. One time we even flew through two different airports just to get back home. The most important thing I've learned is that it's good to be flexible and have at least 3 back up plans for your back up plan (yeah, you read that right).

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

One Month Later . . .

I'm...uh...taking a cue from DC comics and writing as if it's one month later, yeah, that's it, that's the ticket.

Over the past couple of weeks, DC's Infinite Crisis has led up to an interesting turn of events. Without going into too much detail, the multiverse of Earths has returned, Superman is the source of it all, and the DC Universe has jumped ahead one year in continuity. I've only read one of the "One Year Later" books, Detective Comics, which has Batman returning to Gotham for the first time in a year. Gordon is again the commissioner. I'm not sure how to describe it other than it was a great read. The Batman/Gordon interaction has been missing for about five years now. The issue was set almost entirely on the roof of Gotham's police department. A few hints are dropped about the past year (which will be fully revealed in DC's upcoming 52* maxiseries), and events are dated as "last year" and "nine months ago." Noticeably absent was Detective Rene Montoya. She is to be one of the main characters of 52*, and left the Gotham Police Force after her partner was killed by a rogue CSI agent (nope, it wasn't Gil Grissom). That partner, whose name escapes me at the moment, has become the new Spectre. Also, the issue did not show any aspect of stately Wayne Manor or the Batcave. No idea if Alfred survives the Crisis. And I've heard rumors that the Elseworlds tale Son of the Bat may have become continuity. Talia Head, the daughter of Ras Al Ghul, and Batman have a son, Ibn Al Xu'ffasch. A grown up Ibn was part of the seminal Elseworlds epic Kingdom Come. Current suspicion is that the reason Batman's been missing from Gotham is that he's been searching for his son. It's an interesting turn, especially considering the role that Talia had with the return of Jason Todd. And thereby hangs a tale. . .