Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Stranded by the Airline

Posted in advice, smart, tickets, travel by commorancy on November 5, 2018

Photo of departure board courtesy of BlaneTraveling by air is one of the most common means of travel and it usually goes without a hitch. But, what happens when an airline leaves you stranded due to technical problems? Whose responsibility is it? Let’s explore.

Stranded at the Airport

I’ve seen articles similar to this one discussing a 77 hour delay from Orlando to the UK. The difficulty I have with these situations is that many travelers seem to expect the airline to cover for or provide food, lodging and other accommodations while stranded.

A family stated of the British Airlines delay:

The passengers were treated inhumanely, all we wanted was some food and drink, somewhere to sleep and to be kept informed – and they failed on all counts no matter what they claim.

Other than being kept informed, is the rest the airline’s responsibility?

When you book your tickets for passage aboard a flight, you expect that flight to take place within the defined ticket times. If the flight can’t make those times, you should be notified by the airline of realistic timings when or if the next flight can make. It should also be the airline’s responsibility to find another plane as quickly as possible to make good on the flight. If a plane cannot be found quickly (i.e., within a few hours), then the airline should book you onto another carrier to get you to your destination. One way or another, they should make good on a flight within 24 hours. That’s a reasonable amount of time. I know we all want resolution in an hour or two, but sometimes that’s not possible.

If a flight cannot be located until the following day, then the airline should inform you of that information ASAP so you can find a hotel and make accommodations for a stay over. Who pays for that hotel should be you, the traveler… at least at that moment in time. You can negotiate reimbursement of those accommodations should the airline extend that courtesy, but don’t expect it right then (or at all), like some of the people interviewed for this article.

This BBC article describes a detailed account of what happens when travelers make the wrong assumptions about airline delay responsibility. This article describes that British Airlines left people stranded at the airport made worse by being in NY (which NY is always notoriously short on accommodations, unless you’re willing to drive to Newark or Queens or farther). Apparently, this wait took 77 hours. The flight was supposed to depart on Thursday and ended up departing on Saturday arriving on Sunday. The delay took slightly over 3 days in total.

Who has Responsibility?

For a 3 day delay, whose responsibility is it to make sure that you are fed, have shelter and have the basic necessities for living? It’s certainly not the airline’s responsibility. Travel problems are rare, but they do happen. YOU are the traveler. YOU need to accommodate yourself. It’s YOUR responsibility as the traveler to make sure YOU and your immediate co-travelers are accommodated. For example, if you have a family of four, expect that you will have to go find a hotel and pay for it out of your own pocket. This means having a phone handy or a device capable of using the Internet and WiFi. Use the airport WiFi if you have nothing else available. Just make sure you have an Internet capable device or a working phone with you.

Don’t expect the airline to do anything for you other than provide you with a flight. Unless the airline is holding you hostage on the plane on the tarmac, you can’t expect anything from the airline. When you’re at the airport terminal waiting, you need to assess your own accommodations and take action yourself.

It’s always worth asking the airline for help, but don’t expect the airline to do anything for you. The airlines are not obligated to do anything other than see to your flight. Sitting around at the airport complaining that the airline is not seeing to your personal needs is called over-dependence. You can only depend on yourself to manage your own personal welfare. You can’t throw your person at an airline and expect them to become your personal caregiver. It’s not their responsibility. It seems a lot of people completely misunderstand this aspect of airline travel. Your ticket also doesn’t require them to do this. You take care of you. At some point, you will need to understand taking this personal level of responsibility for yourself while traveling.

The only time that the airline is responsible for your welfare is when you are actually in your seat on the plane. That’s the only time when the airline needs to accommodate you and your needs. When you are sitting in the terminal awaiting a plane, you are firmly on your own. It’s not the airport’s responsibility nor is it the responsibility of the airline.

Stranded for Days

Being stranded by an airline is rare, but it can happen for various reasons. Reasons that may not make you happy as a stressed out traveler, but that are unavoidable by the airline. This is part and parcel of traveling by budget flights these days. Airlines are running their routes very, very lean. Meaning, they don’t have extra planes or personnel should the need arise. This means that you could be waiting hours or even days before a plane might become available should your original flight’s plane end up out of service.

As a traveler, you need to bring along enough money for (or have the means to handle) unexpected delays. If the delay extends beyond a few hours, it then becomes your responsibility to handle your own personal needs up to possibly even forfeiting your old ticket and booking separate travel arrangements yourself. In fact, if time is important to you, then you should already be looking for alternatives within 15 minutes of finding out about the delay. Don’t wait. You can always cancel the arrangements, but it can be difficult to make arrangements if you wait even 3 hours. If you need medical treatments, medicines, food, baby formula or other accommodations, you absolutely cannot expect the airline or the airport to see to those needs.

I realize airlines might string you along by saying “an hour longer” via the terminal attendants. However, by hour 6 or 7 of that stringing, you need to request a straight answer from the airline. If they’re unwilling to give it to you, it means it is time to seek your own alternatives. You can continue to wait if you like, but that’s on you. If waiting gets to the 24 hour mark, then you have waited far too long. At 8 hours, you definitely need to seek your own accommodations for food and lodging and perhaps even alternative transportation to your destination. Even at 3 hours of waiting (unless expressly stated on the ticket as a 3 hour layover), you should have already spent that time seeking alternatives.

You can spend time later fighting with the original airline carrier about refunds or other issues, but it is up to you to take care of yourself and see to your own needs and comfort. Throwing yourself at an airline, then complaining about it won’t make matters better. You’ll also have wasted a lot of time when you could have had hotel accommodations a lot sooner. Sure, you may not have planned for that extra time or that extra hotel, but traveling isn’t always problem free. At 24 hours waiting, the airline can’t expect you to hang around the terminal waiting forever for their plane to arrive. Even 8 hours waiting is expecting too much of travelers.

If you don’t have enough money to cover either alternative flight accommodations or a hotel (until your flight becomes available), I might suggest that you probably shouldn’t have traveled in the first place. You should always have enough money to realistically cover a few extra days including food, lodging and any other basic needs when traveling, just in case.

Airline Courtesy

The problem with many travelers these days is that far too many people think that the airline has 100% responsibility for their welfare the moment they enter the airport. That that ticket you’re holding is some kind of magical device that grants the airline 100% ownership of your person until you step off at your final destination.

This belief is 100% false. That ticket is simply a travel voucher. It lets you onto the plane and offers you passage to the end destination. When a plane is not available for that flight, the airline may be irresponsible in its notifications of when you might be able to travel, but you cannot expect the airline to begin accommodating your personal needs for the duration of that long delay.

That’s not part of the ticket you paid for. Perhaps this issue requires a special line of travel insurance. Perhaps the airlines (or booking agencies) need to offer delay insurance where you pay extra in case of delay. The delay insurance should cover accommodations at a local airport hotel for the duration of delay. It might cover for a single meal voucher for each person up to a specific amount. It might even cover for transportation to and from the hotel.

If you paid for such insurance (were it to exist), then if a delay occurs, you know exactly how it will be handled, exactly what you’ll get, exactly what the airline’s responsibility is to you and that your needs will be taken care of. It also means the airlines will be forced to support and accommodate travelers who buy this delay travel insurance. It means that the airlines must notify and then hold the plane until all insurance travelers are back at the airport, through security and on the plane after the plane is finally available (within reason, of course). Adding delay insurance means that instead of sitting around waiting, you now have definitive rules that must be adhered to by the airline personnel and when those accommodations kick in.

If it costs $50 to check a bag and $30 for each carry-on, what makes you think an airline is going to see to your food and lodging accommodations during a long delay? Are you expecting it out of their own ‘courtesy’ for free? I don’t think so. Those days are over. Adding delay insurance, on the other hand, means that you have paid for and know exactly what you’re going to get if an airline has a delay like British Airlines.

For now, no such separate delay insurance exists. Until such insurance exists, you need to see to your own welfare and make sure you have enough money when traveling to do so, even when stranded at an airport because of an excessively long airline delay.

As a side note, some travel cancellation insurance plans may include trip delay coverage. But, these delay benefits kick in under very specific conditions and may not cover a scenario like British Airline’s 3 day delay. If you’re curious if a plan might cover such a delay, you should contact a travel insurer to find out more.

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Shopping and haggling at the checkout lane

Posted in shopping by commorancy on May 10, 2010

While I know the economy is not in its best shape right now and people are looking to pinch every penny, there is one pet peeve of mine that I just have to write about here. That peeve is when someone gets to the checkout lane at a store and begins price haggling over every item in their cart. The thing that annoys me about this practice is that the checkout lane is not the place to haggle or argue about the price of a garment or item. I mention garments because it’s almost always a garment that’s in dispute. Worse, though, is that it’s not just a single item, it’s usually every item in the cart. So, those of us behind you are stuck waiting while you haggle and argue with the checker.

The checkout is not the place to shop

Once you get in line to check out, you need to have already decided what you will and won’t purchase. If there is something in your cart that you don’t need or want, then politely tell the cashier and they will take it from you. Don’t stand there and argue over the price (or lack thereof) of that item with the cashier. Don’t hem and haw and decide if you want it. The checkout is not the plate for making long decisions or doing additional shopping. The store is where you shop, the checkout is where you buy. It’s really a very simple concept.

Getting price checks

In most department stores today, it’s easy to find a price so long as it has a barcode. If so, locate a sales person on the floor or find a bar code scanner. Most stores today offer scanners around the store for just this purpose. However, should you find a garment or item without a barcode, don’t wait until you get to the check out line for for pricing and then decide if you want it. Go to Customer Service or ask a floor person to price the item. It will save you and everyone behind you lots of time at the checkout. You might even be able to derive the price by finding the rack of items and looking for a similar style, color or design. So, use your own resources to find something similar and decide if you really want it at that price. If you really can’t find the item on the floor or the price, take it to the Customer Service desk. They can always help find the price. In fact, Customer Service is probably more efficient at finding prices than just about anyone else in the store. Considering they do returns all day long, they have to have an easy way to locate prices. So, take it to Customer Service and ask them attach a price tag to the item before you get in line to check out.

Haggling

If you live and work in the US, then you know big box retailers don’t haggle. So, why do people try anyway? Seriously! I understand there are a lot of non-US citizens living in the US on visas or maybe they’re working towards a green card. And yes, many countries require haggling to get the best prices. But, not in the US. So, when you live in the US, you don’t go to Wal-Mart and try to haggle with the cashier. Not only does the cashier not have any power to haggle, it wastes your time, their time and everyone else’s time who is in line behind you. So, don’t haggle with the cashier. Once in line, you either want the item at the price that’s marked or you don’t. If feel the need to haggle on pricing, then go to stores that sell on commission or talk to the manager on duty. Granted, there are no big box department retailers that use commission sales, but car dealerships, furniture stores, appliance stores and even some electronics retailers are still on commissions. Some more expensive clothing stores may even be on commission, but never deep discounters like Wal-Mart or Target. If you really want to know if a store is using commissions to pay their employees, then ask. If they say yes, then feel free to haggle all you want. Other places you can haggle include swap meets, garage sales, flea markets and farmer’s markets. You may even be able to haggle pricing shopping in locally owned and operated stores.

But, once again, don’t haggle at Wal-Mart, Target, Safeway, Whole Foods, Lucky, Albertson’s, Sears, JC Penney or any other well known big bix chain. And don’t even try to do it with the cashier. The only exception to this rule and only for Sears and JC Penney is the furniture department, appliances and possibly big ticket electronics. But, never on clothing at the stores and never with the cashier. Only haggle with someone working in the department prior to purchasing.

Time wasting practices

Once you get into line to check out, you need to have already decided what you want to buy. In fact, you should have decided what you are buying when you placed the item(s) into your cart. The other thing you need to do before getting into line is check for price tags or bar codes. If the item doesn’t have a bar code, take it to representative on the floor or the Customer Service desk and ask them to locate the price and price it. This not only saves you time checking out, it saves time for everyone behind you. It also shows you the price so you can decide long before you get in line if you want to pay that price.

Too many times I’ve seen someone bring up 10-20 garments to the checkout lane and hand them to the cashier for scanning. But, the items do not seem to have any bar codes. It’s not just one garment either. It’s like this person specifically searched for items that didn’t have bar codes (or somehow removed them all). I’m guessing they think that if the cashier can’t scan it, they can haggle for a price. This tactic doesn’t work. In many stores, garments or items where prices cannot be located will not be sold. That means you will have completely wasted your time and everyone else’s. In fact, I’d really prefer it if every store adopted a policy of not selling items where prices or bar codes cannot be located. Worse, though, is if the cashier decides to be nice and try to look up the price of the items. So, the cashier calls or radios for a price. That means someone on the floor has to go look for a similar item or stop by the checkout lane and pickup the item for reference.

When a cashier uses a floor runner to price an item usually takes 3-5 minutes. That’s 3-5 minutes that cashier is tied up doing nothing and everyone in line is caught waiting. So, get your items priced before you get in line.

If you feel the need to rip the price tags and bar codes off of items at Target, don’t. It’s not going to save you any money and will just cause you (and everyone else) to wait longer to check out (or possibly, you won’t purchase those items at all). If you don’t want to pay retail at places like Target or Wal-Mart, then go to Ross, Marshall’s, TJ Max or even Steinmart. If you want designer stuff, then visit outlet malls where you can find outlet stores for Coach, Tommy Bahama, Ralph Lauren and other name designers. You may even be able to haggle at an outlet store.

Ultimately, when you get in line, make sure your items have bar codes, don’t rip tags off hoping to get lower prices and don’t shop at the checkout. If you can’t find a price, ask at Customer Service. Make your decision to purchase before you get in line, not after. If there’s something you don’t want, then give it to the cashier who can send it back to the floor. If you forgot something, don’t hang the whole lane by running and getting it. Ask the cashier to suspend your transaction. Most stores can do this now. Then, go get your item(s) and get back in line (at the end of the line). The cashier can then bring up the suspended transaction with your new items and proceed checking you out. And most of all, think about all of the people behind you in line that you are making wait by not observing these most basic shopping courtesies.

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