Travel Tips (Part 2)

Hints and ideas to make your vacation more pleasant and make your next business trip less stressful.

Travel Tips, Part 1

Staying at home? See these topics too.

Baggage Inspection  (9/01)

Here are some things the airlines might do, and I kind of like them.

1.  In addition to prohibiting knives, the airlines need to be more conscious of highly flammable substances and liquids, notably matches, cigarette lighters, and certain aerosol cans.

Airlines may want to consider a published checklist of prohibited items (more detailed than that now used), and provide a self check area in the airport where passengers could inspect their own baggage before going through security.

In the event a prohibited item is found at any stationary or roving security checkpoint, the passenger is surcharged and also the item is confiscated. The passenger also runs the risk of missing his/her flight.

2.  Airlines might shrink wrap all carry on baggage. Passengers would have to remove baby bottles, diapers, medicines and other items needed during flight since they would not be allowed to get or open their carry ons during the flight. This would make it less critical to identify some of the prohibited items as some are not dangerous if the passenger cannot access them.

Apply For Refund Of Return Flight Home  (9/01)

For those travelers whose round trip return flight was cancelled, no other flights were available for days (storm, airport closure), and they had to return home by other means.

Apply for a refund of half the round trip fare. This includes refunding miles if the ticket was a frequent flier award.

Sometimes the refund will be in the form of a voucher or gift certificate for future travel.

Normally this is not allowed and you get surcharged to the level of a one way fare. The travel industry has a term for people who book round trips and fly just one way -- throwaway ticketing.

Occasionally some rental car companies offer one way drives with no surcharge, but shop carefully for day and mileage costs.

Don't Let Flight Crew Take Your Bag  (7/01)

... if it contains valuables.

You board the airplane and there is no space in the overhead bins for your properly sized suitcase, and also no seat in front to stick the suitcase under. Then the flight attendant comes over and takes your suitcase to be checked.

That is the worst thing to have happen if you are carrying valuables. Anything, anything else you can try or do is better.

Remember, the brochure that accompanies your ticket says that you should put medicine and valuables in a bag you carry on board. What you should do is get up and follow your suitcase, asking to get your medicine and valuables out of it. Also you can ask for another seat assignment. Also you can ask to have excess valuation declared and insured which they must let you pay for right then and there.

If you follow your suitcase out of the plane and you have other checked baggage, they will have to hold the plane until either you get back on or your checked baggage is removed. This delay actually works to your advantage, they will be more likely to find ways to help you. (Don't remind them of this, this is standard operating procedure for them.).

Actually you should not let things get that far out of hand so quickly. Lastly, don't just sit down with your suitcase in front of you against the wall (bulkhead). As soon as you can't find space for it, ask others with an empty space in front of their seats if they would like to switch seats with you. Many travellers are glad to exchange their seat for yours with the bulkhead in front.

You can also find a flight attendant and ask for help including a different seat. If the airline is a stickler for not allowing people to switch seats without permission, ask the flight attendant without asking other passengers first.

Next to lastly, board before your row is called. Don't try to board first, instead try to board in the middle of the boarding process. This is part of doing everything you can to safeguard your valuables so feed free to at least try it.

If you are carrying valuables, try to select a seat near the back, or at least behind the wings. This way you will be called to board sooner, as well as have a nicer view out the window. Most experienced fliers avoid the last two rows since people congregate there waiting for the rest rooms, you should be able to select a seat shy of there also.

If you are carrying valuables, try to select a seat that is not a bulkhead seat. Even if there is overhead bin space, it may be out of your sight and your suitcase can still be stolen.

Their questions and your answers:

Q:  You should have insured your baggage back at the counter.
A:  But this suitcase is small enough to carry on (if it is).

Q:  You are holding up the flight.
A:  (ignore what they said completely and repeat your own request you were last talking about.)

Some of these hints courtesy of Carolyn (

Gather Bags Before Taking Off Shoes  (3/02)

Collect all your baggage and belongings from the X-ray conveyor before stepping aside for more security checks. The agents at the security check may yell but ignore them.

It is a well known fact that things get stolen from the X-ray conveyor. The security crew is not there to safeguard your things. Only you can safeguard your things.

Also you should be aware that security agents do not have the right to push you aside, they can be charged with assault. Security agents do not have the right to take your baggage away, they can be charged with theft. They may confiscate specific items on a "forbidden list" but not the entire bag because you refused to leave it in an insecure place they designated.

It may be better to let them escort both you and the baggage together to a more distant inspection area even if you miss the plane. You may hold the airline responsible for getting you to your destination later, but they won't assume responsibility for lost valuables you did not watch.

Don't Put ... On X-Ray Conveyor

Don't put your wallet with cash into the X-ray machine, take out the cash and keep that in your pocket.

Don't put anything on the rollers at the very end of the conveyor, wait for a space to appear on the belt and then put your bag there. The conveyor has an annoying habit of backing up and things on the rollers at the very end will get knocked onto the floor!

If you want to you can lean on the end of the conveyor so nothing can get pushed off.

Not Enough Low Fare Seats For Children

Occasionally you can book the lowest cost fare for some members of the family but when you say four or five people are traveling together, the fare for all is higher.

For couples with children who are daring, try this:

Book as many seats as you can on one flight and book the rest on the next flight. One parent should be booked on each flight. (If one parent is a premier frequent flier s/he should be on the first flight, explanation later.)

When you get to the airport, those on the second flight should one at a time request to standby for the first flight with the parent signing up last. Then regardless of how many standby's get on the first flight, no child will be without a parent.

Note: If the parent on the second flight is also premier but the children are not, the parent's name will come up to bat first. It will then take some explaining to bequeath the seat to a child to prevent an "unaccompanied minor" situation, pointing out that there is another parent on the early flight to accompany the child. You might choose at this moment to declare that you are together with one or more children and then request to stand by together. Do not put the child on with your ticket and try to use his/hers.

Children's Seats Not Together

Sometimes you can't select seats for your children to be next to yours. Don't get uptight over this, don't waste lots of time telephoning the airline.

It is OK to just go to the airport and let the gate agent assign seats. Do ask quietly for seats next to each other. Airlines stop the advance seat assignments long before all the seats are really assigned, and groups of seats are held back to seat families together.

If worst comes to worst, just take the seat assignments the agent gives you and walk on board when they call the row of the seat furthest back. Put as many bags as possible in the overhead bins and then ask neighboring passengers if they would like to switch seats. Most will, since they usually prefer not to sit next to children. You can also ask the flight attendant for help.

Baggage Lost, Late For Appointment

A traveler wrote in that an airline damaged his baggage but he was unable to wait in a long customer service line as he was late for an appointment. When he returned to the airport later the airline denied his claim saying that the baggage could have been damaged after it left the airport.

This points out the pitfalls of scheduling trips too tightly. If you are traveling on business you might even ask the question of your company before you begin the trip.

This points out a disadvantage of flying late at night.

This is another reason why claiming your baggage while making a connection (not a stopover) and checking it into the next flight is very undesirable compared with checking it all the way to your destination.

We recommend that you continue to press the claim. For the future, we suggest the following:

(These are just ideas, we haven't tried them)

1. Call an appropriate department of the airline on a payphone before leaving the airport informing them of the damaged baggage. (A common suggestion to rebook a cancelled flight is to phone the reservations department rather than wait in the customer service line.)

2. Store the damaged baggage (minus any valuables) at the airport. (Be sure the claim check lists the time the storage period began so you can prove that the time the baggage was in your possession after the flight was very minimal.)

3. Go to an unoccupied employee of the same airline (perhaps up in the gate area) and have him witness the condition of the baggage and sign a statement that he saw it. You will have to write the statement. Describe in words what the damage was, for example "wheel broken off leaving a large hole".

4. In your letter asking for compensation state clearly that the safest way of handling the baggage was to take it with you and bring it back later to file the claim.

5. In your letter asking for compensation state clearly that (if true) waiting in line to file the claim and missing your engagement would have made the entire flight and trip useless (use the word "futile").

6. In your letter asking for compensation state clearly that (if true) most of the other people in line were also filing damaged baggage claims, so chances are your baggage was damaged at the same time as everyone else's was, not by you after you left the airport.

7. Or you can hope that simply writing a compensation request including repeating it as necessary up to higher officers of the company is enough to receive something "as a settlement".

You should argue that if the airline or its agents, employees, etc. damaged the baggage, it shouldn't expect you to incur additional expense to file the claim. For example it might be late at night and you need to catch the last limo downtown, or if you might have a rental car pickup you don't want cancelled.

We do suggest that you explain that the reason you departed and then came back later to file the claim was also to save costs. You may even include what it would have cost to come back to the airport at an inopportune time. Don't go into any of this detail in your first letter, save it all for maybe the third and succeeding letters. Also don't recite numbers and expenses to a court judge unless s/he specifically asks but do have them explained on paper to hand to the bailiff if desired.

Practice for Kids Flying Alone  (1/00)

Parents who expect to send children on planes, trains, buses, etc. alone should practice with the children first. Have the child look at the TV monitors and pick out the flight to take, even a fictitious flight he will pretend to take. Then have him lead the way to the correct gate for that flight. Then have the child lead you to baggage claim. A fourth grader should be able to learn this with just a few tries (more than two).

Most airlines charge an extra fee for children traveling without an adult. Pay it, it is money well spent. The child is entitled to a hotel room if stranded overnight at an airport where he was supposed to change planes.

Contrary to popular belief, children should not raise the armrest on the seat so a larger adult next to them can have more room. The child needs more room to manipulate fork and knife at mealtime. It is the chaperone's responsibility to reseat the child, expecting the flight attendant to deplane a standby or even ask for volunteers to bump if needed.

It is a good idea to use the restroom in the plane before getting seated, if possible. Better yet, use the restroom in the airport before people start to board the plane, which would be typically about 45 minutes before scheduled departure. The child should not drink too much before or during the flight.

Instruct your child to never put down suitcase or ticket folder to help someone else with theirs (explained in more detail further on).

After each trip have the child report to you any unhappy or unpleasant experiences. If there were any, including little things like the chaperone yelling at him or the person sitting next to him elbowing him all the time, write a letter of complaint even if you already complained in person before you left the airport. Don't be afraid to ask for compensation, such as extra frequent flyer miles or a few dollars depending on the quantity or severity of mishap(s). Complaint letters are needed to help keep the quality of care for unaccompanied minors high.

Many gates, corridors, and curb pickups look alike. Don't blame your child for going to the wrong one. Picking up a child at the destination, you should expect to come in and look for your child. Above all never expect your child at the curb to pick out your car in motion. You must stop and make eye contact. If you see your child as you drive by, almost slam on the brakes. If all the spaces are taken by cars with drivers waiting and doing nothing, tell the policeman if he shows up to shoo away one of them so you can pull in and pick up your child. Also point to the child and tell the policeman you are picking up "that unaccompanied minor child".

Driving hint: Agree on a horn toot pattern. Then at the airport, if you think you see your kid, stop, wait for the car ahead to advance several car lengths, and sound the horn.

Some things you can do at home for practice: Buy some drinks in small cups with a foil top so the child can learn how to peel off the foil without spilling the drink. Sometimes poking a hole with a fork is better than peeling off the foil.

Serve TV dinners a few times in the weeks before a trip.

See, also, "I'm A Big Boy Now"

Help With My Suitcase  (1/00)

In a Nutshell:  

Helper holds the handle.
If it is too heavy, say so.
Don't stretch and strain.

Every now and then someone will ask "Could you give me a hand with this suitcase?".

We Interrupt This Advice To Warn You

Never put down your suitcase to help someone else with his. There is a scam where an accomplice steals your suitcase or briefcase you put down.

How to avoid:

Just say your hands are full, and walk away. This is an unfortunate part of life in the U.S.A. and also many other places.

Now back to "Helper Holds the Handle"

If the suitcase is up in the overhead bin, estimate the weight by sticking your fingers under it. If it seems too heavy, tell the owner that it is too heavy and don't touch it.

Obey all rules for lifting objects. Don't stretch. Ask the owner to move if needed so you can get in the proper position. Otherwise say you can't handle the suitcase and leave.

You can always say things like,

   "Sorry, my hands are full"
   "Sorry, I can't get a grip on it."
   "Sorry, it's too heavy for me."

Remember the Three H's: Helper Holds the Handle.

The owner should grab the end with the wheels.

Simple reasons:

1.  You cannot be pulled off balance causing you to either hurt your back or drop the suitcase. The owner would certainly get upset!

2.  Common courtesy dictates giving the handle to the assistant, just as you hand the scissors or screwdriver to someone handle first.

3.  The owner should not expect the assistant to get his fingers dirty reaching down to the ground to get the lower end of the suitcase.

Now the reasons that are a bit complicated.

4.  The end with the handle is usually lighter. The owner should not expect the assistant to take the heavy end. Also if the handle should telescope out a bit, that end will seem lighter and the wheeled end will seem even heavier. Trust me.

5. If the suitcase has to be carried outdoors and a mud puddle is encountered, the assistant can avoid the puddle more easily without dropping the suitcase if he is holding the handle.

When carrying a heavy object, do not stretch out your leg or go into some exotic ballet pose to push a door shut or something like that. If closing the door (or whatever) is really important, put down the heavy object first.

Oil Filter Stuck On? Use Two Wrenches  (1/00)

For those of you who change the oil for your cars yourself... Occasionally the oil filter is hard to remove. Once I managed to get the old filter totally squashed and mangled but not off the car! Even poking a big screwdriver through the filter, like the service station guys do, did not work.

But once I got two wideband filter wrenches and used them together, I had no further problems.

I did not have good luck with the cap wrench that fits over the ridges at the bottom of the filter.If the two holes where you stick the rod are close together or if the wrench fits loosely you probably won't have good luck with it either.

Airport Free Parking -- Not!

Heard on the outdoor loudspeakers at the curb "Please reduce congestion. Use our convenient garage with half an hour of free parking!"

Don't obey that. It's nothing more than an advertisement. Continue to drop off and pick up at the curb if you prefer.

You can't find a parking space, walk to the garage stairs, da da, da da, get back, load the luggage into the car, get to the front of the parking cashier's line in half an hour. Then they charge you for a whole additional hour. I forgot where I saw this example, "First half hour free, next [ed. note, whole] hour $3.00.

Nothing wrong with using the garage if you really need to or want to, but it is your choice. Since I estimate the average time to complete the errand is a little more than the length of the free parking time I would call the advertising on the loudspeaker deceptive.

You may need to park while you scout out the curb to find the correct place (the car area) to pick up, (as opposed to the bus area, the courtesy shuttle area, and the taxi area.). Also you will need to find identifying numbers or labels on signs or doors or poles to tell your party where to rendezvous. There may be many pickup and drop off areas and they probably all look alike.

Perhaps someone who ran track or cross country in school might get in and out of the garage within half an hour but who needs these scary moments of people sprinting through the airport corridors?

One thing you can try, arrange to meet your party at a specific location in the garage! Then you can avoid some of the congestion and confusion at the main entrance to the terminal. (If your party has not arrived, simply exit the garage quickly, go wait 20 minutes or so somewhere else (Boston's Logan Airport had a bank parking lot that was easy to access) then come back. This may not work out too well if the weather is cold.

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Take An Earlier Flight, Miss Your Connection

This is one case I think compensation is deserved and at this time (11/99) believe I would win in small claims court if it went that far.

The Case:

(Based on a reader's letter published in Consumer Reports' Travel Letter for May, 1999, page 2)

[I] was booked on flight #X from city A connecting in city B with flight #Y. I arrived at the airport early at city A early stood by for an earlier flight #Z in accordance with published rules. When I arrived in city B the gate agent denied me boarding passes for the connecting flight #Y stating that I had failed to show up for flight #X and therefore all my continuing reservations were automatically cancelled.

I claim I am entitled to compensation because I followed all the published rules and there were no circumstances beyond the airline's control (such as weather).

Other observations:

We might ask, why are continuing reservations cancelled if the passenger "no-shows"? The only answer is that the airline desires to take sanctions against passengers who may book a trip to a different city via the desired city to achieve a lower fare and not take all the connecting flights, or who may make duplicate bookings expecting of course to use just one and waste the rest. But if this is the motive then the airline has penalized someone who did not break any rules. Since this is fundamentally wrong the airline should be liable for compensation to the passenger.

Consumer Reports remarked that some glitch in one of the airlines' computer systems failed to convey the legal standby on the first airline to the second airline. But the airlines own and operate the computer systems. Therefore any consequences of any problem with the computer systems should be absorbed by the airline(s) and not the passenger.

Consumer Reports hinted that the passenger should have "done something" to make sure that the gate agent at city A "did something" that the continuing reservations were preserved. But the airlines never published any instructions on what the passenger "should have done" nor did the airlines publish any instructions on what the passenger should look for on the agent's computer screen to verify that the agent "did the something".

Since the passenger really did not "no-show", the remaining facts are that the airline violated its overbooking policy because it never asked for volunteers. Therefore it seems the airline should be liable for more than the normal denied boarding compensation, for example a hotel room and meals if applicable, and maybe even a day's pay if the passenger was late returning to work.

Consumer Reports' newsletter editor also wrote, "A spokesman for [the airline] said, "... [the airline] was still seeking ways to solve the problem."  I might note that there is a very simple solution, just honor the passenger's ticket.

(The fact that two airlines were involved is really not relevant.)

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All I Gotta Do Is ... Act Naturally

No need to hustle after you get in line to go down the jetway and board your flight. Don't say this out loud but if they made you wait until your row was called, you can take the same time you would have taken if you boarded first.

You can say you agree with requests by the stewardess to move faster while still just acting yourself, acting naturally at your own speed. (Did she hustle along the earlier boarding premier fliers? Probably not.)

More and more these days you no longer hear the announcement, "... before our general boarding we invite parents with small children and others who need more time to board, to board ...". On average the airlines found they can depart on time just as easily without letting the children board first. Also they are closing the door ten minutes before departure time instead of right at departure time, so everyone has more time to get settled. (They won't close the plane door while you are still walking down the jetway.)

Seems like the business travelers didn't like to stand in the jetway waiting for parents ahead of them to get their children seated. Now the business travelers can be comfortably seated while the children come in. If they were concerned about a quicker takeoff, they themselves would hustle to get seated so the children could come in more quickly behind them.

Feel free to take the kids to the bathroom in the plane before departure.

Bumped By Someone From Previous Flight

Someone commented on that airlines occasionally bump low fare passengers from a flight to accommodate full fare passengers from an earlier flight that was canceled. How can they do that?

Answer: By forcibly booking. I believe that any gate agent can forcibly book a ticket if he really wanted to and tried to. Some airlines, I believe United is one, regularly book full fare passengers without checking for sold out status. Then then worry about bumping people later, when the flight is boarding. So when a flight is cancelled, the airline might book all the full fare passengers onto the next flight.

Meanwhile the "boarding priorities" might say that passengers are boarded in order of fare paid. (Comment made in's* forum: "Steward came through cabin announcing loudly that if enough people didn't volunteer he was going to bump people according to their ticket price.") If full fare people were re-accommodated on this flight from the previous cancelled flight, they now look just the same as people who booked this flight in the first place.

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*'s forum is discontinued @ 2004

Sicked Out Airplane Tickets  (2/99)

American Airlines has publicly advertised they will modify without charge or refund  in full airline tickets whose flights were cancelled due to the recent pilots' sick-out (2/99).

When you have a ticket changed, don't immediately accept an inferior date or flight just because the class letter (fare basis) was sold out on the flight you wanted. For example an airline might have classes H, K, M, and Q, all in the coach cabin and classes B and F in the first class cabin. For example if you have a Q ticket be persistent in asking for the flight you want even if the only coach seats left are K and M tickets. Just tell the ageint that a coach seat is a coach seat. Remind the agent that his airline inconvenienced you by cancelling the original flight in the first place. Also there is nothing wrong with trying to convince the agent to give you a first class seat if coach is sold out. Some airlines' rules (Rule 240) provide this privilege for you.

Even though you are not absolutely right, the agents sometimes try to brainwash you with half truths also.

All Aboard the Vomit Comet  (1/99)

Every now and then someone writes in a travel column that the person next to him got sick and threw up all over him, not himself!

Simply get an airplane blanket and cover yourself first, for the duration of the flight. It also hides the surreptitious wire between your Walkman headset and the movie audio jack on the seat armrest. It also protects against spilled food and drinks.

You can put your coat or sweater behind you on the seat if it gets too warm. Try rolling up a sweater and putting it down behind your lower back for better posture support.

Weekend Somewhere Else, Get Lower Fare (1/99)

Generally you may not book a ticket to a place you don't want to go with a stopover in the place you do want to go (hidden cities), throwing away some of the ticket coupons.

If you do hidden cities the airline might cancel your return trip or bill you (or your travel agent) for the cost of the actual trip you took had your bought exactly that amount of travel.

But you may buy the hidden city ticket with an actual stop at the hidden destination after you complete your business at the place you really wanted to go. For example, fly from Phoenix to Dallas to do your business, then fly to Little Rock for the weekend, and then return home.

Slight bonus: If (long shot) you get stranded at your real destination due to weather or flight cancellation, you may very well have the right to cancel the "rest of the trip" to the hidden destination and divert back home. Especially if the airline cannot get you back home at the original time of the last original flight coupon. (This is why you go to your desired destination first, then to the hidden city.)

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Changing Baby Inflight  (1/99)

In web site readers in Jan. 1999 commented about the obnoxiousness of changing a baby in the airplane seat. Here are some better ideas:

1.  Take the baby to the front door of the plane, set him on the floor, and change him there. This is a reasonably big space to maneuver in. Take a dropcloth you brought for that purpose or an airplane blanket to put on the floor first and keep baby clean.

2.  Change the baby in the airplane bathroom atop the closed toilet but hold the door open while your own body sticks out in the aisle. Just to give you more maneuvering room.

3.  Avoid changing the baby in the seats. Reason: To avoid getting filth on the seats or tray tables.

Note: You may not put the baby or your elbows into the adjacent seats if they are occupied.

Screaming Children (or cats) Inflight  (1/99)

1. Get one of those earmuffs that airline people down on the tarmac wear. Also usable if the person sitting next to you is talkative but you are not that day.

1a. Optionally get a set of headphones that looks like the earmuffs, then run the cord down the back of your shirt and then out to the jack on the seat arm, then you can enjoy the movie and take your mind off the baby. Cover both your lap and the seat arm with a blanket. If the stewardess objects, first tell her to repeat her question louder "to be heard above the baby". Then tell her that the thing on your ears is just a sound deadener. Once you change the subject of the conversation to the screaming baby she will forget why she stopped in front of you in the first place.

1b. Several years ago at a place where I was working everyone except I brought in personal stereos (like the Walkman). There was only one telephone in the room and it looked like since I was the only one not wearing anything on my ears I would be expected to answer the phone all the time. Almost none of the calls were for me. Thus I resented that and therefore ignored it, instead letting the other people take their turn to answer the phone, taking off their headsets if need be. Sometimes everyone else played their stereos so loud with the result that the phone went unanswered. Then a few weeks later I got one of those earmuffs that airline people down on the tarmac wore. I took a length of string, tied one end to one side of the earmuffs, and stuffed the rest in my shirt pocket. (There was no Walkman there.) In order to get any work done free of phone interruptions I had to capitulate and look just as groovy and non-consciencious as everyone else did when the boss walked in. I rationalized to myself that I could not hear the phone ring although in reality the earmuffs were not that good. The boss never caught on, and also never banned the stereos even though it seemed difficult to call the room.

1b1. On a few occasions I simply unplugged the phone to keep it from disturbing me. To this day I control phones, they don't control me. I was thinking of a device that they would sell in those junk mail catalogs "Stop phones from ringing!" the ad would proclaim. Another useful gadget I dreamed of would answer the phone with a message such as "You have reached the computer lab paging system. Please announce the name of the party you wish and wait." Then it would broadcast what the caller said into the room over a speaker.

2. Every now and then reach over and gently stroke the child's head.

3. If it is your child making all the commotion, click here.

Airplane Sweltering? Wear a Swimsuit  (1/99)

Every now and then someone complains about waiting  for hours to take off in an airplane with no air conditioning. Clothes and suits get all sweaty and smelly My suggestion is, next time wear a swimsuit underneath. This way you can take off the good clothes and not become too indecent.

You do run the risk that the stewardesses would rather ogle handsome hunks for awhile rather than turn on the air conditioning.

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Stranded At Airport? Do the Town  (1/99)

The 1998 holiday season was marred by storm travel delays with a major storm shutting down Chicago's O'Hare airport and several other major midwest airports during the busy weekend after New Year's Day. Tens of thousands of travelers were stranded, families returning home, college students returning to school.

I haven't yet had the misfortune of being snowbound in an airport but if I were, I would consider going downtown and sightseeing, maybe for more than a day. Then I would return to the airport to get aboard a rebooked flight, after all the lines of people had disappeared.

I suppose this strategy would have worked in Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, etc. in late 1998 but alas not in Denver the previous winter when the only airport access road was snowbound.

Chicago even has a subway/elevated line direct to the airport on which a ride downtown costs about one dollar and, while not 100% reliable in snow, is more reliable than taxis..

Don't Volunteer After Successful Standby  (11/98)

You won't get compensation once the airline finds out you were originally a standby.

The airline has every right to revoke your standby boarding pass and pull you off the plane at any time. But once in awhile they lose track of things and ask for volunteers to get off after accepting standby's. This may happen for a variety of reasons when confusion is at its greatest. A government agency might have requisitioned space at the last moment. A VIP may have checked in too late for normal boarding.

Take advantage of the airline's mistake and sit tight. Usually a few other people will volunteer, collect their compensation, and let you be on your way.

Missed a plane connection because the first flight landed late?
Holiday season and hard to book a replacement flight?
Customer service desk busy with long lines?    (Revised 1/00)

Most airlines have specific rules on dealing with this situation. Usually these rules are referred to as Rule 240 (240B, 240C, etc.) Ask to see them at your airline's ticket counter or boarding podium.

If there is another flight coming up soon, even one in the boarding process, try to check in for it. If it is also sold out, get on the standby list but stay close to the counter so you can quickly ask questions if needed.

If the same airline brought you late to the connecting city,  you can take the position they must put you on their next available flight. As soon the next flight has room for any standby's, it becomes an available flight. Therefore you can ask for priority over standby's who are finishing a stopover or beginning their trip in that city (local boarding) regardless of amount of fare paid, miles flown, or check in time. Airlines do have standby published standby priorities too. If the agent does not want to honor your request for priority standby he should be able to show you the published priorities. The term "in transit" means someone making a connection.

Instead of standing by for the next flight you could also verify the existence of unsold seats by pretending to buy a new ticket. The conversation might go something like this:

You:   "I would like to take the next flight to Chicago, flight number XXX.".

Ticket agent:  "First class or coach?" (Since departure is only an hour or so away, only full fare coach is typically available.)

You:  "Coach would be fine. I just missed my connection which was the previous flight. Here is my ticket to be changed."

Or perhaps something like this,

You:   "I would like to take the next flight to Chicago, flight number XXX.".

Ticket agent:  "We only have two seats left and they are first class."

You:  "That's OK. I just missed my connection which was the previous flight. Here is my ticket to be changed."

If the agent won't rebook you there is nothing to lose by beating around the bush, for example say something like "Perhaps you could just create a reservation for me now, someone else is surely going to get an upgrade to first class." Or, as suggested in a previous topic, you could try to convince the agent to give you first class.

You can also try the following for your return flight. (Not the outgoing flight because this tactic may confuse the computer system and cause cancellation of your return flight.)

Call the airline's 800 number and make a new UNRESTRICTED reservation. Try coach first. If no coach seats are available, ask for first class. Don't make any arrangement to pay. Say you will pick up the ticket at the airport.

Why unrestricted? So you won't get charged for it which you shouldn't because the airline mis-connected.

Why consider first class? Because the chances of any available seat is much better.

Why a phone call? Because if you waited in the customer service line, all the seats might be sold out by the time you got to the counter.

Then immediately go to any ticket counter (sometimes a gate agent will do it). Ask to check in for the flight you booked, even if it is a few hours away. Explain that your incoming flight was late, explain that you missed a connection, and also hand the agent the ticket of the flight you mis-connected. Do not get out a credit card or offer to pay anything.

This is a good time to ask to see the airline's rules, particularly Rule 240.

You can say you have not made a double booking (that violates airline rules) because the first booking already died by mis-connecting.

You have not "no-showed" in violation of rules because you were on another (late) flight of your itinerary when the next flight you were supposed to be on departed without you.

Your new reservation is not bogus because you are going to fly it or the gate agent is going to change it to something else.

If your original flight was first class and you end up flying coach, the airline must refund you the difference even if you chose an earlier coach flight over a later first class flight.

Some airlines' Rule 240 provide a seat on a different airline or a first class seat if that is all that is available. If so you are entitled to the first class seat as opposed to:

1.  The agent's choice of a different combination of flights that you feel is so tight it would likely leave you stranded overnight in another connecting city without a free hotel room,

2.  An open, standby, or otherwise unconfirmed seat.

It is rare that you would get a first class seat since some airlines routinely forcibly book full fare coach passengers expecting to give out first class upgrades and/or worry about overbooking later. They may very well forcibly book you onto your replacement flight and not tell you. You are then eligible for bump compensation along with everyone else.

You may still try to convince the ticket agent to give you more than your airline's rules really entitle you to.

Do not cause commotion. Do not shout at other passengers or airline employees. You are more likely to get upgrades and perks by remaining calm.

End of this article for passengers who missed connections. This article does not apply when the "connecting" flight coupon is not in the same ticket book as the incoming flight i.e. is in an itinerary purchased separately.

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Using a laptop computer during your flight? (Feb. '98)

Don't suddenly tilt the machine while it is running. The spinning hard drive disk behaves as a gyroscope and as such resists tilting. Tilting can cause the disk to warp slightly for a moment and a head crash can occur as the warp passes under a read/write head.

Don't jar the machine while it is running. All hard drives have the read-write heads riding on a thin cushion of air instead of touching the disk surface. In the airplane cabin the atmospheric pressure is lower so the air cushion is thinner. In turn the hard drive is more sensitive to head crashes due to jarring or tilting.

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