How to Avoid a Delayed Flight and Other Air Travel Woes

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Missed connections, canceled flights, lost luggage – it seems that so many things can go wrong when you’re traveling via air.

But you don’t have to let common travel woes spoil your trip. Travel expert George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog offers tips on how to prevent common air travel dilemmas. Among them:

  • Stolen luggage. There’s no surefire way to prevent this other than not checking your bags. Avoid packing electronics or valuables in your checked luggage because airlines won’t reimburse you for those items if they end up lost or stolen. Hobica advises checking your bag’s contents before you leave the airport so you can file a claim if necessary. “Airlines are required to cover up to $3,400 for domestic travel, but much less for international flights, and they will depreciate the value of the contents,” he said. Also, your credit card may offer lost or damaged bag insurance for free if you paid for the trip with the card.
  • Delayed or canceled flight. Domestic flights have on-time performance scores, Hobica said. You can check the scores by calling the airline and asking for its numbers, and sometimes the information is available online. Avoid flights with poor performance statistics if you need to make a connecting flight. Hobica also recommends having a Plan B in place. “Keep a list of alternate flights, even if on a competing airline, and ask to be rebooked” if your flight is canceled or delayed, he said.
  • Can’t find seats together. Book early to try to score seats together. If you’re having problems booking adjacent seats online, call the airline’s reservation number. If you still have no luck, you could try getting to the airport early and asking for a seat reassignment. If all else fails, have some Starbucks gift certificates to entice passengers to switch, he says.
  • Difficulty finding frequent-flier seats for specific dates. Hobica advises booking super early or at the last minute if you want to secure frequent-flier seats for specific dates. He said airlines often open up those seats closer to the departure date if they can’t sell them. You can also call the airline’s frequent-flier service number for help.

My worst flying experience was when I arrived at an airport with my boss at the time, only to find out that our flight was going to be delayed. We opted to kill some time by having lunch and a drink at an airport pub.

When we arrived at our gate an hour later (and what we thought was still an hour before our flight), we were shocked to discover that our flight had just finished boarding and the doors were being closed. Apparently the flight had arrived on time, and the airline had changed the departure back to the original time. So we missed our flight and had to sit in the airport for six hours before we could catch another flight.

I no longer stray too far from my departure gate. Lesson learned.

Do you have any air travel tips? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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