Your trip is booked, you’re packed and ready to go, you’ve followed all TSA rules for traveling with holiday gifts, and then you arrive at your gate — just to find out that your airline (maybe in combo with Mother Nature) has different plans for you.
First things, first… keep calm and follow the below advice from our expert Traveler Support team.
The best made plans can likely change at the drop of a snowflake. There are some things that you just can’t control with delays and cancellations, but there are some things within your control.
When people around you are panicking and confused, you can learn to hack the holiday travel system with these tips:
When purchasing your holiday flights:
- Schedule longer connection times. In case of a weather delay on your first flight, you’ll feel better knowing that you still have plenty of time to find your next departure gate. Or, book one of these wonderfully obscure long-haul flights and skip the connection altogether.
- Arrive early. Especially around the holidays, give your yourself more time between your scheduled arrival and your plans (weddings, tours, etc.) to avoid panic in case of a delay or cancellation.
To Do Before Leaving the House:
- Pack a GREAT carry-on. It should contain any medications needed, phone chargers, toothbrush, a change of clothes, and healthy snacks (there’s nothing worse than dealing with a cancelled flight when you’re both hungry and tired). Keep all your money and electronics in your carry-on. Many airlines do not cover for the loss of money, cellphones, tablets, etc. if they were on the checked bag. Also if your stroller is checked and goes through the belt, is not covered by insurance (the best option is checking it at the gate).
- Check the status online. Avoid surprises by checking the flight status on the airline’s website 48 hours before departure and before going to the airport.
- Be as rested as possible. Get as much sleep as you can before you leave (if flights are delayed due to weather – you could be in for a long day.)
- Download the phone app for every airline you’re flying with.. You’ll give yourself a leg up with instant notifications about delays, cancellations, gate changes, and some airlines will also track your bag.
- Layer up. Ensure maximum comfort regardless of the temperature in the airport or onboard your flight. This layered approach will also save you space with packing.
- Label every bag. Put a luggage tag with your name and contact information on every bag you bring, including your carry-on. Take a picture of your bags in case you are asked to describe them if lost.
- Leave your gifts unwrapped. Although wrapped gifts are not prohibited, a security agent may need to unwrap items and take a closer look.
When your flight is delayed or cancelled:
- Do not leave the airport until you are rebooked. If you have access to an airline agent, do not leave the line. If you don’t see an airline representative handy, go find one immediately. Many RTW tickets are flexible – here’s what you need to know about that.
- BE NICE TO THE AIRLINE AGENT! Our traveler support team has worked at airlines in the past, and they shared a secret: passengers who were kind and calm in these difficult situations always received the best service. You may see other flights taking off which can be frustrating, but each aircraft is equipped to handle weather conditions differently.
- If you booked with AirTreks, call us as soon as possible. The airline will have to rebook you within 24 hours of departure, but we can help you find flight alternatives and we’ll work with our agency support desks to look for an exception to rebook you on the backend. While everyone around you is spending precious time waiting to talk with a representative at the airport, you could be on your way to booking another flight on the phone.
- Look for someone in a leadership position. Usually you can find the airline agent with the walkie-talkie or special uniform. They are problem solvers. Either they can help you or they will likely know which agents can, and will deliver you to one of them.
- Keep your receipts! If the cancelation is due to weather, don’t expect the airline to pay for your delay expenses. BUT if it’s a mechanical or operational delay, they’ll often pay for some meals along with a hotel. Each airline has their own guidelines, but you can expect to get up to $15 in food vouchers, transportation to and from a hotel, and the bill for your hotel room (which is often chosen by the airline).
If your luggage is not on the conveyor belt…
- Don’t panic! Often times, your luggage could be in the airline’s office near baggage claim, so make sure to go check there first. If it’s not there, make a claim while you’re still at the airport. Likely your luggage is not lost due to theft, but rather crossed signals. It could be on the next flight in, in which case the airline will it to you.
- Buy some hold-over clothing or toiletries. Again, keep all of your receipts! It’s possible to get compensated for some of those unexpected expenses. Each airline has their own guidelines for what they will or won’t pay for, make sure to get all the details from your airline before your trip.
If your luggage never shows up…
- Be reimbursed. The compensation cap is $3,300 per person for domestic flights and up to $1,742 for international flight, along with a refund for your baggage fee. Keep a list of everything you pack before you fly so you know what you lost. You’ll be reimbursed for the depreciated value of your items.