First Time Flyer Tips
How much can I take On-board, and what do I have to
As a very general rule, you can take
one size-limited carry-on bag with you when you fly, not including a small
laptop bag, backpack, or handbag. Alternatively, you can check two bags at the
airport check-in counter. Bag size restrictions for carry-on and weight-limits
for checked-luggage are determined by each airline.
What happens if I am over the Checked-Baggage Limit?
If you arrive at the airport
check-in counter with 12 bags of gifts for your nephews, be prepared to pay a
hefty price. Airlines typically charge you to check bags that meet their size
and weight limits (see checked in baggage allowance). Anything over the limit
can cost $75 or more per bag, so be aware! The ticket counter agent will be
happy to take your credit card and charge you more than you spent on those
What happens if I carry my bags on-board, and there is
You’ve made it to the airport, your
flight is set for an on-time departure, and you’ve started the boarding process
- only you’re in the back of a long line of fellow passengers, and by the time
you get on board, there is no space left in any of the overhead bins! Well what
happens in that case is the flight attendants take your bag into the cockpit,
where the pilot gets first dibs on your stuff...what really happens are that
they take your bag off the plane and checks it in. So now you have to go to
baggage claim when you arrive at your destination to pick it up at the baggage
Confirming your Flight
If you fly on any one of the major
US carriers or their large alliance partners, you don’t have to worry about
calling to confirm your flight. However, if you’re flying with less-known
carrier, it’s a good idea to call at least 24 hours prior to your scheduled
departure. Check with your airline a day before your departure.
Checking on the Status of your Flight before you Leave
is definitely a good idea to check the status of your departure prior to
leaving for the airport.
NOTE: remember, if your flight is listed as ’on-time 3
hours prior to your boarding time that does not guarantee that by the time you
get to the airport parking lot that the flight status will not have changed to
When to arrive at the airport?
The TSA recommends arriving at least
2 hours before your flight. You might also want to check the average security
wait times to see how long the lines are at the time you’ll be arriving.
Airport Parking Option
Airport parking can be very
frustrating, and very expensive, if you’re not prepared. It is very common for
passengers to miss flights because they could not find appropriate parking, or
getting stuck with huge bills because time ran short and the only option left
was the high-priced short-term parking garage.
Public Transportation Options
If you live in an area which has
public transportation, often this can be the cheapest and most reliable way to
get into and out of the airport. Trains are not affected by rush hour (they
only run more frequently), and often take you very close to your departure
If your bags are delayed, try not to
panic. The airlines typically have ways 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 to file your claim
immediately at the airport and to give the attendant a hotel or home address,
as well as a phone number where you can be reached.
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 (keep your
receipts!). But be careful here -- the airline sometimes has the option to
deduct any reimbursement or stipend from any subsequent awards.
Before you leave the airport, be sure you know how to check on your bag's
status; some airlines have an online system while others will provide you with
a phone number to call for updates.
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 mail.
On domestic flights, the airline baggage liability is capped at $3,300 per
person. On international trips, the liability limit varies, as it is governed
by two international treaties, the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions. As of
August 2011, if you paid a checked baggage fee for your lost bag, the airline
must refund your fee.
need to produce receipts to prove the value of items you had in your suitcase.
If you have them, include copies in any documentation you send to the airline.
(Keep in mind that you will be reimbursed for the depreciated value of your
items -- so the airline won't give you the full $1,000 you paid for that suit
you purchased two years ago.) You can purchase "excess valuation"
protection if your checked baggage is worth more than these limits (but before
doing so, make sure the items aren't already covered by your homeowner's or
travel insurance policy).
The airlines typically have a long list of items for which they will not be
held responsible; these include jewelry, money, heirlooms and other valuables.
These sorts of items should always be packed in your carry-on bag.
directly to the baggage carousel when you get off your flight to minimize the
potential time for your bag to be stolen. Many airlines scan bags when they're
loaded into the baggage claim area and keep records, especially at larger
airports. If your bag goes missing after you've left the baggage claim area,
your claim is no longer with the airline, but with the police. Your homeowners
insurance may cover a stolen suitcase; if it doesn't, consider purchasing
you've gotten your bags off the carousel, immediately check them for damage or
other signs of tampering or mishandling. Report any damage before leaving the
airport; airline customer service will often want to inspect the bag. Keep in
mind that most airlines won't cover minor wear and tear.
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.
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
· The most common causes of lost and delayed bags are late
check-ins and tight connections. Avoid both when you can.
· Pack all 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 never be in your checked baggage.
· Itemize. It sounds tedious, but when an airline asks what
was in your bag, you don't want to forget anything of value. If you make a packing
list before you travel, hang onto it -- this is an easy way to remember
everything you put into your bags.
· Make sure the person who checks your baggage attaches the
correct destination ticket to every bag, and get a claim ticket for each.
· Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on bag so that
you'll have something to wear if your checked bag is delayed.
· Travel insurance is the best guarantee that you'll recoup
any losses. See our guide to travel insurance for more information.
Consider using a baggage tagging service such as globalbagtag.com, which offers
luggage tags with unique serial numbers that can be linked to the suitcase
owner via an online database. The site will contact you as soon as your lost
item is found. (An annual fee applies.)
If All Else Fails
If your bag is lost, stolen or damaged, be sure to file a complaint immediately.
If you still can't get satisfaction, or feel the need to report the airline,
contact the Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection