Flying The Passenger-Friendly Skies

Tips, advice, and tools to deal with airport complications

Consumers who lead busy lives have little time for airport complications. “Any planning can make your experience better at the airport,” says Edna Z. Ruano, spokesperson for Southwest Airlines. “We recommend customers check in online. Consumers can also go online to check for flight delays, get a boarding pass, and subscribe to Flight Messaging Status to receive text messages to their cell phone, pager, PDA, or e-mail.”
Flight delays are one of the most frustrating problems for travelers to deal with, says Shirley Rooker, president of Call For Action Inc., a consumer organization. For general information, particularly during inclement weather, try this link from the Federal Aviation Agency: www.fly.faa. gov/flyfaa/usmap.jsp. However, consumers must contact their airline for specific flight information; one way is by calling the airline’s 800-number.

Joel Widzer, author of the Penny Pincher’s Passport to Luxury Travel (Traveler’s Tales; $14.95), suggests going to www.expertflyer.com to obtain updated flight information. “This is a subscription-based Website that makes the same information that the airlines have available to the consumer. You can see what upgrades are available and request that the airlines offer you those. You can view your seating arrangements in real time on the Website as well.” Also go to www.seatguru.com to check for the best seating arrangements on your particular airline.

If your luggage is lost or delayed, you must go in person to the airline baggage service office within four hours. On average, Southwest Airlines’ complimentary luggage delivery service reunites owners with their bags in 24 hours. Lost baggage claims are processed within 90 days. All airlines pay fare-paying customers a maximum of $3,000 for baggage that cannot be located or is damaged or delayed. They pay more if excess value was declared at check-in, but doing so costs extra and all fees must be paid at check-in.
Since most luggage pieces look similar, place luggage tags with your cell phone number on them in several places inside as well as outside your bags. “Be sure to have medicine for four days to carry on with you as well as a change of clothes in case your checked luggage is lost,” says Rooker.

“Sign up for frequent flyer with Delta Airlines. They give Medallion members special tags that have a bar code on them. If your bag is lost, it will be easier to track,” says Widzer. “The more information you have, the more powerful you are.”

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