If you think every trip will go according to plan with no snafus whatsoever, you must live on Planet Perfect and fly Ideal Airlines.
Or else you don’t fly much. Stuff happens, but for almost any problem there is a solution. Here are some of the most common.
Listen as Rick Seaney reveals his own bag snafu, and how it changed the way he travels:
5 Travel Problems, 5 Fixes
1. Lost ID
U.S. identification: If you don’t have your driver’s license or the ID you typically show at airport security, don’t panic. Explain to the TSA officer what happened. If you have any other ID on you, offer it up but whether you have anything or not, be prepared to undergo a few minutes of questioning. Afterwards, you are almost always allowed to proceed. As travel expert Rick Seaney has said, “Be nice, too. Remember, the officer isn’t the one who lost your ID.”
Passport: Contact the State Department immediately, which provides a link at their handy site, Travel.State.Gov. It also includes information on getting an emergency replacement passport and a list of country-by-country offices where you can do this.
2. Lost bag
Before you fly: First, do not pack valuables. Airlines rarely reimburse you for anything considered valuable (and this can include something as mundane as eyeglasses). Second, take a picture of your bag before departure, if only to remember exactly what it looks like in order to describe it on forms you’ll fill out if it goes missing. Also make sure you have identification both outside and inside the bag (in case the exterior tag gets ripped off).
After the flight: If your bag is missing, do not leave the airport without making a report. It may not be good enough to go home and call later so find the airline baggage office (typically located near the bag carousel) and make a report. Before leaving the airport, get a contact number so you can stay in touch. Remember, only a tiny fraction of bags ever goes missing and most are reunited with their owners within 24 hours.
3. Wrong airline, wrong airport or wrong destination
Think this couldn’t happen? David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times wrote about a couple that inadvertently went to the wrong continent! The mistake was the airline’s, but had they studied their flight receipt carefully, they might have caught the error. Check your online flight info or paperwork for errors and especially note airport abbreviations. If you think you’re flying in and out of Chicago’s Midway but the airport abbreviation is ORD, you’re flying Chicago’s O’Hare.
Bottom line: Pay attention. When the flight attendant welcomes you aboard the flight to Dhaka (Bangladesh), don’t think they’re just mispronouncing Dakar (Senegal). If you have the slightest question in your mind, ask. Then talk to the airline immediately to try and get this straightened out but that’s a heck of a lot easier to do before your board the plane.
4. Overweight bag
Charges for overweight bags can be extremely steep – in the hundreds of dollars on some airlines – and that’s in addition to the checked-bag fee. Know your airline’s weight limits, and pack accordingly. If you get to the airport and the bag is overweight, spread your belongings around to traveling companions who packed lighter. If you’re flying solo, consider ditching heavy-but-cheap items including shampoos and other packed liquids.
5. Delayed or missed flight
This is more common in summer than you might think, thanks to thunder and lightning storms.
Before you fly: Make sure you’ve given yourself plenty of time to make a connecting flight. If you can’t miss a connection, a hour between planes may not be nearly enough.
After the delay: Speed is of the essence – you need to secure the next seat out as quickly as possible. Try these three methods and do them simultaneously:
- Tweet: Use Twitter to alert the airline to the problem. Some airlines respond to these distress calls first.
- Get in line: Find the nearest gate agent and get in line. While waiting, look up alternative routes (even on other airlines) as this could save time.
- Get on the phone: While you’re in line, call the airline. It may be faster than the queue you’re in.