Defensive Flying Tips for the Holiday Travel

The holidays are the best time to travel to visit family & friends, and to go somewhere to celebrate the most celebrated festivities of the year. AAA, America’s largest travel organization helps holiday travelers with their defensive flying tips to save them from airline fuss.

“Clearly airlines, airports and federal agencies can all do a much better job of helping to prevent flight delays,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “However changes will not be fast or easy and we should not be surprised if this trend continues. This holiday season, travelers are at risk of weather delays and other unforeseen mishaps. Americans need to practice Defensive Flying if they plan to have a pleasant and stress-free flight.”
• KNOW THE LIMITATIONS ON YOUR TICKET. The airline’s contract of carriage does not require it to provide passengers with any additional services when flights are delayed or canceled due to bad weather. This is different from situations where flights are delayed for mechanical or other reasons.

• GO ONLINE BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME. Check the airline website for delays before leaving home and sign up for e-mail alerts from your airline. When planning a trip, travelers can check up-to-date airline performance using the Air Travel Consumer Report Card at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/reports/index.htm. Also, check with the Transportation Security Administration for the latest airport security rules at http://www.tsa.gov/travelers.

• PACK DEFENSIVELY. Flight delays are a fact of life for travelers. Come to the airport prepared for a delayed flight. That means bringing portable entertainment such as books, music or video games. In addition, make sure you have prescriptions, credit cards, your travel itinerary with flight numbers, driver’s license and/or passport, glasses, various electronics chargers and toiletries in a carry-on bag. In order to expedite the process of passing through security, remember the Transportation Security Administration’s 3-1-1 carry-on policy: Three-ounce bottles or less; one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; one bag per passenger.

• DON’T SHOW UP HUNGRY. Eat before you go so you are not waiting in line at the limited number of airport eateries. Also, bring food you can carry on and eat on the plane if you are stuck on the tarmac.

• USE YOUR CELL PHONE TO SAVE TIME. Program numbers for your airline, hotel, car rental company, or your travel agent into your cell phone. In case you need to change your flight, you can call the airline directly rather than waiting in line at the ticket counter. Make sure you have the phone number for whoever is waiting for you at the airport so you can keep them posted about your situation.

• TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TIME–SAVING SERVICES. Printing out your boarding pass at home from the airline’s Web site and using curbside check-in and ticket kiosks can save time when you are in hurry to get to your flight.

• TAKE THE EARLIEST FLIGHT. Flight delays often ripple through the system, so the first flight in the morning is less likely to be delayed. If the first flight is delayed, you will have a better chance of catching a flight scheduled later the same day.

• SOMETIMES SMALLER AIRPORTS ARE BETTER. You can get processed through security faster and have a much shorter walk to the gate as a result of smaller airports having fewer flights and fewer travelers.

• REMEMBER TO ASK ABOUT AMENITIES. During extended flight delays, airline staffs on the ground have the discretion to provide food and hotel vouchers, phone cards and snack boxes, so make sure to ask.

• KNOW WHERE TO COMPLAIN. Travelers who have service issues with an airline should contact DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

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