Monday, July 9, 2007

Dealing with Delays

In its July 5 article "Ugly Airline Math," the New York Times brought to the forefront a serious problem facing travelers: across the board, domestic airlines are finding it harder to keep to their schedules. As fares drop, air travel is becoming more popular, and because airspace and air traffic control capacities are limited, adding more planes tends to compound rather than reduce the problem.

Merely an annoyance in most cases for passengers arriving at their final destinations, flight delays can cause serious problems for those who are meeting connecting flights--especially if those connections take them overseas or to remote airports serviced by infrequent commuter flights.

No amount of planning can prevent delays entirely. Spontaneous Tourists, however, can minimize the impact of these delays by following some basic principles of travel planning:
  • Try to get direct flights rather than connections. You may arrive late, but at least when you do arrive, it will be at your final destination.
  • If connections are unavoidable, try to find an itinerary where all flight segments are with the same airline. That makes it easier to reroute you in the event of a delay.
  • Give yourself some leeway by planning any layovers to last at least an hour.
  • Include luggage tags with your phone number of all checked baggage, so the airline can reach you in case something gets lost en route.

Above all, be courteous and patient when dealing with airline staff members. It's understandable that you're frustrated, but imagine the amount of work--and stress--involved in dealing with hundreds of frustrated people! U.S. airlines are not required to compensate passengers for delays; compensation rules apply only to passengers involuntarily "bumped" from overbooked flights. There are often things that the airline can do for you, though, and when you treat people well, they are far more inclined to help you.

Happy travels.

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