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By: Frank – @dugup46 – You plan your trip out for months, you pack, and then you check everything over twice. You grab your significant other, jump in the car, and drive to the airport. . . the beginning of your week long vacation. The only problem with the story is that when you get to the airport your flight is delayed. Maybe your flight is on time, but the airline misplaces your bag. Maybe you arrive at the hotel only to find out that your room won’t be ready for another few hours. These are unfortunate, common problems that hundreds, if not thousands, of people experience daily. While these issues could destroy your vacation, using some of the tips below, these problems can become mere inconveniences.
Tip 1: Know Which Credit Cards Offer What Perks
Whether you get a flat tire on your rental car or your flight home is delayed until the following morning, these common situations don’t have to cost you a dime! Many credit cards offer great benefits that will take care of you. Here are a few of the better benefits that cards you already have offer:
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card offers $500 for trip delays over 12 hours or when an overnight stay is required. This $500 can go toward any “reasonable” expense such as a hotel room, meals, toiletries, or other similar items. Part of your flight must be paid for with the Chase Sapphire Preferred to obtain this benefit.
- The American Express Platinum Card offers complementary, premium road-side assistance. The Platinum card offers towing up to 10 miles, winching, jump starts, flat tire change, lockout service when key is in vehicle, and delivery of up to 2 gallons of fuel! These benefits are free of charge as long as the card member is in the vehicle. You must have your Platinum card on hand when you call 1-800-333-AMEX.
Tip 2: Know Who to Contact When Things Go Wrong
When things go wrong, some people want to lash out at the closest employee they can find. This will very rarely ever be in your best interest, and it can actually harm you and your vacation. Remember, the employee working the front desk is not at fault here… and there is only so much they can do. Your next idea may be to call customer service, but after 30 minutes on hold, you will be even more frustrated.
Enter Twitter, the 21st century, all encompassing, resolution solving, customer service portal. Other than the occasional blog tweet, I use Twitter strictly for customer service requests. When you post a message saying, “My @airline flight was delayed 🙁 I hope it doesn’t ruin my vacation! #disappointment” anyone searching @airline will see that message. It may be 10 people, it may be 10,000 people. Regardless, it demands great customer service, and it demands it quickly. Twitter is great not only because they resolve your situation as quickly as possible, but the Twitter team typically has much more power than the average customer service agent.
Tip 3: Know the Law and Your Rights as a Passenger
There are a number of laws that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and other international governing bodies have set in place to ensure passengers have some rights when flying. While you do not need to know every single law in place, there are a couple that could really benefit you if you are ever in one of these situations.
When booking a flight directly, or through a third party, the price displayed must be the price you are charged. Airlines and third parties are not allowed to display a price without taxes and airport fees, and then charge them to your credit card later.
Occasionally an airline will involuntarily bump a passenger off a flight. Involuntary bumping is when a passenger with a confirmed ticket is not allowed to board, because the flight is over sold. This is rare anymore, since most airlines auction off the bump making it a voluntary action.
If you are involuntarily bumped, and the airline can get you to your destination in one hour or less, there is no compensation. If they get you to your destination one to two hours after your scheduled landing, they owe you 200 percent of the one-way fare to your destination, up to $650. And finally, if they can’t meet those requirements, they owe you 400 percent of the fare, up to $1,300! They can also rebook you on another airline, but they are responsible for any fees and or expenses. If you find yourself in this situation, DO NOT accept a voucher as compensation. Know your rights and calmly state that they owe you a check immediately.
If your flight is substantially delayed or cancelled, you have the right to a full refund, even on a non-refundable flight. Of course, there is wiggle room since “substantial” is not clearly defined. Weather would not fall under these guidelines due to it being out of their control. If your delayed/cancelled flight involves an airport in the European Union, EU 261 can come into play. Familiarize yourself with the compensation that you are entitled to and file a claim.
There are a number of other laws put in place to protect passengers; however, these are some of the more important to know before booking a flight!
These three simple tips can really save you a lot of headache in the event something unexpected happens. Before my wife and I really got into the points game, we traveled very rarely. Maybe once a year. Even with that small amount of travel, I experienced an involuntary bump from a flight leaving Denver. I arrived in Pittsburgh just an hour from my expected time but still received a free round-trip ticket anywhere in the country. Had they not offered me that up front, I would not have known that I was actually entitled to it!
I hope you never have to use any of the above tips, but planning is essential when traveling. Let us know if you have ever experienced a delay, bump, lost bag, or cancellation in the comments below!
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