Once you decide when and where you want to go, and which airline you want to use, you will usually have to purchase a ticket in order to hold a confirmed seat. However, many large airlines will hold a reservation for 24 hours or so without payment. Others require payment at the time you make a reservation but will provide a full refund if you cancel in the first day or so. When available, both of these procedures permit you to hold a seat and a fare for a short time while continuing to shop for a better deal. Be aware of the following considerations when selecting a flight and buying a ticket:
Airlines don't guarantee their schedules, and you should realize this when planning your trip. There are many things that can-and often do-make it impossible for flights to arrive on time. Some of these problems, like bad weather, air traffic delays, and mechanical issues, are hard to predict and often beyond the airlines' control.
If your flight is delayed, try to find out how late it will be. But keep in mind that it is sometimes difficult for airlines to estimate the total duration of a delay during its early stages. In so- called \"creeping delays,\" developments occur which were not anticipated when the carrier made its initial estimate of the length of the delay. Weather that had been forecast to improve can instead deteriorate, or a mechanical problem can turn out to be more complex than initially evaluated. If the problem is with local weather or air traffic control, all flights will probably be late and there's not much you or the airline can do to speed up your departure. If your flight is experiencing a lengthy delay, you might be better off trying to arrange another flight, as long as you don't have to pay a cancellation penalty or higher fare for changing your reservations. (It is sometimes easier to make such arrangements by phone than at a ticket counter.) If you find a flight on another airline, ask the first airline if it will endorse your ticket to the new carrier; this could save you a fare collection. Remember, however, that there is no rule requiring them to do this.
Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting at the airport; there are no federal requirements. If you are delayed, ask the airline staff if it will pay for meals or a phone call. Some airlines, often those charging very low fares, do not provide any amenities to stranded passengers. Others may not offer amenities if the delay is caused by bad weather or something else beyond the airline's control. Contrary to popular belief, for domestic itineraries airlines are not required to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled. As discussed in the chapter on overbooking, compensation is required by law on domestic trips only when you are \"bumped\" from a flight that is oversold. On international itineraries, passengers may be able to recover reimbursement under Article 19 of the Montreal Convention for expenses resulting from a delayed or canceled flight by filing a claim with the airline. If the claim is denied, you may pursue the matter in court if you believe that the carrier did not take all measures that could reasonably be required to avoid the damages caused by the delay.
If the purpose of your trip is to close a potentially lucrative business deal, give a speech or lecture, attend a family function, or connect to a cruise, you might want to allow a little extra leeway and take an earlier flight. In other words, airline delays aren't unusual, and defensive planning is a good idea when time is your most important consideration.
Almost any planeload of airline passengers includes some people with urgent travel needs and others who may be more concerned about the cost of their tickets than about getting to their destination on time. DOT rules require airlines to seek out people who are willing to give up their seats for compensation before bumping anyone involuntarily. Here's how this works. At the check-in or boarding area, airline employees will look for volunteers when it appears that the flight has been oversold. If you're not in a rush to arrive at your next destination, you can give your reservation back to the airline in exchange for compensation and a later flight. But before you do this, you may want to get answers to these important questions:
DOT has not mandated the form or amount of compensation that airlines offer to volunteers. DOT does, however, require airlines to advise any volunteer whether he or she might be involuntarily bumped and, if that were to occur, the amount of compensation that would be due. Carriers can negotiate with their passengers for mutually acceptable compensation. Airlines generally offer a free trip or other transportation benefits to prospective volunteers. The airlines give employees guidelines for bargaining with passengers, and they may select those volunteers willing to sell back their reservations for the lowest price. If the airline offers you a free ticket or a transportation voucher in a certain dollar amount, ask about restrictions. How long is the ticket or voucher good for Is it \"blacked out\" during holiday periods when you might want to use it Can it be used for international flights
On some flights between two foreign cities, your allowance may be lower and may be based primarily on the weight of the checked bags rather than the number of pieces. The same two bags that cost you nothing to check when you started your trip could result in expensive excess-baggage charges under a weight system. Ask the airlines about the limit for every segment of your international trip before you leave home, especially if you have a stopover of a day or two or if you are changing carriers.
Many bags look alike. After you pull what you think is your bag off the carousel, check the name tag or the bag tag number. If your bag arrives open, unlocked or visibly damaged, check right away to see if any of the contents are missing or damaged. Report any problems to the airline before leaving the airport; insist on having a report created. Open your suitcase immediately when you get to where you are staying. Any damage to the contents or any pilferage should be immediately reported to the airline by telephone. Make a note of the date and time of the call, and the name and telephone number of the person you spoke with. Follow up as soon as possible with a certified letter to the airline.
If your suitcase arrives smashed or torn, the airline will usually pay for repairs. If it can't be fixed, they will negotiate a settlement to pay you its depreciated value. The same holds true for belongings packed inside. Airlines may decline to pay for damage caused by the fragile nature of the broken item or inadequate packing, rather than the airline's rough handling. Air carriers might also refuse to compensate you for damaged items inside the bag when there's no evidence of external damage to the suitcase. When you check in, airline personnel may let you know if they think your suitcase or package may not survive the trip intact. Before accepting a questionable item, they may ask you to sign a statement in which you agree to check it at your own risk. But even if you do sign this form, the airline might be liable for damage if it is caused by its own negligence shown by external injury to the suitcase or package.
If your bags don't come off the conveyor belt, report this to airline personnel before you leave the airport. Insist that they create a report and give you a copy, even if they say the bag will be in on the next flight. Get an appropriate phone number for following up (not the Reservations number). Don't assume that the airline will deliver the bag without charge when it is found; ask the airline about this. Most carriers set guidelines for their airport employees that allow them to disburse some money at the airport for emergency purchases. The amount depends on whether or not you're away from home and how long it takes to track down your bags and return them to you. If the airline does not provide you a cash advance, it may still reimburse you later for the purchase of necessities. Discuss with the carrier the types of articles that would be reimbursable, and keep all receipts. If the airline misplaces sporting equipment, it will sometimes pay for the rental of replacements. For replacement clothing or other articles, the carrier might offer to absorb only a portion of the purchase cost, on the basis that you will be able to use the new items in the future. (The airline may agree to a higher reimbursement if you turn the articles over to them.)
Airlines are liable for provable consequential damages up to the amount of their liability limit (see below) in connection with the delay. If you can't resolve the claim with the airline's airport staff, keep a record of the names of the employees with whom you dealt, and hold on to all travel documents and receipts for any money you spent in connection with the mishandling. (It's okay to surrender your baggage claim tags to the airline when you fill out a form at the airport, as long as you get a copy of the form and it notes that you gave up the tags.) Contact the airline's baggage claims office or consumer office when you get home.
Once your bag is declared (permanently) lost, you will have to submit a claim. This usually means you have to fill out a second, more detailed form. Check on this; failure to complete the second form when required could delay your claim. Missing the deadline for filing it could invalidate your claim altogether.
Most if not all major airlines participate in frequent-traveler plans. These programs allow you to earn free trips, upgrades (e.g., from Coach to First Class) or other awards based on how often you fly on that airline or its partner carriers. In most programs you can also earn credit by using specified hotels, rental car companies, credit cards, etc. It doesn't cost anything to join a program, and you can enroll in the programs of any number of different airlines. However, you will want to determine which program best suits your needs before you accumulate a lot of miles. Here are some things to look at when selecting a frequent-traveler program. 59ce067264