Thursday, November 15, 2007

Flying this Holiday Season

Despite high-profile media stories about airlines’ on-time performance over the summer, industry experts are still predicting that Santa will have plenty of company in the skies this holiday season.

On-time performance by the nation’s carriers struggled over the summer with nearly 30% of flights delayed in August. According to federal statistics on the 20 biggest U.S. airlines, service complaints were up as well: 1,717 in July and dipping just 4.8% in August with 1,634 complaints. To compare, there were just 864 service complaints reported in August 2006.

Of course, delays and mishaps will happen, but understanding a little about how the airlines handle certain situations can help ease your travel experience.

It starts at check-in. Airlines can cancel your booking if you don’t arrive at your gate on time, and they are not responsible for delayed luggage if you check-in late. If you are running late, most security checkpoint lines are longest next to airports’ dominant air carrier’s check-in stands; by heading to another checkpoint you’ll often find shorter lines – most gates in an airport are accessible from all security checkpoints, except those with multiple terminals.

If your flight is oversold, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires airlines to ask for volunteers to give up their seats in return for compensation. The compensation varies by airline, so talk to the gate agent on what can be expected (negotiating a deal is common). If you’re involuntarily bumped, compensation varies by airline and you’ll receive a pamphlet detailing your rights. Hint: Some airlines bump passengers based on their check-in time so consider checking in online up to 24 hours in advance of the flight. You can do so even if you plan to later check luggage.

Cancellations are another story, since each airline handles these situations differently and compensation is not a DOT requirement, though most airlines do extend some sort of compensation if the cancellation was within their control.

These situations can often leave a traveler feeling helpless, but by booking your travel with a travel expert you’ll have a powerful advocate on your side. While the rest are waiting for answers, a call to your travel expert can help expedite a resolution to your situation by finding another flight option. The other passengers? Well, they’re on their own.

Knowing what could happen and how it could affect you, head to the airport this holiday season with the secure feeling that comes from booking your travel with Travel Travel Carlson Wagonlit.

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