December 11, 2007 - 9:29 am - Posted by iDunzo
Without questions, air travel delays are out of control. Because there is no denying the need for safety, we must explore other solutions for a problem that will only get worse during the holidays.
First and foremost, DO NOT BLAME THE MESSENGER FOR THE MESSAGE.
What this means is that the airport staff and airline attendants can not change the situation that you’re in.
Trust me, airline attendants, of all people, don’t want to have to be at work any longer than required.
Forget the stories you’ve heard of free upgrades, free flights, free stays in a four star hotel.
Sure it might happen but don’t expect that as soon as your flight is delayed or canceled, the airline will beg your ultimate forgiveness by showering you with consolation prizes.
So, please don’t berate, assault, castigate, rebuke, or otherwise attempt to belittle the gate attendant.
Instead, here are a few tips and resources from around the web that can help ease the pain of modern day air travel, often by preemptively avoiding the situation altogether.
Resources On The Web:
With a byline like “Brought to you as a free service from the people who guide you home, our nation’s air traffic controllers,” how could you go wrong?
This site’s homepage touts stats such as most delayed in departing airports, most delayed in arriving airports, flights most often delayed, and airlines with the worst on-time track record.
It also gives near real time flight reports and publishes last year’s stats to help you avoid making the same mistake twice.
2. Flight Stats
A truly comprehensive guide to what’s happening in airports around the country and in some instances, around the world. Publishes up to the minute stats on airport delays with a ticker across the header.
Also shows airport arrival and departure times, airport and airline ratings, and international travel warnings.
The site gives a nod to the Web 2.0 community by allowing users to provide their own assessments of security wait times, baggage claim issues, and other up to minute tips on navigating the airport.
Before you head to the airport, check to see how long you could be waiting in line by heading to the TSA’s Security Checkpoint Wait Times site.
Just enter your airport, time of day and day of the week and you get a pretty good estimate of how long it will take to get to the gate area.
Results are broken down by terminal checkpoint as well so you get an even better idea of just how long you have to wait.
Of course major holiday travel periods, such as Thanksgiving, may take longer, so be sure to give yourself a little extra time if you are traveling on a day that isn’t just a normal weekday.
4. FAA Wireless
One of the few good government run websites. No-frills, text only page with up to date info on airport delays and estimated wait times.
Designed for web-enabled cell phones as you need to know airport codes to understand which airport is having the delay.
Also contains a directory of airline customer service numbers. If you have to make a connection, check this page to see if might have problems or see if there are problems at major hubs that may have ripple effects.
Tips and Tricks for Booking Your Travel:
Book Nonstop flights – Don’t be fooled by the words “direct flight.” If it doesn’t say “nonstop,” the flight makes more than one stop. Obviously, the more stops the flight makes, the more opportunities for it to be delayed.
Compare the on-time performance of flights serving your route – the cheapest flight might also be the one that is chronically late.
So use FlightStats.com to compare the performance of the various carriers and flights serving the cities you expect to visit.
Chances are, you can find a higher quality flight for the same money or only slightly more.
Fly early in the day – Many travel consultants say fly before 4 p.m. Delays tend to ripple through the system throughout the day.
If there are travel interruptions early in the day, later in the day they only tend to get worse.
Avoid booking the last flight of the day. If that flight is canceled, you may end up staying overnight.
Fly midweek – At most airports, there usually is lighter travel on Tuesday and Wednesday than on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Before You Rush to the Airport:
Check your flights’ status – FlightStats.com can give you accurate and current flight status and also lets you set up alerts that can be sent by email or text message to your notebook or smart phone. Alerts will let you know if anything changes.
Once Your Flight is Delayed:
After your flight goes from delayed to canceled status – After a flight is canceled, don’t go back to the ticketing line and wait to rebook. Standing in line can delay you from getting on the next flight.
Instead, if accessible, use a computer or cell phone to start discussing the status of your flight with your airline.
If your flight is delayed or canceled for reasons other than weather, the airline may make you wait some hours for its own next flight to that destination.
If you are flying on a legacy airline (American, Delta, United, etc.), talk to the lead agent at the gate and ask (nicely) about their obligations under their contract of carriage.
This may contain provisions similar to the old “Rule 240” that required an airline to put a delayed passenger on the next available flight, even if it is on another airline.
Rule 240 went away in 1978 with deregulation, but many of the legacy carriers still use it.
Most discount carriers such as Southwest and JetBlue, do not have this provision in their contract of carriage.
This is one of those times when it pays to have read that “Terms of Agreement” page before buying your ticket.
Make sure that the “contract of carriage” stipulation is not superseded by the type of airfare your booking.