An experienced traveler knows that travel delays and lost luggage are simply parts of travel you have to risk to enjoy the benefits. If you have never been delayed or lost your luggage, knock on wood because it’s just a matter of time. Although it will always be frustrating, there are ways of dealing with these situations that may ease the tension and lead to fast, fair, and acceptable solutions.
Preparing yourself for potential problems:
It is a great idea to try to prevent problems from happening before they actually happen by properly preparing for travel and understanding travel procedures. In addition to utilizing this guide, familiarize yourself with the travel provider’s (air, sea, or land) website where you can typically find a great deal of information regarding your source of travel. The TSA website (www.tsa.gov) may also offer you great travel tips. Assuming that travel is self explanatory is a mistake!
Should a problem arise, you are more likely to make progress to finding solutions if you are knowledgeable with the travel provider and TSA’s policies and procedures. A knowledgeable traveler will typically be confident and will keep his cool while looking for solutions instead of irrationally yelling, threatening, or acting out other desperate non-productive behaviors.
Dealing with delays:
Dealing with travel delays is mainly about attitude. If there is a travel delay, there is typically nothing you can do about it. It is important to find out what is going on, so pay attention when a delay is announced. Travel representatives typically are already working on solutions before you know there is a delay. Each traveler must be dealt with on a case by case basis, as many have different final destinations. Your travel transportation may be delayed for a few minutes or hours, or even cancelled. In some cases the travel provider may put you on a competing travel carrier’s transport to make the situation right.
It is not a bad idea to keep major travel providers’ contact information such as airlines, ships, and buses handy in your cell phone. If you know that you are stranded, start calling other travel providers. Oftentimes the clock is ticking, and it is a race against other stranded travelers to find alternatives. If you were smart and purchased travel insurance, you may have less to worry about than you think.
Keep in mind that, as frustrating as it is, the travel industry cannot control the weather. The travel industry is also closely monitored on scheduled maintenance, but mechanical difficulties still cannot be predicted with 100% accuracy. Delays typically cost the travel industry thousands of dollars, so they don’t like it any more than you do! Having this information does not make the reality of your frustrating travel delay go away, but it should help you to be more understanding and be able to more rationally approach the travel representatives in search of solutions. Even if you are dealing with a nearly impossible situation where you may risk missing another connection, try to remain calm. Your adrenaline will undoubtedly be pumping, and your anxiety level will be off the scale, but sometimes there is just not much you can do. Prepare yourself before any flight for worst case scenarios.
Dealing with lost luggage:
Considering how many thousands of bags the travel industry deal with every day, it’s a wonder more bags are not lost. All things considered, an experienced traveler knows that it’s a rare occasion to have significant issues with lost luggage. Having said that, if you have never lost luggage, travel enough, and your day will come.
You can do a lot to prevent luggage from disappearing by following simple travel provider’s and TSA’s suggestions, policies, and procedures, as well as using common since. Not getting your bags on time may be just the beginning of your problems; you may not get them at all! Make sure your luggage size and weight are within the limits advertised by your travel provider. If you are using multiple travel providers such as switching air carriers, using “island hoppers,” bus transfers, etc., label your luggage well and put additional contact information inside your bag. Make distinct markings on your bags so they won’t be confused by other travelers. Keep your luggage in direct contact until you release it to the travel provider. Lost luggage often occurs in parking lot shuttles. Know how to ID and describe your bag and its contents in detail.
Keep your luggage tracking number that will typically be a small sticker placed on the jacket of your boarding pass (or equivalent) given to you upon checking in.
Make absolutely sure that you take all of your medications, cell phone, chargers, and anything else you may need in the event that your luggage is lost. Most people would agree that it is much better to have lost luggage on the way home so you at least have everything you need while on vacation. Once you are at your destination and you do not have all of your luggage, keep your cool, the travel provider will usually be very helpful in getting you the necessities. If you start demanding “gold plated hair dryers” and other non-essential items, they will more than likely lose interest in going out their way to help you. If you lose your luggage on the return flight, typically they will drop it off at your house in the next few days.
Making it right
Many travelers understand that all businesses are going to have problems; how each company deals with those problems is what determines how good of a company they are.
Many businesses, especially the travel industry, deal with irrational people every day who leave them with a low tolerance for jerks. Many irrational travelers believe that the travel industry can control weather. That is obviously not true. They can also only do so much to predict mechanical difficulties. These irrational travelers make it tough on good travelers because the travel representatives don’t know if you are just looking for a “handout” or have a legitimate issue.
If you approach a travel representative with a smile and let them know that you are in need of assistance, you will usually get someone who sympathizes with your situation and is eager to find solutions. Don’t be afraid to let them know the urgency of your situation but don’t overreact and push the “panic button” or lie about the urgency of your situation if it is a minor issue. Typically the people you are dealing with are not the cause of your problem, so don’t treat them like they are. If you keep your cool and a smile on your face, they know that you are not a jerk like the people they have undoubtedly been dealing with all day.
Depending on the severity of your situation you may on a “case by case” basis be entitled to airline gift certificates of various amounts, food and hotel vouchers, toiletry kits or allowances, upgrades to first class, etc. Sometimes airline vouchers or reimbursements must be mailed out to you at a later date.
If your luggage is damaged or something is missing, make sure you make the claim right there. It is difficult to file a claim once you have left the airport, and you may have to pay for damages to your luggage and contents yourself.
- Take a photograph of ALL items laid out next to your luggage. This will ensure you do not forget to claim anything lost and assist your case in receiving a claim. For extra credit you may lay your current travel documents in a legible fashion next to your luggage as well for the purpose of photographic evidence.
- Consult with your home/renters insurance carrier prior to traveling, and tell them you are leaving the USA with $xxxx worth of valuables. More than likely they will suggest you need more coverage. An articles policy is standard.
- If your current insurance is inadequate, go to the DAN website (www.diversalertnetwork.org) and click on insurance, then equipment. It’s very inexpensive compared to a full loss. Travel providers are reluctant to pay on claims usually due to excessive amounts of fraud and other variables. Check the travel providers’ policies before traveling.
- If your equipment is stolen, most insurance carriers will require a police report.
- If you feel that your travel provider(s) are responsible, make sure you claim it BEFORE you leave the airport.