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Air Travel Mishaps FAQ: The Common Problems Addressed

Illustration for article titled Air Travel Mishaps FAQ: The Common Problems Addressedem/em

I dare to call myself a frequent flyer.

No, that’s not what written on my airline loyalty cards (though I do possess a bunch of them). I just happen to love traveling and do it frequently for fun and out of necessity to get from point A to point B within the least time possible.


During the past four years of my frequent movements, I was overbooked, upgraded to business class all of sudden, my baggage was lost, broken and left behind in other cities. I missed a couple of flights by accidence, nearly missed at least 10 flights (again 100% my fault) and was delayed/rescheduled due to strikes (vive la France!).

All of this lead to learning my lessons (sometimes the hard way) when it comes to dealing with all sorts of air travel-related issues.


I’ve decided to share my personal FAQ accumulated over the years. So, here goes:

Baggage Issues

I prefer to travel with a carry-on most of the times, but sometimes a lady needs to carry those French wines over the border ☺


What to do if my baggage didn’t show up on the delivery belt?

Don’t panic. It was possibly left behind either in your departure city; got forgotten during your connection or somehow was sent to travel on its own to another destination.


Each airport has a “Baggage Claim” window where you need to go, fill up all the paperwork and get the rep to confirm where your bag is and when it’s due to arrive. The airline/airport authorities should offer you free door-to-door delivery, even if you are staying in another city then the airport.

What if my baggage was sent to another destination?

Okay, that also happens occasionally. Your bag went on a cool vacation without you. You may need to wait longer till it arrives back.


But what if I’m leaving for another destination before my bag is due to arrive?!

That’s kind of bad. I feel you. Your best option here is to ask the airlines if they can send your luggage to your new destination somehow.


If the answer is negative, your options are the following:

  • Ask them to store your luggage at the airport when it arrives and pick it up on your way back if you are leaving from the same airport.
  • Postpone/reschedule your further trip and wait till your belonging arrive.
  • Go do some shopping and pick everything you may need and get those bags sent back to your home country if there’s someone who can pick them up for you (again if the airline is willing to do that).

Can I get compensated for lost baggage?

Yep, you can. But again, you need to settle that with the airline and they won’t be fast to cash out.


According to the European Passenger Rights, you are entitled to receive compensation for lost, damaged or delayed baggage from the airline up to approx. 1220 euro.

If you were traveling with expensive items and can prove that (e.g. you kept purchase checks and can verify that the thing was with you on the trip), you can receive higher compensation.


Of course, this rule is often neglected and avoided by the airlines, so you may want to get some legal help here or outsource the whole claim to a 3rd party service.

The good news is – you have 2 years from the date of your baggage arrival to pursue any legal action.


Do I need to re-check in my baggage if I’m flying with a connection?

It depends. If both of your flights (whether they are with the same airline or different ones) are on the same booking, no further baggage manipulations are required from your end.


If you have purchased two different flights and two separate tickets (e.g. Paris – NYC with Air France and another ticket NYC-Miami directly from Delta’s website), you will have to handle the baggage yourself a.k.a. go grab it from the belt and go to the counter to check it in for the new flight.

The same is true when you are hopping onto a low-cost flight or have two of them scheduled one after another within the same day.


What I shouldn’t put in my check-in baggage?

From my experience:

  • No valuables or electronics.
  • No gadget charges (if your baggage is lost for a few days and your smartphone battery dies that’s double sad).
  • No important documents (says a person whose second passport was inside a lost bag)

The airline doesn’t want to check-in my baggage!

There may be a few good reasons for this:

  • You didn’t pay for it (it wasn’t included in your airfare) – pay at the counter or purchase it online (cheaper)
  • You’ve arrived too late. Baggage should be checked in no later than 40 minutes before the scheduled departure – make big cat eyes and ask pretty please at the counter. Or mention that you have 4 bottles of Champagne inside and that you will be forced to drink them now with some fellow passengers over there ☺
  • Your baggage is overweight/too large. Pay extra or put on/re-pack some stuff from it.

Cancelled/Missed/Delayed Flights

Now, if you’ve missed your flight because you arrived late to the airport, overslept or for any other personal reasons, sorry, no compensations and valuable advice here.


Unless your ticket clearly states that it’s refundable/exchangeable, you’ll just have to purchase a new ticket (ouch).

When your flight problem occurred not due to your own fault, you can get some good things from the airlines.


What if I’m on an overbooked flight?

Don’t fret. This happens more often than you think. To reduce the risks, you’d better check in online whenever it’s possible to secure your seat.


If that still happened to you, here’s how to maneuver the whole situation with grace:

Don’t volunteer to get bumped. In that case, the airline will likely reschedule it on a later (less convenient) flight; offer some meal vouchers and that’s pretty much it. You should also demand and get monetary comp (approx. $200-$500) if you’ve volunteered .


However, if you are involuntary denied, you can get up to $1300 in compensation depending on the length of the delay. The settlement number should be close 2 to 4 times the original ticket price plus a full refund of your original ticket. So, you do the math before agreeing to the first offer. Also, never settle for vouchers. Ask for solid cash.

Grab more insights on compensation from this post.

What if my flight is delayed?

In this case, you should keep it calm and speak to the airline rep. There are different cases when you are entitled to delayed flight compensation and when you’ll get crackers. The latter includes the so-called “extraordinary circumstances”:

  • Bad weather.
  • Political or social unrest (e.g. strikes)
  • Hidden manufacturer defects.
  • Sudden illness of a flight crew member or passenger.
  • Terrorist threats or attacks.
  • Delays caused by the on-ground airport staff (not airline staff) e.g. lengthy security queues.

However, within those extraordinary cases the airline should still offer you one of the following according to industry regulations:

  • A refund (in full or just the part you have not used)
  • Alternative transport to your final destination at the earliest opportunity possible
  • Rebooking at a later date of your choice (subject to seat availability).

If none of the above matches your case and your flight was delayed for 3+ hours and/or you’ve missed a connecting flight because of this, you are entitled to receive compensation.


What if I missed my connecting flight?

If that happened within the same airline (one booking), get the airline reps to solve this problem for you and offer you whatever they can (unless that was totally your fault of course)


If you missed a connecting flight, which came in two separate bookings, no luck here. You may speak to the airline reps if there were a delay and ask what they can do for you, but don’t expect much. The same is true when switching to low-cost carriers.

What to do if I was denied boarding?

So, we’ve already looked into the case when you were denied boarding due to an overbooked flight.


Yet, that’s not the only case when this may happen (not counting the cases when you lack the required documents to travel to destination Z):

  • You were placed on a no-fly list to the US for some reasons.
  • You are traveling with an expiring/temporary travel document (and heading to the country where you will be issued a new valid one)
  • Your reservation was lost by the airline.

Again, similar as to the previous cases you are entitled to compensation if the problem occurred due to the airline’s fault e.g. a glitch in their system.


If a monkey stole your passport in New Delhi, you won’t get much of the air carriers.

Misc Questions

Some other mildly helpful things you may want to know about air travel.

How do I get upgraded to business class?!

Ok, so paying isn’t an option, right? Well then, you may try not checking in and showing up late – if the flight is busy/overbooked, you may get placed into business class (happened to me). Yet, you risk getting bumped too.


Other options include:

  • Become a loyal airline member and spend heaps of money with them (you may get lucky)
  • Become a travel blogger/influencer. Make sure the whole airline team knows about them and promise to endorse them to your followers (not sure how exactly this works though)
  • Obsessively collect miles and get a free upgrade in exchange for some.

When is the best time to travel?

February is usually one of the cheapest and least busy month – no lines, half empty planes, loads of promos.


What if I misspelled my name on the ticket?

That happens. Most airlines won’t blink as long as it’s just a letter or one, not Sarah Jones misspelled like Timothy Swan.


If it’s an option, though, I suggest you fix that just in case. You may need to call the airline directly and ask about that.

Some low-cost carriers e.g. Ryanair may not be that forgiving and ask you to pay for the name change if you get busted.


How do I get the best seat?

Check in the earliest possible (usually 24-48 hours before the departure). Next, go to Seat Guru to check the seating plan on your vessel and get some suggestions. Middle emergency exit rows usually have more legroom.


If you are flying with a low-cost company, you can always pay a small extra to sit wherever you like e.g. front row.

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