Welcome to the January 2009 issue of "Smart Traveler". The newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.
Imagine your bags are packed for the getaway of your dreams. You
rearranged your schedule, canceled meetings and lost hours of sleep
planning every detail of it. You arrive at the airport two hours
early, proceed through security, almost unable to contain your
vacation excitement. Then disaster strikes, in flashing letters on
the arrival/departure screens: FLIGHT DELAYED. Or, even worse:
Inclement weather can affect air travel in any season, even on the
clearest of days. Whether it's high winds, rain, sleet or snow, each
year brings a slew of delays that could severely cramp your travel
plans. With some simple planning you can alleviate the frustration
of last-minute itinerary changes and flight delays or cancellations
so that a bad start (and bad weather) doesn't ruin your trip.
Get Forecasts as Soon as Possible
Before you leave for travel of any kind, it's always a good idea to
check the forecasts for your departure and destination city. For
complete weather information and forecasts for just about any
destination on earth, visit the
Weather Channel. You can find weather maps, storm watch
information and even a complete
travel-specific weather section. Seasonal travel information,
like foliage and ski reports, can also be found on this site. Enter
a zip code, city or region to get the current forecasts, and even
get 10-day local forecasts for over 70,000 destinations worldwide.
For climate information on a particular region, a good place to look
Bad Weather There Affects Flight Status Here
Bad weather almost anywhere can wreak havoc with an airline's route
schedule, as crews and planes that are stranded at one airport never
arrive at subsequent airports, and a ripple effect occurs. When you
learn of weather delays in important hub cities, it's time to call
your airline to inquire of potential delays on your flight.
Reroute Your Connections
Sometimes the weather at your departure city and your destination
can be fantastic, but your connecting city is a mess. Call ahead to
see if you can reroute your connection flight through airports with
Say you're in California heading to Florida and your itinerary has a
connection in Dallas, the site of heavy weather. Call your airline
from California and ask to be rerouted through a different part of
the country -- Chicago, for instance. Your itinerary might get
complicated, but at least you won't be sleeping in an airport!
Book Morning Flights
Morning flights are less likely to be delayed or canceled than
evening flights. The logistical effects of heavy weather accumulate
as the day goes on and more and more flights are delayed or
canceled. Planes are more likely never to arrive, or to be put into
the back of long lines for takeoff or landing as the day progresses.
Act Fast on Hotel Reservation Changes
If you anticipate an unplanned layover, get to a telephone as
quickly as possible to make hotel reservations. Even better -- if
you anticipate a layover in a connecting city further along on your
itinerary, make a reservation immediately. If you wait until an
entire airport's worth of stranded travelers are also scrambling to
make reservations, chances are good that airport hotels will be sold
Call Your Airline Early and Often
Airlines typically update flight status information on a "just in time"
basis; that is, they don't change official status until it's
absolutely certain that there will be a delay. So just because they
told you your plane is on time at 2 p.m. doesn't mean it will be 30
Scan Departure Screens
If you anticipate a delay, check departure screens for your flight.
If there is a delay, look for an airline representative and ask for
instructions before you head to check in. If there is a delay, it's
time to call the airline.
Use Your Airline's 800 Number
It is often much faster, more convenient and more successful to use
an airline's 800 number to make alternate arrangements than it is to
stand in line. Not so long ago, this almost guaranteed you some
satisfaction -- for better or worse, most travelers have figured
this one out and the stampede to the phones (or the sound of cell
phones being whipped out) often accompanies every flight status
For those with remote Internet access, check
FlightStats.com for up-to-the-minute weather and air delay
information at major airports across the U.S. Also, most airlines
now do real-time flight status updates on the Web.
Don't Stray too Far from the Gate
If you're already at the airport, gate agents may make important
announcements not only concerning flight status, but of alternate
flight options, lodging offers and more. Make sure you or someone in
your traveling party stays near your gate to hear any important
Know Your Travel Insurance
If you are considering purchasing travel insurance, understand that
many travel insurance policies do not cover acts of God such as
weather disasters. Check carefully with your provider before you
JetBlue Adding Flights to Los Angeles Int'l
JetBlue Airways Corp. said Thursday it will begin flying to
and from Los Angeles International Airport, after putting the
plan on hold last summer as fuel prices climbed to record
The Forest Hills, N.Y.-based carrier said it will start daily
nonstop service in June from Los Angeles to Boston and
JetBlue's home base at John F. Kennedy International Airport
in New York.
Tickets will go on sale Feb. 4.
JetBlue already serves
smaller local airports at Long Beach and Burbank, Calif.
"Here at JetBlue, we've long had our eye on LAX, and this
summer we're thrilled to finally be making our debut there,"
Chief Commercial Officer Robin Hayes said in a statement.
"Last year, when we postponed plans to serve LAX, increasing
fuel costs made launching a new destination prohibitively
expensive. Fuel prices have now reduced and we continue to get
overwhelming requests from our customers to serve this market.
Clearly, the time is right for JetBlue to enter LAX."
The time also may be ripe for JetBlue to take advantage of
capacity pullbacks at major carriers. American Airlines, Delta
Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines scaled back at the airport
last year as fuel prices forced capacity reductions.
Business Etiquette 101
In Spain, a business
dinner will last well into the early morning hours -- many
restaurants don't even open until 9 p.m. and don't get busy until 10
or 11 p.m.
impressed by a title or status -- they expect your work to speak for
The Japanese aren't
afraid to ask how much money you earn or how large your home is.
These are only three
out of thousands of different customs, business protocols and social
mores throughout the world. International business can be tricky; if
you aren't prepared, your business deal can go down in flames.
Before you go
Prepare. Do plenty of research on the business and personal
etiquette of the particular country you are planning to visit.
Purchase a travel book for the country you are going to visit and
remember: The Internet is your friend.
2. Learn key phrases.
It's always a smart move to learn several key phrases in the
language of the country you'll visit. It's a nice way to bridge the
gap between cultures -- and natives will appreciate the attempt.
3. Leave the attitude
at home. Americans sometimes assume superior attitudes when
interacting with foreign cultures -- for them it is "our way is the
best way." Ditch this stance quickly -- you could be ignored or met
4. Blend in. In
general, Americans dress differently, speak loudly and have distinct
accents -- so it's best to try not to stand out more than you
Jet lag: Affecting
place you want jet lag to take its toll is during an important
meeting or business outing. Persia offers these five tricks to deal
with jet lag and still do business effectively.
Try to arrive a few
days early to give your body a chance to adjust before important
meetings or conferences.
Get plenty of rest
before your trip. Jet lag is worse if you start out sleep-deprived.
actually cause jet lag, but it does make symptoms worse. Drink
plenty of water before, during and after your flight to counteract
the dehydrating effects of dry cabin air. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
for further dehydration.
Sleep on the plane if
it's nighttime at your destination. Resist the urge if it's daytime
Set your watch to the
new time before you leave. Once you reach your destination, try not
to sleep until nighttime, no matter how tired you are. If you must
sleep, take a short, one-hour "cat nap."
countries, different customs
common knowledge that etiquettes differ from person to city to
country to continent; keeping all the customs straight can be a
Persia offers these
tips to deal with various traditions:
etiquette plays a significant role not only in business, but overall
in foreign travel. In some countries, where gender is rooted in the
tenets of a particular religion, faux pas are often considered
For example, in the
Arab world, shaking hands is mandatory in a business setting; but
touching women in traditional, western dress is forbidden. In India,
men and women shouldn't make physical contact in public other than
handshaking. In Japan, older generations may not be comfortable
shaking hands with Westerners and it's important that you don't get
too close to them. In Argentina, women should initiate handshakes
on business in Germany, leave the trade talk at the boardroom door.
Business matters are usually discussed before or after the meal;
Conversely, in China,
it's OK to discuss business as long as it's not the main topic of
conversation. Personal exchanges about children, spouses or other
personal information are encouraged and welcomed.
business card exchange is extremely important in Japan -- almost
ceremonial. Always give business cards with two hands and make a
point to admire and examine the card. The more time you spend
looking at it indicates the more respect you have for the person. In
Italy, do not exchange business cards at social occasions; it is the
norm at business functions and meetings.
Alcohol at meals
Australia, alcohol is discouraged at business luncheons. Drinking
moderately at business meals is acceptable in Germany; in Russia,
you are expected to drink to establish closer relationships --
though again, in moderation. In France, avoid drinking hard liquor
before meals or smoking cigars between courses -- the French feel it
compromises the taste of the meal.
to keep in mind for any gift you select is quality. If you give
gifts with your company logo, it's better if the logo is discreet.
Never give company logo gifts in Greece, Spain or Portugal. In
general, be safe rather sorry and choose non-logo gifts. In China,
it's considered rude to open a gift in front of the person who gave
it. In Africa, gifts are opened immediately upon receipt.
How to Take On Travel Trouble
You're standing at a baggage carousel for what seems like forever
when the steady flow of bags onto the conveyor belt slows to a
trickle, then stops. Your bags are nowhere in sight. Or your bags
do show up, but look like an angry gorilla has been throwing them
around his cage for sport. Who's responsible?
If your bags are delayed, try not to panic. The airline typically
has a way to track them, and about 98 percent of all misplaced
luggage is returned eventually. If your bags are on the next
flight, you could have them within a few hours. If they've been
sent to the wrong airport, it could take a couple of days. Make
sure you give the attendant a hotel or home phone number and
The airlines will typically bring you your luggage when it is
found; you will rarely need to return to the airport to pick it
up. Additionally, many airlines will reimburse any unexpected
expenses caused by the loss or delay. Be careful here -- the
airline sometimes has the option to deduct any reimbursement or
stipend from any subsequent awards.
If the airline loses your bags, make sure you get a written claim
for damages. This may require a different form than the original
"missing luggage" form. This can be done at the airport or by
On domestic flights, the airline baggage liability is capped at
$3,300 per person. On international trips, the liability limit may
vary, as it is governed by various international treaties,
including the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions. Check your
carrier's Web site for specifics. You may need to produce
receipts. If you have them, include copies in any documentation
you send to the airline. You can purchase "excess valuation"
protection if your checked baggage is worth more than these
Head directly to the baggage carousel when you get off your
flight. Many airlines scan bags when they're loaded into the
baggage claim area and keep records, especially at larger
airports. Once you've left the baggage claim area, your claim is
no longer with the airline, but with the police.
Once you've gotten your bags off the carousel, immediately check
them for damage or for other signs of tampering or mishandling. In
the case of damaged baggage, airline customer service will often
want to inspect the bag.
You will most likely need to produce a
receipt for any repairs, or be required to use airline-sanctioned
luggage repair vendors. Ask the baggage claim attendant for
specific information. You don't want to find out that you have
paid for a repair that it isn't covered.
Time Restrictions and Deadlines
When you file a report, most airlines will give you a claim number
and ask that you call or write the airline within 21 to 45 days.
An Ounce of Prevention
· Put your name on the
outside and inside of your bags. Even better, put a copy of your
itinerary in each checked bag so the airline can locate you.
The most common causes of lost and delayed bags are late check-ins
and tight connections. Avoid both when you can.
Pack valuables in your carry-on bags. Cameras, computers,
medication, wallets, heirlooms, jewelry, passports, as well as
confirmation numbers, itineraries, contact information, and other
documents necessary to your travel should not be in your checked
Itemize. It sounds tedious, but when an airline asks what was in
your bag, you don't want to forget anything of value.
Make sure the person who checks your baggage attaches the correct
destination ticket to every bag, and get a claim ticket for each.
If you're traveling to a different climate, put appropriate
clothes in your carry-on.
Travel insurance is the best guarantee that you'll recoup any
If All Else Fails
Be sure to file a complaint
immediately. If you still can't get satisfaction, or feel the need
to report the airline, write or call:
DOT Aviation Consumer Protection
400 Seventh Street, S.W. #4107
Washington D.C., 20590
Finally, if you're wondering where lost bags
go after they die, here's your answer:
Remember: Without a travel agent you're on
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