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Travel Tip from Isabel Swift

February 24, 2011 by in category From Isabel Swift tagged as ,

Frequent air travelers may already have figured this one out, but this has proved helpful to me. I hope it will be helpful to you.

Advice on what to do when you are at the airport and discover your flight has been delayed:

It has been my experience that airlines representatives will avoid direct lying, but may not always tell the truth (exactly) and often not the whole truth (especially not in announcements). So the challenge is to figure out what are the right questions to ask. Questions that will compel them to deliver real information (Vs whatever they need to do to keep everyone calm).

So if there’s a delay, start with the question:

– Is the equipment in? (that is, is the plane assigned to fly you out actually here). This is especially important when there are weather issues.

If it is not, where is it coming from? Has it taken off? If not, why not, are planes taking off from that airport? How long does it take to get here from there? Have there been delays landing at your airport.

If it is in, why is there a delay?

– Is it mechanical (what is wrong, what is happening, any time estimate? is there an alternative plane available if it doesn’t get fixed? Is there an alternative flight available if it doesn’t get fixed?)

If it is not mechanical, what is it? Are all the crew here? If not, where are they coming from? When will they likely arrive? This usually doesn’t come into play unless a plan is delayed a long time & at a late hour, but crews can “expire” or time out. They are legally mandated not to work for more than a certain number of hours. Once thunderstorms kept all planes grounded for hours until quite late at night. Planes had to wait for a certain amount of time after any lightning event and there came a point that a couple of members of the crew would simply time out. There were no replacements available at that point, so the flight would be cancelled & we’d all have to go home & come back the next day. We squeaked in, but it’s worth asking about the crew if you’ve had a long delay & need to get a clearer picture of the variables to make plans.

My eye opening experience was once when I was flying out of Toronto, and the plane was delayed.

Airline: board indicates flight is 1/2 hour delayed. It’s winter and there is “weather.”

– Me to airline representative behind gate: why is it delayed? Is the equipment in?

– Airline: Equipment coming in was delayed, but is due in shortly & we’ll turn it around quickly.

– Me: Where is it coming from?

– Airline: (pause) I’ll have to check….. Chicago.

– Me: Thanks–but isn’t the weather coming from Chicago? Has it taken off yet?

– Airline: (pause) I’ll have to check….. No it is still on the runway.

– Me: Oh. Thanks. Are any flights taking off from Chicago right now?

– Airline: (pause) I’ll have to check….yes, they have just started flying out of Chicago.

– Me: Do you know where it is in line for take off?

– Airline: I don’t know, but it’s on the runway, not at the gate, so it’s in line (a bit long-suffering at this point).

– Me: Great! Once it takes off, how long a flight is it from Chicago?

– Airline: A little over an hour.

– Me: And then it’s about 1/2 hour to turn the plane around, right?

– Airline: Yes (a bit terse).

– Me: So with waiting for take off, travel time and turnaround time, it doesn’t look like the 1/2 hour late on the board is likely to happen, more like 2 hours if we’re lucky, right?

– Airline: (surly) Yes.

– Me: Thanks. Guess I’ll go get something to eat….

And remember, don’t kill the messenger. They are a key player in helping you, so alienating them by venting is not only not fair, it is not in your best interest.

So the moral of this story (and so many others) is:

What questions should you be asking?

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