Air travels, especially long distance flights, are stressful, but they can be even more so if there are incidents such as unforeseen delays, cancellations, interruptions and others. I experienced one such delay during my recent trip and my blog post on it received numerous comments, suggestions, ideas which were not only useful but also something all of us should know and be aware of.
I have compiled all these ideas, suggestions, feedback below to help you all plan for your next trip and be prepared in case you find yourself in a similar situation. Feel free to customize your plans based on your own requirement and comforts.
Based on my own experiences, comments received and feedback, I will keep on updating this post.
Most favored airlines
According to a recent airline travel awards, the world’s top 10 airlines are as follows –
2. Qatar Airways
3. Singapore Airlines
4. ANA All Nippon Airways
5. Asiana Airlines
6. Cathay Pacific Airways
7. Etihad Airways
8. Garuda Indonesia
9. Turkish Airlines
10. Qantas Airways
(Refer this link http://www.worldairlineawards.com/ for the entire list.)
- For Indian travelers – Middle Eastern (ME) and Asian airlines are considered better. As far as possible, try to avoid the US and the EU airlines.
- In ME airlines, a lot of people had good things to say about Emirates, Qatar and Etihad airlines but at the same time some people had also highlighted issues with each of these airlines.
- In Asian airlines, everyone seems to have had good experiences with Singapore airlines and they seem pretty accommodative too (my personal experience as well!). Readers have also had good experiences with Air Asia, Korean, Cathay Pacific etc. There are mixed reactions to Malaysian, Qantas and Thai Airways.
- For India, Jet seems to be more favored than Air India. Though a lot of people have written good things about Air India too. For travel within India, I prefer Indigo Airlines.
- Amongst European Airlines, people seem to have had better experiences with Lufthansa, KLM and Swiss Air.
My take– In my own personal experience, Singapore airlines is the best but often not the most cost-effective and thus Emirates is the next favorite option. I have had a fabulous experience with Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Jet Airways and even low cost airlines such as Air Asia, Indigo etc.
Points to keep in mind before booking a flight –
- As far as possible try to book direct flights. If that is not possible, then keep at least a 2 hour difference between connecting flights. No matter what the airlines or travel agents say, never book a flight with less than a 2 hour lay-over. Also keep in mind that in some countries you may have to commute between different domestic and international terminals and airports (such as in India) so please be sure to consult someone before booking in that case.
- Add another 30 – 45 minutes if you are transiting through ultra-busy airports such as London Heathrow, JFK New York.
- In case you are traveling with a possibility of bad weather conditions, such as fog, snow, then do plan for a longer transit time (anywhere between 4 – 6 hours).
- Always check if you have to change terminals and plan accordingly. In many of these airports traveling from one terminal to another can take upto 45 minutes to an hour.
- If you are booking flights with two separate airlines, then do keep an adequate buffer in between, as in this case both the airlines are not responsible for re-booking you in case of any delays or missing connections.
- Always check on additional connections to your destinations from an airport, should you miss your connecting flight. If possible choose a transit airport that’s better connected with more flight options for your destination.
- Depending on the direction of your flight (and as far as possible) transit through India & Asian friendly countries such as Asia and Middle East. The service is better and the added advantage of these airports is that there are more connections (should you miss your flight).
- If your next flight connection is a couple of hours away then do check on the transit visa regulations for that country. Check in advance if they provide 24 hour transit visa on your country passport and if you can step out and check-in into a hotel.
- If the transiting country does not provide a transit visa and you there is a possibility of missing a connection, then to be on the safer side, do consider the option of applying for a visa in advance, i.e. before you start your trip.
My take – Always check the difference in pricing for various options available. If the difference isn’t much, take a flight with the least hassles and connections. The headache of missed connections and wasted time is not worth a few dollars.
An airline does not necessarily always need to re-book you on a flight –
Yes, you heard it right. In case you miss a flight, the airline does not re-issue a ticket for everyone and it all depends on your situation (airport and airline).
- If you miss the connection due to the airline’s error (a delayed incoming flight, mechanical problems), the airline will give you a couple of options – either re-book you on the next available flight (their own or some other airline) or refund your ticket price.
- Depending on the local jurisdiction and laws – you are entitled to duty to care (i.e. accommodations, meals, phone calls etc). This normally depends on the time difference between the missed flight and the new connection. In many countries you need a visa to be able to step out of the airport and avail accommodation facilities.
- If you miss the connecting due to inclement weather, the airline will re-book you on the next flight but might not offer any compensation for meals or accommodations.
- If you miss your flight for reasons within your control, the airline might help you re-book, but it’s under no obligation to do so. And in majority of cases, you might have to book a new flight yourself.
- In case you have booked connections on two separate airlines then both airlines normally don’t assume responsibility for any delay or missed connections. Hence plan for adequate time difference between two flights.
Things to do if you miss your connecting flight –
- Before you approach the rerouting counter of the airlines either log into the local wifi and check for the next flight or call your travel agent and check on your travel options. Armed with this information approach the rerouting counter.
- When you reach the counter, they will offer you a connection via the same airlines. If there is another flight that you have found in between, request for it (even if it is with any other airlines). In case there is no other flight in between or if this connection is ok with you, then book the new connection.
- In case your travel agent has found another option that works better for you, then book that and cancel your connection with the current airline. Instead of the new flight they will process a refund for you.
- At the same counter check for your luggage and make sure it has made it to the airport where you are. Before you board the new connection, check with customer care whether your luggage has been loaded onto the same flight as yours, because the last thing you need on finally reaching your destination is missing baggage.
- Depending on the local jurisdiction and laws – you are entitled to duty to care (i.e. accommodations, meals, phone calls etc). This normally depends on the time difference between the missed flight and the new connection. But in many countries you need a visa to be actually able to step out and avail accommodation facilities.
- Again depending on the local jurisdiction and laws – you can claim compensation for flight delays and cancellations. The amount of compensation depends on the time difference between the two flights and the distance between the two airports. For EU, you can check this link.
- In case the delay is more than 6 hours and you can get a transit visa, consider stepping out of the airport and checking in into a local hotel. In case the airlines is not providing the hotel, then book one yourself and claim it under your travel insurance (check your travel insurance first for all terms and conditions).
- In case you have to stay at the airport and are flying economy, then look for paid lounges. Many airports have paid lounge options and you can access them with a fee or complimentary access with certain credit cards. In case of some airports, these paid lounges may be at a different terminal.
- If the air carrier doesn’t provide you with meals, phone calls, etc and if you have to spend on these expenses yourself, then you should keep all your receipts. You can then submit copies of these receipts to the airlines for a reimbursement as soon as possible.
My Take – In case of missed connections, keep your cool as the flight is gone and there is no point in getting hassled. Your best option is try to get the earliest possible connection out and in the interim look to be comfortable during the wait.
Always travel with travel insurance –
Travel insurance policies cover missed connections and trip delays, but each policy differs in their definitions and limitations. These policies normally kick in only if the delay extends more than a set period, which can be anywhere from a few hours to as much as 12 hours. For Indian travel insurance policies, the typical coverage is as follows –
In case of the Insured Person missing a connecting flight or train or ship/cruise (due to cancellation of service or departure, delayed departure, change of route, non-landing / docking, offloading of passengers due to any reason including over booking) the followings shall be reimbursed to the extent of __% only. Expenses relating to transportation of the Insured Person(s) to the intended destination by alternative means of transportation as may be absolutely necessary including other airline, train or surface transportation, including necessary and reasonable cost of up gradation to a superior class of travel, expenses relating to accommodation, food and communication when the Insured is required to be so accommodated including cost of up gradation in case some of the services are provided by concerned supplier, loss of sightseeing or entertainment programmes , events, sports, games, and assignments.
The Insurance Company will indemnify the Insured for the amount mentioned in the Schedule of Policy ( subject to deductible as specified in the Policy ) for any one incident in respect of delay in pre-booked flight for journey ( other than from the place/ country of Insured’s residence) due to following reasons :
1. Adverse weather condition &/or Air Traffic Congestion.
2. Riot, Strike, Industrial Action at airport or that of Airlines,
3. Accidental or Mechanical Failure or Technical problem in the Aircraft, Provided always that
a. The insured has taken every reasonable step to complete the journey to the departure point on time, and
b. The insured shall submit to the Company sufficient proof to substantiate the cause of delay and his bills/receipts etc. in of his claim.
This section of policy is also subject to following Exclusions:
1. Any departure which is delayed as a result of the insured or any other person who have arranged to travel with failing to check in correctly as required by the airlines.
2. Any delayed departure caused by strike or industrial action known to exist or was anticipated at the time the trip was booked
3. If the air craft is taken out of service on the instruction of the Civil Aviation Authority.
4. No claim shall be payable for delay of First ___ hrs. from the schedule time of departure of Flight i.e.___ hrs delay will be reckoned after such 6 hrs. of flight’s departure time only.
My Take – Always travel with travel insurance. These policies don’t cost much (compared to the cost of your trip) and offer a world of benefits in case of unforeseen situations. Before purchasing a cover, do compare features and coverage offered by various companies. Take a cover that has lowest deductibles and takes minimum hours to kick in.
A couple of readers faced this situation – They booked a premier economy / economy plus ticket online (which is more expensive than a normal economy ticket) but on check-in were “DOWNGRADED” to economy. Approaching customer care was of no avail as they told that since the seat was already assigned to somebody else, they could not do anything else.
Assuming your boarding pass shows your ‘downgraded’ status (and your original booking e-ticket shows your ‘economy plus’ status), you can log in to your credit card account online and dispute the charge shown against your ticket purchase. The credit card company will ask for any/all proofs and a short write-up of what happened. You can mention all the conversation and add in the boarding pass and original e-ticket as proofs. The credit card company will then send it to the airline for their response. The airlines will not be able to dispute this with the proofs attached and they will refund the extra charge.
Other recommendations that I have collated and summarized are –
- In case the airlines do not process your compensation for delayed flights then there are websites available that you can try for assistance with this matter. A few recommended websites are – http://www.airhelp.com , http://www.getairhelp.com, http://www.flight-friend.com/, http://www.airpassengerrights.eu/en/flight-delay.html, http://flyersrights.org/ , http://www.refund.me, etc.
- In case the airline staff is not speaking with you properly or not providing the required assistance, then just pull out your phone and start recording. You can say that this is for your records and you have proof for further complaints and action.
- In some cases, when the staff was misbehaving with passengers, some passengers asked to speak with supervisors or a senior ground handling staff member. This itself helped resolve the issue.
- There is an airline review app coming soon that will capture and share the voice of flying customer. You can sign up for it at http://www.voicitt.com/
- For UK-based customers, you can try the BBC watchdog. They take up a lot of complaints/problem experiences against consumers/customers, create a lot of awareness and help bring around change. You can post your story at https://ssl.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006mg74/contact
To end on a humorous note, in case you are stuck at an airport and have a lot of time, then feel free to unleash your creativity and do something like this guy – Man makes amazing video while stuck alone in an airport. 🙂 Or get a drink and watch World Cup!
Do you have any feedback / suggestions on this post that you would like to share? Then please comment below or tweet at traveler_budget.