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'Defensive Flying' Tips

How to Reduce Chances of Problems

Most airline trips are uneventful. However, you can take steps to reduce even further your chances of encountering problems. Here is some advice for "defensive flying."

  1. When selecting a flight, remember that a departure early in the day is less likely to be delayed than a later flight, due to “ripple” effects throughout the day.  If you book the last flight of the day, you could get stuck overnight. 
  2. If you have a choice between two connections and the fares and service are equivalent, choose the one with the less-congested connecting airport.  This reduces the risk of misconnecting.  Also consider potential adverse seasonal weather when choosing a connecting city. 
  3. Consider paying by credit card, which provides certain protections under Federal credit regulations.  For example, in airline bankruptcies passengers who have charged their fare and were not provided service are usually able to have their credit card company credit their account for the amount of the fare. 
  4. As soon as you receive your itinerary/confirmation, check to make sure all of the information on it is correct, including your name.  Ask for any necessary corrections to be made immediately
  5. When you fly, bring a copy of the itinerary or receipt that you received at the time of purchase.  Also bring a photo I.D.;  it will be requested at the security checkpoint.  Airlines don’t permit tickets to be used by other persons, so make sure your name on the ticket is exactly the same as it appears on the I.D. 
  6. Go online a couple of days before your flight to check the status of your flights  Flight schedules sometimes change, and while airlines usually call or email to notify you if this happens, it’s wise to double-check.  Consider printing your boarding pass online before going to the airport.
  7. Check in early.  Airlines rescind specific advance seat assignments if you don’t have a boarding pass 30 minutes before scheduled departure.  You can lose your entire reservation if you  are not at the gate 10 to 15 minutes before scheduled departure time on a domestic flight (longer on international flights).  Allow time for traffic, parking problems, and clearing security.  If a flight is oversold, the last passengers to check in are the first to be bumped, even if they have met the check-in deadlines. 
  8. If you are bumped because your flight is oversold, read the Overbooking Notice in your confirmation, then ask for a copy of the rules mentioned in that notice.  This information applies to oversales, where your flight operates and leaves you behind; it does not apply to canceled or delayed flights. 
  9. Before agreeing to accept a travel voucher as compensation for being bumped, ask about restrictions.  Many vouchers have “blackout” dates during peak periods, and the number of seats on a flight for which a voucher can be used is limited.
  10. Put a tag on the outside of your baggage with your name, home address, and home and work phone numbers.  The airlines provide free tags.  Most carriers also have “privacy tags” which conceal this information from passersby.
  11. Put the same information inside each bag, and add an address and telephone number where you can be reached at your destination city.
  12. Verify that the agent checking your bags attaches a destination tag to each one.  Check to see that these tags show the three-letter code for your destination airport.  Remove tags from previous trips to avoid confusion. 
  13. If your bag arrives open or unlocked, check immediately to see if any of the contents are missing or damaged.
  14. Report any baggage problems to your airline before leaving the airport.  Insist that the airline create a record and give you a copy, even if they say the bag will be in on the next flight.  Before leaving the airport, ask the airline if they will deliver the bag without charge when it is found. 
  15. Open your suitcase immediately when you get to your destination.  Report any damage to contents or pilferage by telephone right away.  Make a note of the date and time of the call, and the name and telephone number of the person you spoke with.
Updated: Monday, December 8, 2014