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2 must-have items for air travel

Whenever I get on a plane lately, the experience provides perfect material for a blog post.

Here is the latest lesson….two items I could not have done without on today’s journey from Austin to Kansas City for the Travel Media Showcase conference.

1.   The 800 telephone number to directly contact the airline. Have it written down AND pre-programmed into your cell phone. Here is why:

  • My original morning flight on Northwest Airlines was already flashing “Delayed” when I arrived at the airport a little after 6 am. Not a good sign, especially since I had a tight plane change/turnaround in Minneapolis (yes, don’t get me started on the absurdity of flying to Minneapolis from Austin in order to get to Kansas City – die, airline hub & spoke!)
  • I went to the gate area to see what was up. No desk attendant from Northwest, no notice on the electronic board indicating a revised departure time.
  • I sat there like a sheep along with everyone else till the scheduled departure time came and went, with NOTHING heard from the airline.  I then whipped out my cell phone, called Northwest’s 800 number and was promptly and politely rebooked onto a Continental Airlines flight leaving just 30 minutes later (and getting me to KC 40 minutes earlier than the original arrival time.)
  • I did a happy dance, grabbed my trusty rolling carryon suitcase — here’s another example of why you should never check luggage these days if you can help it — and I scampered to my new gate.
  • Don’t be a sheep! I learned from calling the 800 number that the plane had a mechanically-related delay of 6 hours; who knows when someone would have come around to tell us that.

2.  Carry a small portable digital music player. Here’s why:

  • Your sanity.  My iPod blocked out having to listen to a yammering TV show at the gate while I waited for Northwest to ignore me (see above.)
  • Your sanity.  My iPod blocked out the screaming child who was running madly around in the Kansas City airport, ignoring his mother and jumping on the luggage carousel. Not my child, and he couldn’t set my teeth on edge, either.
  • Your sanity.  My iPod blocked out the women who blabbed on her cell phone for nearly 40 minutes as I awaited ground transport in KC.
  • Did I say, “your sanity?”  Air travel is crummy enough these days; having pleasant sounds of your own choosing makes life quite tolerable.