It’s time to take off for the holidays. Let’s make sure you actually make your flight — and avoid some common air travel detours.
Tip One: Check your itinerary now
Your trip might’ve changed from when you booked it — especially if you booked months ago. Airlines often change times, dates, and even airports. That was the case with Bob Vaupen in Belmont. “I was really kinda surprised. And disappointed,” he said.
His family booked tickets from SFO to Australia to take a cruise to New Zealand. They made it, but only because Bob was crafty. Here’s what happened: between the time Bob booked and the trip started, the airline, Qantas, cancelled the family’s flight from SFO. The carrier rebooked them on a flight from LAX.
“[Qantas] said they were going to book us on a partner airline back and forth to Los Angeles,” Vaupen said. “ So, we assumed they would send us tickets.”
That didn’t happen, despite several calls. So, Bob spent $2,000 worth of precious airline miles last minute to book flights from SFO to LAX so his family could catch that new Qantas flight. He then needed the NBC Bay Area Responds team’s help to get Qantas to reimburse him. Which it did.
“I’m just grateful for NBC and this program to be able to help consumers,” Vaupen said.
Qantas told us an agent made “a rebooking error.”
Tip Two: Get your airline app & enable notifications
Even Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon, the travel pro known as ‘Jet Set Sarah,’ puts the airline app at the top of her pre-travel checklist. “Before I leave for the airport, I make sure I have my airline’s app downloaded,” she said.
Credit where credit is due: airline apps are getting better — and dare we say pretty darn good — at making passengers like you aware of flight delays. That gives you an upper hand to quickly rebook if you have to.
“Oftentimes you’ll find out on the app quicker than you would on the flight information board at the airport,” Greaves-Gabbadon said.
Tip Three: Expect a delay — then pounce to rebook
We pulled the government’s newest airline numbers. They show about 25% of flights are arriving late.
If your flight is late or cancelled, some airlines let you rebook yourself with their app or online. Try that immediately — because you’re in competition with everyone else on your late or cancelled flight.
In the event your airline won’t allow DIY rebooking, work every angle: simultaneously get in line at the airport, get online with the airline’s social media accounts, and call in on your phone — even if there’s a long wait time.
Tip Four: Try to rebook in the VIP lounge — even if you’re not a member
When Greaves-Gabbadon’s plans go sideways, here’s what she does: “I head for the lounge.” The airline VIP lounge, that is.
Besides food, drink, and a partial oasis from the bustling terminal, Greaves-Gabbadon says many airline lounges also have a special, members only service desk. There’s possibly a much shorter line to rebook. If you’re not a member, Greaves-Gabbadon says don’t worry. She has a quasi-secret open door for you.
“You can buy a one day pass to most lounges,” she said. “And if you go there, you’re going to get help much faster than if you go to the general desk.”
That day pass might be money or miles well spent to rebook fast — because, once again, when an airline cancels your flight, you’re in competition with everyone else on that plane to snag whatever seats are left on alternative flights.
Tip Five: Carry-on … or check with tech
“I’m team carry on,” Greaves-Gabbadon said. “Unless I have to, I do not check a bag.”
But we get it. Sometimes you have to check your bags. The good news is that the federal airline report we pulled shows less than 1% of baggage is late or lost, of late. Despite those favorable odds, consider dropping a WiFi tracker like an Apple AirTag in your luggage anyway — to track it down just in case your carrier loses your suitcase(s).
Tip Six: Request interim reimbursement
If your luggage doesn’t arrive with you, keep your receipts if you buy interim essentials — like toiletries or clothes. Your airline likely will reimburse for reasonable expenses. It’s written in their contract. So, we made a video showing you how to get paid, step by step.