Flight Rights (10/2/04)

So how do you expedite things if you run into problems? Consumer Reports developed some travel strategies.

These days more folks are flying to get to their destinations. While one in five flights experience delays, the good news, cancelled flights are relatively rare. Even so, being stranded can be a real hassle.

One passenger said, “There was little help. Everyone ran to the counter so we just go on the phone and called Northwest directly." “We would have liked a room. We would have liked a meal. We got nothing.”

It's very hard to get the airlines to do anything other than help you get on the next scheduled flight. Consumer Reports’ David Heim says the fact is that's about all the airlines are required to do.

If your flight is cancelled most airlines will try to put you on their next available flight to your destination. If that doesn't work, they'll try to put you on another carrier at no extra charge.

If you're stranded overnight, be aware airlines are not responsible for getting you a hotel room, nor do they have to pay for your meals. But Cconsumer Reports says it never hurts to ask politely.

Airlines will sometimes give stranded passengers a meal voucher. In rare cases, they'll cover the cost of a hotel room.

As you're scheduling a flight, here are some smart travel strategies. Book an early flight that way your chances of getting on another flight are better. Also, before you head to the airport, check for alternative flights that are headed to the same city.

You can easily do that by checking any travel site. Print out the information so you have it. If you know what other airlines have flights at about the time you're leaving, then you'll what where to go right away for other arrangements.

That's when a cell phone comes in real handy. You are least likely to be delayed on a non-stop flight, so that's the best option if you can arrange it.

Also, when making a reservation, make sure the airline has your phone number, that way they can call and tell you if your flight's cancelled or delayed.

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