31 Jan Travelling during holidays
Would you like to avoid the symptom, I like to call the AIRPORT HOLIDAY CRAZIES ??
I have recently retired after working at the airport for an international carrier for 38 years. I have passed on advice to many passengers at the check in counter and the departure gates. Over the years I saw problems that were repeated every holiday season and my heart went out to those that were not well informed. Often reservations were booked and tickets issued months in advance. The reservations and electronic tickets were not given a second glance until the passengers were at the airport… and then the confusion began.. flights missed due to schedule changes, seat assignments not there, names incorrect, expired drivers licences, so many stressful situations that could have been avoided. Here is my list of important information for anyone travelling by air. It is my wish for you to take away at least one piece of advice that may be relevant to you.
Happy Travels and I wish you a very stress free airport experience.
- Airlines have schedule changes at least twice a year. If you have booked months in advance do not assume your flight times or flight numbers will be the same.
- Find your airline booking reference also known as a confirmation number. RECONFIRM your flight times and airline flight number directly with each carrier before you travel. In most cases you can retrieve your booking online. You may have to contact the airline directly for assistance. You can phone in and give your ticket number as a reference. ( your ticket number is a 13-digit number)
- Before you pack your suitcase review the airline’s BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE and verify if there are any associated fees. Check the weight allowance. You can prepay your baggage fee online with credit card. If you use debit or cash to pay for your baggage, payment must be done at the airport directly with an agent.. Be sure to arrive early to allow extra time to pay for your fees as most likely you will be in a line up.
- Passengers travelling with most airlines are allowed one free piece of CARRY-ON and one personal item. Your carry on must be able to fit into the sizing device. (wheels included) If your carry on is too large you may have to check it and pay applicable baggage fees. This could be very costly especially if this over-sized carry on is now considered a third checked bag.
- To find out what you can pack in your carry-on and not have problems going through security, see the catsa website: www.catsa.gc.ca/whatcanibring *Always keep your house/car keys, travel documents, prescription medication, cell phone/laptop and money with you packed in your personal item. One days worth of clothing, earbuds, are also in my carry on.
- Check on your flight times before you leave home. Try an airline app www.flightstats.com. or go to your airlines website. It is very possible that by the time you get to the airport your flight status will have changed.
- Make sure your name and spelling on your reservation/ticket matches the identification you are using to board the flight. Contact the airline or travel agent immediately if there is an error with your name. Do not wait until you are at the airport to have your name error fixed. If you have to scan your passport for international or trans border departures and your name is not spelled correctly you may have difficulties using a self check in kiosk. This slows everything down for you and you will need to see a check in agent in person or may be directed to call the carrier directly while at the airport. We all know what a tiresome stressful situation that could be. As a former check in agent at the airport I have seen first names on drivers licence that differ on their passports. Remember the ID shown must match with your electronic ticket.
- Check the expiry date on both your passport and driver’s license. You cannot travel with an expired driver’s licence or passport. Photo copies are not allowed. Certain destinations outside of North America require passports to be valid 3 or 6 months after your return. If your sending your elderly parent on their own, please check what type of identification they are bringing and do check the expiry date. See the Catsa website: https://otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/publication/your-travel-documents
- **Check the airlines recommended check in time. Normally you are advised to arrive no later than 90 minutes prior to the departure of a domestic flight and two hours prior to an international flight. However I advise you to add **extra hour on to your advised airport arrival time if you have baggage to check during holiday travel season.
- *** Always check yourself in 24 hours in advance. Checking in 24 hours in advance is complimentary with most airlines. This is the time of year I do recommend paying for your seat assignment in advance. If you wait until 24 hours prior you are not guaranteed to sit together even if you have a booking of two or more. If you are a party of 3 or more and seat map is not showing seats together, try looking for 2 seats together and go from there. I strongly recommend to pick random seats if you have to. Most airlines over sell by a small percentage. You are ahead with a seat assignment. Assign your seats with what is shown on the seat map and kindly request adjustment at the airport. The agents will assist you if possible, however most likely this may not be done until your at the gate. Families with young children are a priority. Remember for stress free travel purchase seat assignment when you book for the holiday time. Please note when there are schedule changes to your itinerary it is possible your seat assignment will change often due to switching to a different size of aircraft. Check on your seat assignment each time you reconfirm.
- Always plan to give yourself extra time to get to the airport to check in, drop off your baggage, and go through security or customs. It is extremely important to adhere to the minimum cut-off times for check-in or baggage drop off. There is also a cutoff time for boarding at the departure gates. That gate agent is required to finish boarding and work on very important paper work and pass on load and balance information that must be computed within the last ten – 15 minutes of the flight. Even though the aircraft is sitting there doesn’t mean the gate agent can board you within the appointed cut off time. Unfortunately we have all experienced delays even after everyone has been boarded for various reasons. It is still very important to be at the gate by the time shown on the boarding card.
Give yourself the gift of time! Read my travel tips, arrive early at the airport and have coffee in the gate area.
You wont be sorry. Happy Travels!
To read about the flight delays please see the link below on “Keep Calm and Travel On”