International Air Travel: Make It Enjoyable and Hassle Free – Part I

International travel is an expensive and time-consuming exercise. Many of us go on international trips either for business or work related trips, to visit families, for studies in foreign countries or just for a vacation. Here are some tips to make this travel pleasant and easy on you and your pockets.

Planning your trip:

Plan your trip well in advance, if possible. This presents you an opportunity to get better air ticket deals. Airfares for international travels are seasonal. There are three main seasons: Low, Shoulder and Peak. Traveling in peak season is always the most expensive. If your trip is not time bound, plan to travel in the low season to get cheapest and low airfares. For travel in peak season, shop for deals well in advance. This assures you good price, your choice of airlines and your choice of dates. If possible, keep the travel dates flexible, as that would help you in getting lower fares. There is a notion that you can get cheap air tickets if you wait till the last minute. This is not necessarily true and during the peak season, you may run the risk of not getting a seat on any airlines at all.

There are many ways on how you can save money. Many airlines have different fares for weekday and weekend travel. If you are planning to break your journey midway, some airlines offer free stopovers while others charge a fee. Sometimes, direct / non-stop flights are expensive than the ones with one or more stops. Less known airlines can offer hard to resist deals. You can either call individual airlines to get their air fares and then compare or search on travel websites, which offer online booking facilities. While calling individual airlines can be a time consuming and tedious process, online booking sites may not be the right option if you have a few twists in your trip. And both these options may not give you access to the promotional and discount fares. The best bet will be to call a travel agent and let them do the job for you.

Travel agents are a good source to get great deals. They can help you in finding deals with more than one airline and can offer tickets for discounted prices. They have access to almost all airlines and have the expertise to search for the cheapest tickets in the market. Travel agents are a great source of information. Do not hesitate to ask them questions. They can provide valuable tips on how you can save money. Travel agents deal with more than one traveler at a time and hence may not be able to give you the details in the first call. Give them your trip details and give them some time and they can come up with really good deals for you. Travel agents are easy to spot as many of them have websites. A travel agency with excellent customer service is an asset. Some travel sites like [http://www.TravelWorldServices], [http://www.LowfareAlways.com], etc. offer personalized over-the-phone services on travel to various destinations across the world.

There are several travel agencies around the world. However, it is important that you choose the right travel agency, which offers the best customer service at the cost of a few additional dollars. This is better than booking the ticket online or offline through a travel agency who may offer really cheap deal but may end up not delivering you the ticket or not confirming your seats.

So the first step to planning your next international trip is to get yourself a really good travel agent.

Know Your Air Travel Rights

If you have ever had a flight cancelled, had a boarding pass but were denied boarding because they overbooked, been bumped just before boarding, sat on the tarmac for hours, or find that your luggage has been lost or delayed on arrival at your destination, you know how maddening it can be.

This is especially stressful if it’s not just you and now you have a melee of angry passengers looking to re book. To put it mildly they are stressed and upset and make it obvious, Then you have the drunk and the crying kids all of which add to the stress level when all you want is to board a plane and get to your destination on time.

In all of these cases, the airline owes you for your trouble. Sometimes it’s by law and other times it’s just good customer service – not all airlines are equal in the way they handle a variety of problems. Here are some of your legal rights you may not know you have..

Research and Know Your Rights in Advance

It makes sense to know your rights before you book. When you are stranded at the airport is no time to start researching to find out what you are entitled to and what rights you have in the particular situation you end up in. There are two resources that will help you understand your rights the US Department of Transportation Airline Passenger Protection Bill and the Air Consumer Flying Rights.

Locking in your Fare in advance of Payment

When booking a flight you can reserve and lock in your price for 24 hours or more without payment depending on the flight being booked. This works when booking direct with the airline or with your Travel Agent. This won’t necessarily work if booking your own fare online. At the time of making the reservation you must provide your exact name as it is on your passport or government ID. Names cannot be changed and if it’s wrong the reservation would be canceled starting back at the beginning looking for a new fare likely at a new more expensive price. This process gives you 24 hours or more to decide if that’s the flight you want before making payment. Remember that any requested changes during that time will cancel the reservation and start you back at the beginning with new information.

Prices do change quickly in the airline industry depending on the volumes booked on the flights. Booking last minute will likely cost you a lot more than booking 2 to 3 weeks out. When you get a good quote on the flight you want lock it in while you make a decision rather than losing out on the price while you decide.

Bumped Flights

You may not be aware but if you are bumped from a flight or if your luggage is lost or delayed you have a right to ask for cash. If they ask for volunteers because a flight is overbooked and offer a voucher for a future flight or a combination of cash and voucher most people will accept this. If that’s good with you then take it, but according to Airfare Watchdog you can ask for a cash payout on the spot depending on the amount of delay time In getting to your destination.:

Under US Department of Transportation rules bumped passengers subject to short delays will receive compensation equal to double the price of their tickets, while those subject to longer delays would receive payments of four times the value of their tickets. There are limits in place so check the DOT bill of rights for the latest compensation limits.

Short delays are 1-2 hours for domestic flights, and 1-4 hours for international flights. Longer delays are for times more than these. For outright cancellations, the airline owes a full refund, even on non-refundable flights.

Delayed or Lost Luggage

If your luggage is delayed or lost you are also entitled to compensation. Some airlines offer nothing other than delivery to your home or destination hotel when the luggage arrives, others offer a small amount of cash to cover essentials like toiletries, and others might offer a voucher for a discount on a future flight. The law actually says you are entitled to up to $3,300 for luggage delayed on a domestic flights and up to $1,500 for luggage delayed on an International Flight. The amount is determined by how long you are without your luggage. If the luggage is totally lost then you are entitled to the full compensation. Check the DOT bill of rights for the latest compensation limits.

Airlines are also required to apply the same baggage compensation for each segment of your trip if you have more than one flight including those with interline and code share partners.

Tarmac Delays

The amount of time the airlines are allowed to keep you sitting on a plane on the tarmac before they allow you to deboard has changed. On a domestic flight the airline cannot keep you on the plane for more than 3 hours before allowing you to deplane. On International flights the amount of time they can keep you on the tarmac is 4 hours. The airlines are required to provide you with water and washroom access at all times during the delay..

Summary

Airlines will often give you what works for them, glossing over whats best for you and your passenger rights. Your best defense is to know your rights and to be willing to follow up with them when you have to.

Most airlines will try to give you a travel voucher, a discount on a future ticket, a flight upgrade or additional frequent flier miles instead of cash. If you are happy with any of these take them.

The airlines will do their best to re book you on another flight or with another airline. Rather than wait in the line up after a flight is canceled call the Airline direct to re book, you’ll get booked much faster than waiting in line. Make a note of the airline contact number and keep it handy just in case.

Better to be prepared and to know your rights before you fly, then you’ll know exactly what to do if and when the times comes.

In my next article I will elaborate on how to complain and how to go about getting what you are entitled to.

Preparing for an Overseas Flight? Air Travel Tips Part Six

Hopping on a plane to go anywhere seems to grow more complex every day. New security procedures and safety considerations trigger a never-ending parade of rules and regulations. This article, the final in a series of six, can help you through the maze. Be sure to collect the entire series.

  • Do you have trouble sleeping on an aircraft? Are you a nervous passenger? Pack some chamomile teabags in your carryon! Once the plane is in the air, ask a flight attendant for some hot water and steep a soothing cup of chamomile tea. It may help to lull you into a relaxed sleep.
  • If you have connecting flights, make sure that your luggage is tagged to your final destination. This will save you the hassle of collecting luggage, getting through security, and catching your connecting flight.
  • Rather than pay the steep fee for headphones, be sure to pack your own.
  • Avoid that lethargic feeling – take a brisk walk or work out in the gym before heading to the airport. You will arrive feeling refreshed and ready to face the jostling crowds at your destination.
  • Familiarize yourself with all the airport terminals you will be passing through during your trip. You can use the Internet to locate maps of airports. Study them a bit, and carry printouts with you while you travel. If you anticipate a time crunch between connecting flights, study the map carefully before you land so that you will know exactly where you need to go to catch the next plane.
  • Airport restaurant food is far superior to what is served on the aircraft. Eat in the terminal before you board and during delays between connecting flights.
  • Be conscious of where the emergency doors are located. Count the number of seats to the nearest exit so that you can find your way out in a smoke-filled cabin. Read the onboard information about safety procedures. Then relax! The chances of serious problems are very slim.
  • Try to get an advance seat assignment when you book your tickets. This will lower the likelihood of being bumped.
  • If possible, see if you can pack everything you need into one carryon. You will save time and bother, because you will be able to circumvent the checked baggage system (and the possibility of lost luggage).
  • If you take anti-nausea medication, do so the minute you buckle into your seat. The drug needs time to get into your system before it can be of any benefit to you. Waiting until you start to vomit is too late!
  • The most dangerous parts of any flight are take-off and landing. Try to book non-stop flights when possible. You save time and increase safety. Remember, though, compared to all other forms of travel, air is statistically the safest way to go.
  • If you wear contact lenses, dry air in the cabin can irritate sensitive eyes. You may want to switch to glasses while you fly. If you do opt to stick with your contacts, ensure that they are scrupulously clean and that you keep them lubricated.
  • Do not carry your tickets with you while you are out sightseeing and dining. They are important documents that should be treated with the same care you give your passport. If you do lose a ticket, report it immediately. It may take some time to replace, requiring you to pay for a second ticket up front (while you wait up to several months for a refund).
  • To help very young children with pressure changes during descent, encourage them to chew gum or suck on a soother (or thumb).

(c) Copyright Kathy Steinemann: This article is free to publish only if this copyright notice, the byline, and the author's note below (with active links) are included.

Breeze Through Security With These Air Travel Tips

Air travel today can be challenging, finding an affordable fare, a convenient travel time, even the right city to depart from or arrive at can be challenging. And of course the long lines at security just add to the stress.

When you arrive at your departure airport getting through multiple security checkpoints can be a hassle, constantly changing rules about how soon to get to the airport, how to check in, what you can carry on board etc. can all be confusing.

Being a frequent business air traveler, I have come up with the following tips to help you on your journey.

    To find the lowest and most convenient fares – always book your travel at least 21 days in advance. Call ahead, or go to your airlines web site to find out how early you should be at the airport, international flights will require more time. Whenever possible go to your airlines web site to check in and print boarding passes. If you are changing planes print out all boarding passes, if you don't, you will have to go back through security to get a new boarding pass. If you only have a short time window, this could cause you to miss your flight. If you have already checked in via the airlines website, you usually do not have to check in at the airport check in counter. If you have bags to check, many airlines again have curb-side baggage check in, and / or they have self serve baggage check in kiosks. Using these services saves a lot of time and hassle. If you are unsure how to use the self serve kiosk, ask an airline employee, or another traveler who seems to know how it works. When in line for security, put all metal objects, keys, watches, coins, pens, money clips, belt buckles, cell phone etc. in a pocket of your carry on bag, even your shoes if possible, send that bag through the scanner, as you walk hassle free through the metal detector. If you are carrying a computer, be sure to take it out of the carrying case. I have my business card, taped to the top of my computer with duct tape for fast identification. If your business card has personal information on it, be sure to block that info out.

Have a Safe Trip!

Jim Newell