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Category : Airline

By Kimberly Milnes

New Carry-On Bag Rules – Don’t Get Stuck Paying Another Fee!

 

 

Since airlines introduced the “Check Bag Fee”, many of you have been packing light or trying to stuff it all in to your carry-on bag.  Well, recently many of the airlines introduced new size restrictions for carry-on bags. That means if your bag does not meet the new size restrictions you will have to check the bag and pay that $25 fee.  Even, worse if you have already checked a bag you might have to pay an additional $35, $40 or even $100, depending on where you are flying. It is CRAZY.

The biggest change is the width of the bag. It is now down to 14 inches, but most carry-on bags are 15 inches. So, as we approach the big Summer travel season I wanted to make sure you know the new rules so you can avoid being charged another fee.   Read more

By Kimberly Milnes

Bumped From Your Flight – Now What?

You have been counting the days until your much needed vacation. You arrive at the airport 2 hours early to make sure you have plenty of time to check in and get through security. When you get to the ticket counter to check in the agent says your flight is oversold and you have been booked on a flight 2 hours later.  What??? How can that happen?

As the airlines are flying fewer planes and booking them to capacity this is happening more and more. In 2012, nearly 59,000 people were bumped from their flights. So what do you need to know about your rights as a passenger or even better how to make sure this does not happen to you.

1. Know your rights – If you are bumped from your flight through no fault of your own. The airlines must get you to your destination, as well as give you compensation for the delay.   You can check the official Department of Transportation rules on voluntary and involuntary bumping. It is even a good idea to have a copy of the rules with you when you travel.

2. Show Me The Money – If you are bumped how much compensation are you due?

  • If you are bumped from a domestic flight and will arrive at your destination more than 2 hours past your original scheduled arrival time, you can collect 4x the cost of a one-way ticket or up to $1,300 cash.
  • If you are bumped and arrive within 1 to 2 hours of your original scheduled arrival time you are due 2x the cost of a one-way ticket or up to $650
  • International flights have different rules, you are due up to the $650 for delays from 1-4 hours and up to $1,300 for delays over 4 hours.
  • If you are owed money it is best to get a check instead of a travel voucher (a free round-trip flight, for example),  because vouchers come with restrictions and can be difficult to redeem.

3. Book The Right Airline –  JetBlue and Virgin America have almost NO overbooking or bumping issues. In fact, JetBlue has NEVER oversold a flight. Another reason I love that airline.

4. Who Gets Bumped? – If the airline has to bump a passenger they will usually choose them in this order:

  • Last To Check In – This is why it is so important to check in online 24 hours in advance.
  • Paid The Lowest Fare – If you are like me and are a fare shopper, really there is not much you can do for this item.
  • Don’t have advance seat assignments – When you purchase your flights make sure to choose your seat.  This is even more important when flying with families.   At the very least when you do your online check in confirm or choose your seats.   If you do not have an assigned seat in advance of going to the airport, make sure you arrive early to get a seat or at least be at the top of the list.

5. Join Airline Frequent Flyer Programs –  This will at least give you some status in the pecking order for who gets bumped. Make sure your frequent flyer number is attached to your reservation.

6. Fly Early in the Day –  This helps to avoid those passengers who were bumped or cancelled earlier in the day.

7. Fly Direct – The fewer flights you have to take the less chance you have of being bumped.

8. Buy an Upgrade – If you have a coach ticket you can purchase a seat upgrade to make it less likely for you to be bumped. Coach passengers are the first to be bumped.

9. Avoid The Rush – Try to avoid peak travel days.  Best days to travel are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.   Beware of holiday travel. The day before Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday periods can also be called “bump season”

10. How Do You Get Rebooked? – Once your original flight has left then work with the gate agent to get you booked on your new flight.  As well, the gate agent is usually the person who needs to process your compensation for being bumped.

11. The Exception To The Rule – There are a few exceptions to bumping rule and how you are to be compensated:

  • If an airline must substitute a smaller plane for the one it originally planned to use, the carrier isn’t required to pay people who are bumped as a result.
  • Flights on an aircraft with 30 through 60 passenger seats, do not owe compensation if you were bumped due to safety-related aircraft weight or balance constraints.

Of course, it is best to do all you can to avoid being bumped in the first place.  But if you are bumped make sure to know your rights and make sure you are compensated.

 

 

By Kimberly Milnes

Book It!! Best Times to Buy Air

I have been doing a lot of airline research lately for my clients.  Prices seem to be out of control with no end in sight.  I have seen $400-$700 fares from NYC to Orlando for Spring Break travel,  when in the past I have traveled for $200-$250.  Basically, if you want to travel at peak times the airlines want you to pay peak prices and charge you a service fee!

I know with families it can be hard to plan a trip far in advance, but if you want to make sure you do not use all of your travel budget on airfare, then here are some tips and information to make sure you save money.

Domestic Tickets

  • Best time to buy a ticket? Research shows 6-7 weeks before departure is the best time to purchase your tickets, but that can change depending on when and where you want to travel.
  • Best day to search for air? As I have said before, it still looks like 3pm on Tuesday is a great time to search. As well, around midnight most other days.
  • Is it best to book early? You can sometimes book too early.  Airlines on average start to mange their domestic flights about 3 months in advance of departure dates.  This is the time they will start to release cheaper seats. On average flights 6 months before departure have shown a 20% higher price then fares 3 months out.

Europe and Abroad

  • Is it best to book early? Yes, if you are leaving the United States then start your search early.  Research shows the best average prices can be found 9 months to 6 months out from departure.
  • Will there be a sale on fares? Depending on when and where you want to fly, fare sales to International locations will start appearing between 5-2 months from departure date.
  • How can I try to get a great deal on air? Get a gauge of prices by searching at least 6 months from you travel date. Then make sure to sign up for a fare watching site, like Airfarewatchdog, FareCompare or Yapta.

Holiday and Peak Travel Flights

  • Europe for Summer – Research shows that the lowest average fares are around 31 weeks from departure. But, really you should start researching air 5-6 months before your departure dates.  So for summer travel that means January or February getting air locked in.
  • Winter Flights to Caribbean and Ski Destinations –  Since these destinations are so popular during the Winter it will be hard to find a good deal.  Again, it is best to plan ahead and start your search 4-5 months before departure.
  • Holiday and School Break Travel – The airlines know these are BUSY times to travel so prices are going to be high.   If you know you want to travel for Christmas or a school holiday like Spring Break then you need to plan early. Early means at least 6 months in advance.  So, if you are going to travel at Christmas then you should be researching or purchasing your air in June.

 

 

 

 

By Kimberly Milnes

Canceled?! What Do You Do?

 

Well, as I am sure you have seen on the news over and over this past week the airports have been closed, flights canceled, delayed and many passengers are stranded.  The snow and freezing over the last week has canceled over 20,000 flights.  Jet Blue actually closed services at 4 airports for over 17 hours, canceling over 1800 flights.  All of this means passengers are stranded and need to be rescheduled or even worse, having to cancel travel plans all together.

So what do you do when your flight is canceled and how do you prepare for this situation in the future:

1. Call your Travel Agent

This is one of the big reasons to use an agent. We are here to be your advocate and to help fix problems when they arise.  As well, we can advise on the best plan of action.  If I know I have clients traveling I am watching the weather to try to avoid you being stuck at the airport.

2. Get in Line and on the Phone

If you are already at the airport when your flight is canceled, then get in line at your gate or go to the help desk.  At the same time you should be on your phone to the airline. This way you have 2 options to fix your situation.

3.  Get Online to Rebook

If you flight is canceled you can try to rebook through the airline website.   Once you are rebooked you  can go out to the airport check-in kiosk and print a new boarding pass.  If your bags are already checked in make sure you check with an agent as well to get your bags re-routed.

4. Twitter and Facebook

Follow and Like the airline, then you can see any updates or information that the airline might be posting. As well, make sure to tweet or post about your situation and make sure to add a # with the airlines name in the post. Airlines are really following social media these days and you may get a response.  You can even send the airline a direct message via Twitter.

5. Know Your Rights

Airlines are not obligated to compensate you for canceled domestic flights.  There is Rule 240 which states that for non-weather related cancelations or delays the airline must put you on the next available flight, either on their airline or a competitor.  If it is a weather cancelation then the airline must still put you on the next flight, however they do NOT have to put you on a competitor airline.

6. Buy Travel Insurance

I think when traveling with families and small children it is ALWAYS a good idea to buy travel insurance.  As well, if you are going to be flying in the winter or taking a cruise during hurricane season then I really think it is worth the cost.   In the end, spending a few $100 can save you $1000’s.

7. Avoid Layovers and Connecting Flights

I realize this is not always possible, but if you are traveling in the winter especially it is a good idea. You don’t want to get on your first flight then be stuck at the connecting airport, especially since you will have NO baggage.   If you do have to have a connecting flight in the winter then try to route yourself through a southern airport to help avoid the bad weather.

8. Know Your Phone Numbers

Make sure to have easy access to the phone numbers for the airline, travel agent, hotel, etc. I keep a list in the notes section of my smart phone.  This is really important if you are somewhere and there is no wi-fi to be able to look up the numbers.

9.  Make a Change Before You are Canceled

During this recent storm many of the airlines allowed passengers to rebook in advance with no additional fees as long as they were traveling on listed dates or through specific airports. Check the airlines website for dates and information.  As well, if you do not have any flexibility in your travel dates the airline might let you cancel your flight and receive a refund.

10. Get a New Eticket number

If you have been rebooked on a new flight or different airline, make sure you get a new Eticket number along with your boarding pass.  This will make sure you have flight and don’t get stuck.

11. Sign Up for Flight Notifications

Make sure to sign up to be notified for any and all flight changes, delays, gate changes or updates.  These services are fast and up to date.

12. Get a Hotel Room ASAP

If your canceled flight means you have to stay the night make sure to get a room booked ASAP.  Don’t wait for the airline to get you a voucher or book you a room.  Most likely you are the not the only person needing a room, so don’t get stuck sleeping at the airport.   Of course, first call your travel agent, if you did not use an agent then a great app is Hotel Tonight.  But, you can also try Kayak or Hotels.com

13.  Be Prepared

Make sure you are loaded up with movies, books, music and more.  When traveling with children it is always a good idea to have extra diapers, formula, food, etc.  Also, if you have to check your bags make sure to bring a carry-on with extra clothes, medication and anything you will need.  If you don’t have toiletries don’t worry,  most hotels have extra toothbrush, toothpaste, combs etc. that you can get from the front desk.

14. BE PATIENT

It can be hard when you are stuck in the middle of the situation, but it will serve you well. Just know that everyone is doing their best to accommodate everyone.  As well, being nice and polite to the airline agent will certainly get you help faster than being nasty.

Here is to safe travels and being prepared.

 

By Kimberly Milnes

Top Tips For Flying with Kids

Yes, it is that look of fear and dread that takes over most parents when they think of flying with their kids. I hate to see families forgoing vacations, just for fear of what will happen when flying with their kids.  Really, it does not have to be that bad.  But, as I have said before, being prepared is half the battle. So to go along my article last week on  family friendly airlines, I wanted to share some of my top tips to take the hassle, fear and stress out of flying.
1. Make sure to check in online 24 hours in advance, as well as double check your seat assignments.  I know some airlines will as if you want to check in for your return flight as well, I say NO.   I did this recently and even though I had booked seats in advance and double checked on the way out, the airline changed my seat on the return flight.

2. Give yourself plenty of time at the airport.  Security lines seem to be longer and longer lately. Make sure you have enough time to check bags, get through security and get to the gate.

3. If the airport is busy, check your bags at the curb. For the small tip, it saves waiting in line and having to drag your bags and family through the airport.

4. Bring your stroller to the plane to fold and check at the gate.  It will be waiting for you when you get off the plane. It is much easier navigating the airport if you have the kids “secured” in the stroller.

5. Check the TSA Rules on liquids for kids, you are allowed extra allowance for formula, juice etc.  Here is a link to a great TSA blog which addresses traveling through the airport with children.

6. Remember kids 12 and under do not have to remove their shoes when going through security.

7. Most airlines no longer offer milk on board. Make sure to have enough with you in case there is a delay.  As well, a shelf stable milk like Parmalat or Horizon, is a good choice.

8. Most airlines will check strollers and car seats for FREE if you are not bringing on board the plane.

9. Pack extra “everything” in your carry-on bag.  Make sure you have enough diapers, snacks, extra clothes just in case of delay.  Check out my Busy Mom’s Vacation Planning Kit for my Airplane Survival Packing List.

10. Entertainment, Entertainment, Enterainment!!  Make sure you have books, toys, DVD player, crayons/makers, etc.  Lots of different items to keep them entertained.  As well, go to the dollar store and have an emergency stash of “new” toys or such to pull out in a meltdown emergency.

11.  Make sure you speak to the airline before bringing a car seat on the plane. Not all car seats are allowed. As well, in the end it is up to the flight attendant if you are allowed to use it. Also, check out the other FAA approved child restraints, like Kids Fly Safe.

12. Prepare the ears of little ones for take-off and landing. For babies, you can nurse or give them a bottle.  Toddlers suckers, sippies or even gum are good options.

13. When my boys were little I would bring Starbucks’s gift cards to hand out to my seat neighbors just in case of meltdown’s.  I loved this idea from some new parents.

14.  While some airlines will let you pre-board, I say wait as long as possible to board the plane. Let the little ones run around, get a last potty stop, basically wear them out.  If you are on Southwest, you will want to get on as soon as possible to make sure you have seats together.

15. If you have a favorite airline make sure to sign up for emails and follow them on twitter to get sales not advertised to the general public.

16. If you have more than 1 airport close to you make sure to check prices from the other airports. You might have to drive a bit longer, but you might save a bundle.

So, like the Boy Scouts flying is all about “being prepared”.  If you are prepared at least you will have the tools to try to fix the situation.

 

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New Carry-On Bag Rules – Don’t Get Stuck Paying Another Fee!