Basic Air Travel
Basic Air Travel
Jen Leo (Daily Deal Blogger, LA Times Travel Section) gives expert video advice on: What is the process for checking in at the airport?; What are rules for "carry-on" luggage?; What happens if the airline loses my luggage? and more...
What is the process for checking in at the airport?
If you've never been to an airport before and this is your first flight there are a number of steps you need to take. You will be required to check in, get your boarding pass, check your luggage and then proceed to the security gate and eventually to your designated departure gate. Airport check-in is when you let the airline know that you are there. The airline will have someone check your I.D., usually your driver's license or your passport, they will check to see if you have any luggage with you and, if you're going to be checking that luggage, they will then give you your boarding pass with your gate number on it so you may proceed to the gate through security.
What other types of check-in are available at the airport?
Curbside check-in is that little desk right on the sidewalk where the skycap is there ready to check you in, take your baggage, and give you your boarding pass. Sometimes, the line is a little shorter than inside at the baggage check-in desk, but it comes with a price. You're required to at least tip the skycap or sometimes there's a mandatory fee of two dollars per bag right there on a sign as you check in at the line. A self-service check-in is a know it all computer that knows who you are as soon as you put in your ID or your credit card. What you do is you verify who you are, and that you're on the next flight and what seat you want, and then it prints out your boarding pass for you, right then and there; nobody needs to help you.
Is there a limit to the amount of luggage I can check?
There is absolutely a limit to the number of bags you can check on a plane. You can't just move in your whole apartment with boxes and gigantic suitcases. Usually the limit to the number of bags is two, but it varies from airline to airline. Check each airline for their own personal requirements before you book your ticket. If your bags are over the weight limit, you will be charged. Please do note that the weight allowances can vary domestically versus international. If you're going on an international trip, and traveling through several different airlines throughout the course of your vacation, make sure you know what the bag restrictions are with each airline, because they do vary as you cross overseas.
What are rules for "carry-on" luggage?
Usually, you're only allotted two carry-on bags - one to go under your seat or the overhead compartment, and the other to be a personal item, such as a purse or a laptop computer. If you are one of the last people to board a plane, sometimes you're asked to check one of your larger pieces of luggage at the gate if the plane is already full.
What happens if the airline loses my luggage?
If you can't find your bag once you get off the plane, know that you are not alone. This happens to a lot of passengers. What you do is go directly to the airline desk and start filling out the paperwork, letting them know that your baggage has been lost. Sometimes it's just on the flight behind you and they will deliver it to you later. Otherwise, you might have to file a claim and wait for reimbursement from the airline.
What does "overbooking" mean?
Overbooking has been in the news a lot lately. All it means is that they've sold more tickets than there are seats for that flight, which is a scandal. Airlines often overbook because they like to fly full flights, so they will sell more tickets than there are seats because a few people just might not show up. This is overbooking. If your flight is overbooked, they might ask you to give up your seat, and if they don't ask you to give up your seat, they might do it for you. The incentive is they might offer you travel credit, a meal voucher or a free ticket in exchange for taking a different flight and relieving the overbooking.
What is "standby"?
Standby is when you have a ticket for one flight, but you want to go on an earlier flight and get to your destination a little sooner. You check in, see if there are any other seats available on an earlier flight and wait for it. If the seats are empty, you can go standby. One tip for flying standby is to use the check-in desk instead of the kiosk. What you want to do is ask a live person if there is any availability on an earlier flight. They'll be able to let you know and send you to the appropriate gate where you can get your name on a waiting list. Go early, because the sooner you get there the higher up your name will be on the standby waiting list.
Why do I have to be at the airport so early?
These days it is best to arrive at least two hours early, if you are flying domestically. If you are on an International Flight you want to arrive three hours early; this alleviates stress and it also gives you plenty of time to go through the security gate. You want to make sure you get to the airport early, at least two hours ahead of time, because security clearance has been ramped up and it can take a long time to get through the security gate. With the procedures that they have today, you may need to take off your shoes, jacket and belt. You need to take your laptop out of its bag and you may have to make sure your change is in its special compartment, so you can use up to four or five trays sometimes to get through the security gate. With everybody lined up to get on their flight, this can take quite a while. This is why it is good to be at the airport early.
What happens if I miss my connecting flight because my first flight was late?
If you need to be re-booked on a flight because you've missed a connection, you want to check with your airline provider to see if there's another flight that you can get on for free. Sometimes, if there are none available and all the flights are full you might have to change airlines, and in this case you might be charged a fee or even another price of a ticket. The airline is responsible if it was due to mechanical failure, but if it was weather and you were caught in some snowstorm for example, they are not responsible for booking you on another flight.
If my flight is cancelled or I'm bumped, what is airline's obligation?
If the flight that you want to be re-booked on is full and you have to wait until the next day, sometimes the airline will put you up in a hotel. But if they don't and you need to pay for it yourself, try asking the hotel (nearby an airport) for the distressed passenger discount. Then you can maybe get a better deal on the overnight stay. If you're bumped and the airline is going to offer you some compensation, try and get a cheque rather than a flight voucher. Cash in hand is always better than a flight voucher because the vouchers could have blackout dates, restricting you from travelling anytime you want. Whereas, with the cash, you can use it for whatever you want, or you can re-book a brand new ticket.
What are "blackout" dates?
Blackout dates are restricted days of travel. So, if you are on a discounted flight, then the blackout dates are dates you cannot travel on, such as holidays or special high peak season vacation times. But these blackout dates vary from airline to airline so you want to make sure you check with your provider before you book your ticket.
What is the standard "connection time" between flights?
The standard "connection time" between flights is usually about 45 minutes to an hour and a half, but if you're traveling overseas, the "connection time" can be upwards of two, four, even five or six hours, between flights.