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  • jeff2604

Flying Sucks And There's Nothing You Can Do About It


There isn’t much you can do when your flight gets cancelled or delayed, or when your bags don’t show up on the baggage claim carousel. I can tell you that firsthand after our most recent trip. Even experienced travelers like me and Janet end up frustrated and helpless, as we did on this trip when a late arrival caused us to miss our connection in Frankfurt on our way to meet up with our river cruise. There was nobody from the airline to help us work through our options…the best they could do was to enlist the assistance of temporary employees hired by the airport to hand out informational pamphlets for what to do in the event you need customer service but can’t get any. Let me tell you…there wasn’t any customer service when we needed it, and that’s the norm if you are traveling this summer.


We are all experiencing the challenges of two years’ worth of COVID fueled pent-up demand suddenly released over a single summer travel season. Airlines have scheduled way more flights than they can possibly operate, and airports can’t find all the workers they had to lay off or fire at the outset of the pandemic now that they need them again. It’s like this across Europe, and we got the same COVID-based excuses everybody in the service industry is using these days to explain away substandard service. There aren’t enough people to fill their vacancies.


What can you as a traveler do when even your travel agent has trouble with travel? Here are a few things I recommend based on our most recent trip. Nothing will take away the frustration of travel delays, but these are some things that might help a little.


1. Expect travel disruptions because almost nothing will go as planned this summer. Flights will be delayed or cancelled, your luggage will get lost, and there is little you can do to prevent it.


2. Purchase a travel insurance policy that provides trip delay and interruption coverage, because you’ll probably need it. Even if you didn’t purchase insurance when you booked your trip, as long as you haven’t departed it isn’t too late. There is no guarantee trip insurance will cover all expenses associated with trip delays or interruptions either, but I can absolutely guarantee it won’t cover anything if you don’t purchase it.


3. Arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before your scheduled departure, longer when you are flying home from Europe. You may find yourself having to wait for someone to show up at the airline’s check-in desk, but at least you’ll be toward the front of the line when they do, which will cut down on your wait time.


4. Know your destination’s arrival requirements. Most require that you fill out a form online a day or two before your scheduled arrival. If you do that at home, you’ll be able to skip ahead of the people who didn’t bother. Don’t rely on your phone to show the QR code or bar code you get when your travel is approved by the country you are visiting. Print a copy for backup.


5. Likewise, print copies of your boarding pass if you check in online, even if you are used to downloading your boarding pass to your phone for domestic flights. Airport scanners may have trouble reading the QR or bar code off your cell phone, particularly if your screen has any cracks or blemishes. If your phone can’t be scanned, you’ll have to get out of line and go back to the airline’s check in desk to get a boarding pass printed, and then get back in line at the security check point. You won’t get to skip to the front of the line either.


6. Pack with the assumption you will not see your checked luggage when you arrive at your destination. A recent report indicates lost luggage, which only occurred about 1% of the time pre-COVID, is now happening about 30% of the time. Pack a carry-on bag with all the meds you’ll need for the entire trip (plus a week more for contingencies), some basic toiletries, and one or two changes of clothing. If your luggage gets lost and you have to buy some necessities to tide you over, be sure to keep all your receipts. You’ll need them when you file your claim with the airline and your insurance company.


7. Go with the flow. When you miss a connection or a flight and your airline automatically rebooks you, don’t fight it trying to find something better. Even if the new flight means spending several days before you can get another flight, take it. i used to recommend the opposite of going with the flow because it used to be you might find an alternative to what the airline offers that works better for you. Not this summer.


8. Keep your travel agent’s contact information handy. Your travel agent can make all the calls necessary to help you get rebooked if your airline doesn’t do it automatically, and they can ensure your follow-on travel plans are adjusted to accommodate your delay.


9. Pack your patience. Our travel glitches on this trip were minor compared with others and still we found ourselves frustrated, angry, and feeling forgotten. We got out on a flight the next day, but many travelers have been stuck for several days waiting for a rebooked flight.


10. Plan to arrive a day or two before you need to. We’ve never been a fan of same day arrivals and this summer they are a sure-fire way to end up disappointed. The airline isn’t going to refund you the cost of your cruise or tour if you miss it, nor are they going to cover your cost to catch up, if that is even an option. Booking your air through the cruise line or tour operator might help, but it might not. Don’t take that chance with your vacation.


11. Keep the baggage claim tags given to you when you check in. I am amazed at the number of travelers that still don’t do that. If you don’t have your claim tags, you might as well give up any hope of ever being reunited with your bags.


12. Make sure you have removed all bar code tags from previous trips to avoid confusing the automated luggage handling systems.


13. If your luggage gets lost, don’t count on the airline to find it and deliver it to you. Find someone who can escort you to the airport’s lost luggage center, which will probably be harder than you think, and search for your bags yourself. If that isn’t an option, provide detailed information on your itinerary when you file your lost luggage claim.


14. Take a picture of your luggage and place a sheet of paper with your contact information inside. Both steps will help overworked and understaffed baggage claim employees isolate your bags from the thousands of others in search of their owners. Make sure you note all that information on your lost luggage claim form. The more you can do to help differentiate your suitcases from someone else’s, the more likely you are to get them delivered to you before the end of your trip.


Nothing about the delays and hassles associated with travel today is remotely satisfactory. It is the reality of travel, for now. My hope is that as the travel industry recovers from their current staffing shortages things will gradually improve. The good news is you can now travel pretty much anywhere in the world. The bad news is so can everyone else.


(Originally posted on 26 Jul 2022)

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