The best ways to get help when traveling

Most of us have all been there: our flight gets delayed to City X, meaning we miss our flight to City Y. Or Our bags get lost, or there’s a weather issue in our destination city or, …or, …or anything. What do you do when this happens?

Before you get to the airport

Subscribe to your airline’s flight status notification service. Often times, you can opt for an email, text message or phone call to let you know if your flight’s going to be on time. If you find out soon enough that you might miss your connecting flight, for instance, you can call the airline before you even leave the house.

Case in point: a few weeks back, I flew to Vancouver, BC, but mechanical issues on the aircraft that was supposed to take me to SFO to connect meant that I would miss my connecting flight in San Francisco. Because I subscribe to flight status notification from United, I was able to take proactive measures and call United to get rebooked on a different flight before having left my home and potentially having to wait for hours at the airport.

Subscribe to airlines’ flight status notification

Delta: http://delta.com/cns/travel/flight_notification

United: http://www.united.com/web/en-us/content/flightstatus/updates.aspx

American: https://www.aa.com/travelInformation/fsnAccess.do

US Airways: http://www.usairways.com/en-US/dividendmiles/benotified.html

Southwest: http://www.southwest.com/flight/flight-notification-subscribe.html

Frontier: http://www.flyfrontier.com/flight-info/flight-status

At the airport

Once you get to the airport, you notice your flight’s delayed. Or your flight gets cancelled. Or, well, anything. Unless there’s not much of a line at the customer service desk (unlikely when an entire flight is cancelled, for instance), don’t bother waiting.

Find a kiosk

Often times, automated kiosks are available throughout the airport for your airline, and give you the option to rebook yourself if need be. Sometimes, especially when you book tickets using multiple airlines or with codeshares, this won’t work — but it’s always worth a try.

Tweet at the airline

Airlines are very responsive these days to customers who tweet at them. In fact, I’ve had very good interactions with United’s twitter team to address issues that otherwise I’d have to call for, and other airlines are equally proficient. This can be handy when you’re trying to do ten things at once, and don’t have time to make a phone call because you’re trying to get off a broken plane, for instance.

Using Facebook to contact an airline seems to be less than effective, which is why I suggest using Twitter. Just…make sure you spell the airline’s name correctly.

@Delta_Assist

@United

@AmericanAir

@usairways

@southwestair

@frontiercare

Call the airline

This is the second-to-last resort option in my mind — often times, especially during periods of inclement weather in some areas, hold times on airlines’ help lines can become huge, and, when traveling internationally, can be expensive. If you have frequent flier status, make sure you learn the usually-dedicated number for your status. As a United 1K flier, United’s 1K1Call has been unbelievably good to me in helping me through issues, but I also realize that not everyone has access to that level of support.

Delta: 800-221-1212

United: 800-UNITED-1 (800-864-8331)

American: 800-433-7300

US Airways: 800-428-4322

Southwest: 800-I-FLY-SWA (800-435-9792)

Frontier: 800-432-1359

When traveling internationally, make sure you find your airline’s international phone number (local to the country or countries you’ll be visiting) just in case. Again, it might be expensive, but it’s proven to be handy on more than one occasion for me.

BE NICE

Yes, I wrote that in capital letters because it’s important! You’re upset because you’re missing your flight, or your bag was lost, or the plane broke down before you even left the gate. But the gate agent did not break the plane, the person at the ticket counter (probably) didn’t screw up your reservation and the TSA agents…well, nevermind — but you get my point. In fact, I’ve had times when things have gone wrong while flying, and by being genuinely sympathetic and understanding, I’ve been given upgrades to first class on the spot. So, hey — it never hurts be to be nice! And, besides, there are probably people who are having a worse time at the airport than you are…