Flying makes many people anxious, when in fact it should be a pleasurable activity especially when you are travelling to exciting new destinations such as Phuket (maybe not so enjoyable on the flight home). There are, as with any mode of transportation, a number of things that have the potential to go wrong with flying, however there are precautionary steps that could and should be taken by any traveller to reduce the risk of potential hassle.
One of the main stresses experienced by fliers is ensuring that you get to the airport in plenty of time ready for check in. Nowadays, with the advances of modern technology, check in can often be carried out online, and moreover it is often recommended you do so, and some agents now charge if you can check in online but choose to do it the old fashioned way. The majority of airlines now offer this online reservation system for passengers to take advantage of. You do this with your flight number which would have been given at the time of booking, usually confirmed by a follow up email. You enter this number into a form on the airport website, print off your boarding passes, and boom – check in complete. You can usually check in up to 48 hours before your flight, giving you plenty of time to print the documents and do your final checks. The time scales do vary with each airline and so it is best practice to check ahead of schedule, perhaps a week or so before you are due to fly. Another trick to note here is that you can also check in through your tablet device or smartphone at the airport if you wish to avoid the laborious queues. Instead of printing, you can then present the boarding pass on your device, however it is worth checking with your carrier that this is acceptable. You may still need to check in baggage if you have some for the hold as opposed to the smaller carry-on piece, but this will still save you time at the desk as a whole.
It isn’t just the process at the airport itself that can cause ones stress levels to rise, depending on how you get to the airport different problems can arise too. This may be worth some consideration prior to travel. For instance if you are travelling to catch your flight at peak times such as rush hour, or along a road that is also a popular tourist destination during school holidays, you may wish to explore public transport options instead. These of course can also provide their own difficulties, trains can often be delayed or cancelled at the last minute, and coaches can also get stuck in unavoidable traffic depending on their route and the time of day. This is why it is always best to leave yourself more than enough time in case any of these eventualities come to pass, so that you will not be late. Worst case scenario with leaving yourself plenty of time is you get there a little earlier, and can enjoy a coffee, some duty free shopping to get those last minute holiday essentials, or start the holiday earlier with a well-deserved beer. Worst case scenario if you leave too late, is missing your flight, or your seat being given up to someone else (which can and does happen), which would be more stressful and potentially more costly than leaving with that little bit of time to spare.
If unforeseen circumstances such as personal or family illness, bereavement, or unchangeable work commitments arise before the departure date, you may look into rescheduling your flight date or cancelling all together. Different airlines have different cancellation procedures and rescheduling policies but almost all incur some sort of a charge. This charge can often be reduced, the further from the departure date you can make your desired amendments. As with most things flight related – the sooner the better. If left too late, it may be impossible to cancel with refund, or reschedule although some insurance policies may cover this if it is due to circumstances beyond your control.
It is also worth checking, and checking again the type of airline ticket you have purchased, as with trains, there are several types which mean different things when it comes to cancellations or rescheduling. Inexpensive tickets for example, are commonly sold as non-refundable and non-transferable, leaving little options open to you if unforeseen circumstances do occur. You should be certain of travel before you book your flight, but with cheaper tickets, it is more important that you have checked all of the details before you press ‘book’. If you have bought a first class ticket, then it is easier to reschedule with a simple call to the airline, this may be possible on both the outbound and inbound tickets should you wish to delay and extend your stay; or one or the other. There will still be a fee chargeable, but this panders into insignificance compared to the cost of the entire flight which could otherwise be lost.
Another flight stress could be travel sickness. There are a number of different remedies out there for people who experience nausea, sickness, altitude headaches, ears popping, or other symptoms when flying. There are over the counter travel sickness tablets, and even prescribed medications which you could talk to your doctor about if this is a common problem for you. For some people listening to music helps, or wearing ear plugs, sucking on hard sweets, wearing special wrist bands, or socks to help with circulation. If you have concerns, speak to a pharmacist or doctor to put your mind at ease well before the date of travel. Also make sure you have any immunisations you may need if travelling to a country outside of the EU.
The next worry for passengers is often regarding their hold luggage. One always worries when the conveyor belt starts that a bag will be missing and/or damaged. A good precautionary measure is to keep all valuable and sentimental belongings on your person or in your hand luggage. Also make sure you know your weight and size restrictions for hold and hand luggage and check accordingly before setting off to the airport.
If a bag is lost, it is more often than not found again. There are sometimes delays in getting baggage off the flight due to equipment failure, staff lateness, or any number of other reasons. Airlines have ways and means of tracking baggage – it is of course a large part of their job in ensuring safe passage of passengers and their belongings and their reputation relies on that. Sometimes baggage may be sent to the wrong airport, or accidentally on a later plane to the right destination, and so although highly irritating and stressful, it is best to keep calm as more often than not the situation will be rectified. If delayed, you should give your number to the attendant with your hotel or accommodation address, so that they can easily notify you when your bag has arrived. Many flight providers will get your bag to your accommodation as a matter of courtesy, and by way of apology for the delay.
If it becomes apparent throughout this process that the bag is in fact completely lost, you will need to follow a slightly different procedure and file a claim for damages for the total cost of the bag itself and the approximate value of its contents. There will be an investigation into the loss, and the airline will have to reimburse you for the lost items. One passenger per lost luggage can be compensated, so you must make the claim for as many items as were lost. It is also possible for you to reclaim the check-in fee on some occasions and so it is always worth investigating this further if you find yourself in this situation. You will not get the market price for items that were not new to account for wear and tear, so it is best practice to keep any receipts when you are shopping for new items for a holiday, but also to photograph the entire contents in case a disagreement arises. This will make the process a lot smoother should a loss occur.
Another important point to remember and to lessen the burden should something go wrong is travel insurance. There are a number of different policies out there that all cover different things to different amount – so do your research. It will usually cover any medical costs or loss or damage to luggage, as well as if the flight is cancelled due to the airline’s need rather than your own. It is important to know what you are covered for, and what you are not. The added security of good travel insurance can really reduce anxiety levels – especially on big trips. Many places have frequent flier schemes which are also worth looking into if you are a regular traveller for business and/or pleasure.
Most of all, you must stay calm, and relax – you are on holiday! Airport, flight, and other staff will be doing their best to help you overcome any issues, and it is there job to make sure every customer goes away fully satisfied. Even if this means going through a claim or complaint process. Tourism is often the main source of income for many countries.
- Leave plenty of time and consider travel options carefully
- Utilise web-check in as a time saver
- Know what type of ticket you have in case of need to cancel/reschedule
- Make sure you are ok to travel in plenty of time to allow for amendments
- Seek health advice for travel sickness if susceptible
- Stay calm if baggage is lost, it is most likely to only be temporary.
- Keep receipts of new holiday items and photograph baggage content in case of loss
- Keep valuable and sentimental belongings with you at all times
- Ensure you have travel insurance and know what it covers
- Stay calm – you are on holiday!
Photo Credit: phuketairporttransfers.com, phuketairportthai.com, absoluteworld.com, thephuketnews.com, teambuilding-thailand.com