It seems every day the airlines announce a new setback— flight cutbacks, higher prices, staff layoffs, and the like. With downsized airline crews struggling to man full flights, you might not always get reliable customer service. Given the perilous state of the industry, it's more important than ever to be a prepared traveler:
- Know all the details of your flight. Be sure to have flight numbers, times, departure gates, and other pertinent information. You may also want to sign up for airline alerts. These automatic flight updates can be sent right to your email inbox, cell phone, or PDA, giving you the latest info even while you're en route.
- Be aware of all possible fees you may have to pay at the gate and on the plane, including charges for checked baggage, overweight or oversized bags, beverages, and snacks. Being informed in advance allows you to plan accordingly, and can prevent both confusion and aggravation once you're at the airport.
- In the case of delays, cancellations, and weather-related headaches, don't hesitate to double-check your information with more than one gate agent or customer-service representative. Put your cell phone to use while waiting in long ticket lines to get speedier service. Suggest alternate hubs, distressed-traveler rates at airport hotels, or future flight credits if options seem bleak.
Sadly, the days of service with a smile may be long gone—at the airport at least. But the more you know in advance, the better you'll be prepared for any snafu.
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