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Traveler Story: What I Learned From My Disastrous Air Travel Experience To Paris
It’d been ages since I’d traveled outside the United States and I was longing for a vacation. With the beckoning call of summer and the easing of COVID travel restrictions, I felt it was the perfect time to schedule a trip abroad. So I booked a week-long trip with my sister to France to visit Paris and Nice.
While the time spent in France was primarily enjoyable, our trip was unfortunately marred by a chaotic and messy air travel nightmare that resulted in several of our flights being delayed or canceled and our baggage being lost.
We were originally booked on an American Airlines flight from San Diego to Dallas, Tx, and then from Dallas to Paris, but after our original flight was delayed 6 hours due to a maintenance issue we were rebooked on a British Airways flight from San Diego to London and London to Paris.
A rebooking, however, didn’t solve the travel nightmare.
On the way, we faced several other delayed and canceled flights that ultimately resulted in us losing a full day of our vacation. On top of that when we finally did land at the Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport our luggage wasn’t there, leaving my sister and me without clothes and the bare necessities. I didn’t receive my luggage until the last three days of our trip and my sister has yet to receive hers—we returned from our trip on July 23rd and the airline has still not been able to give us a definitive answer to where the bag is and when she’ll receive it. Currently, both my sister and I are struggling to get anyone on the phone who can reimburse us for the items we were forced to purchase due to the missing luggage.
Instead of having a carefree vacation filled with the sights and sounds of France, we spent a substantial amount of time on the phone trying to locate our luggage and dropping money we never intended to spend.
But our calamitous affair is not unique, as air travel is suffering a wave of mishaps right now all over the globe. Several airports are canceling and delaying flights and luggage is being lost and delayed at unprecedented rates. Various factors contribute to the current terrible state of air travel, including 2020 job cuts due to the pandemic, airport staff going on strike, and a surge of “revenge travel” overwhelming already understaffed airports and airlines.
So if you’re preparing for an upcoming trip—especially an international one—use my air travel experience as a warning. I learned some valuable lessons from it and would like to share a few helpful insights with you in hopes it’ll make your air travel an easier and more enjoyable one.
Bon voyage and good luck.
Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is the protection you’ll want in case anything goes wrong, particularly when traveling abroad. If you’re like me and are averse to the idea of adding another expense to an already costly excursion, I’d suggest you reconsider. In the long run, adding this extra expense can save you from losing out on money. With travel insurance, you will get reimbursed if something impacts your trip — whether it’s flight delays, lost luggage, stolen items, medical expenses, or having to cancel your travels.
Suppose you do decide to get travel insurance. In that case, it is best to buy it at the same time as booking your flight, that way you’ll have more information concerning your trip and estimated expenses and you can better maximize your coverage. Pay attention to the exclusions section on your policy — it will expressly state what is and isn’t covered in your policy.
Pack the Essentials in Your Carry-On
Usually, when I have a checked bag, my carry-on luggage is more of an afterthought—I use it for everything that didn’t fit into my checked luggage but after this unfortunate experience I’ll now be making better use of my carry-on baggage. My advice, make sure to pack the essentials in your carry-on, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, assorted pairs of underwear, basic tops and pants, etc. Likewise make sure to pack your favorite items and ones that can’t be replaced in your carry-on, as well as medication.
Also keep in mind that many airlines allow a carry-on and a personal item, such as a small backpack or purse, on the plane. So you can use your carry-on luggage for all your fundamental needs and have a personal item for more of the extra stuff like books, snacks, games, etc.
Avoid Switching Airlines
In my experience, switching from American Airlines to British Airways was a mistake that caused more confusion surrounding our luggage. It’s possible that if we hadn’t switched airlines our luggage would have arrived on time, or would’ve at least been an easier ordeal to navigate—as we were often on the phone with both airlines trying to figure out who was responsible. I’d strongly caution against swapping airlines if you can avoid it, especially if you’ve already checked in and checked your bags. If a flight is canceled or delayed, this might mean you can’t leave or arrive on the original dates you had in mind, so weigh the cost and benefits of switching airlines wisely.
When facing this decision, make sure to inquire about all your options. Some airlines might offer you a nearby airport to leave out of so you can make another flight or set you up in a hotel if you’re stranded for a night. If you have wifi, it’s worth doing some digging on your own. It’s also advised that you ask multiple airline staff about your options to ensure you can find the best alternative flight for your needs.
Budget for the Unexpected
When traveling it’s of course important to allocate a certain amount of funds to your trip. You’ll want food money, transportation money, and entertainment money, to name a few. But don’t forget to budget for the unforeseen expenses as well, like losing your luggage and needing to shop for the things you need.
Other budget travel tips that can help you stay on target when dealing with unexpected travel needs include using a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, taking public transportation, and cooking your own meals when possible.
Know Your Rights as a Traveler
As an air traveler, you have rights. Air passenger rights involve specific laws that support travelers and advocate for protection both on the ground and in the air. These airline passenger rights can cover areas such as ticket pricing, baggage issues, tarmac delays, and canceled flights. They’re enforced by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Keep in mind that airline passenger rights will vary from country to country.
To avoid being held financially accountable for travel mishaps, airlines may not freely disclose this information to passengers. So it’s important you read up on your rights and file complaints to the appropriate channels in order to get compensated for your situation.