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Travel Q&A

Managing your travel needs requires attention to many details. To help your grasp of travel fundamentals, and provide further understanding of the complexities, we've responded to a range of commonly asked travel questions. This Q&A is organized by subject area:

    Airfares
    Tickets
    Seats
    Luggage
    Changes and Problems
    Good to Know


Airfares.

  1. What is the system that governs my airfare?
  2. Nonrefundable fares: Are the savings worth the restrictions?
  3. How can I pay the least amount for air travel?
  4. What is a Consolidator?

Tickets.

  1. How is electronic ticketing handled?
  2. What can I expect when I send my ticket back for a refund?
  3. What can I do with an unused nonrefundable ticket?

Seats.

  1. Why can't I have an aisle?
  2. How can there be empty seats on a sold-out flight?

Luggage.

  1. How much free luggage may I take?
  2. How do I deal with excess baggage and special equipment?
  3. What if my luggage is lost?

Changes and Problems.

  1. What if the airline changes my schedule or cancels my flight?
  2. What if I'm bumped from a flight?

Good to Know.

  1. What safety precautions should I take in a foreign country??
  2. What ID do I need when traveling?
  3. When should I get to the airport for my flight?
  4. What about insurance?

Travel Q&A

Airfares

1. What is the system that governs my airfare?

With industry deregulation, the advent of technology and new economic realities, the system of airfares has become complicated. The airlines now all engage in "yield management" to make the most money possible on each flight.

Airlines estimate and evaluate many factors when pricing an air market:

  • The number of people that will take the flight regardless of the cost.
  • The lowest fare needed to attract passengers who will only fly if it's cheap.
  • Competitors' pricing.
  • The revenue produced from each fare per mile flown.
  • The number of passengers at lower price levels offset with passengers paying higher prices.

The airlines set all price levels for a market and how many passengers they will allow on each flight per fare level. Even if you conform to the rules, you may not get the best price if the allotted number of seats has been sold for that fare level. Conversely, even if you're the first person to reserve a specific flight, but don't meet the promotional fare requirements, you'll pay the normal fare.

Suggestions:

Flexibility is key to a low fare. Choosing flights at different times, on different airlines or alternate days could save you a substantial sum.

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2. Nonrefundable fares: Are the savings worth the restrictions?

Saving money on air travel is important but with the restrictions imposed on low-priced, nonrefundable tickets, should you lock yourself into a fare?

When you call MTS TRAVEL with your travel plans, we will quote you a fare based on your requirements. If you meet the advance-purchase restrictions and you can stay over a Saturday night (for domestic), or remain at your destination for at least 13 days (for international), you will usually qualify for a lower-priced, non-refundable fare.

Some of the restrictions that may apply include:

  • Advance purchase.
  • Saturday night stay (a few are Friday, Sunday night stay or other minimum stay requirements).
  • No routing changes.
  • No refund of the ticket for cash.
  • Fees for changing a ticket.
  • Application of any voucher on the carrier if you must change or cancel your plans.

Suggestions:

Nonrefundable fares are significantly less expensive than full-fare coach. (In most markets, full coach is about four times more expensive.) If you can purchase your ticket ahead and abide by the stay restrictions, you'll save a lot of money. Only you know if you're likely to use the ticket later if you must cancel. Compare the full coach price with the refund/exchange fee. Will you fly the airline within the coming year? If so, it may be worth purchasing the nonrefundable ticket and be penalized, providing you apply it to a future itinerary.

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3. How can I pay the least amount for air travel?

Taking advantage of promotional and sale fares requires some advance planning. An itinerary must meet conditions to qualify.

The effect on a fare that fails to meet rules varies. For example, many fares are higher on certain days of the week, but the additional charge is usually in the $20 to $50 range. However, the difference paid is substantial if you cannot meet the minimum stay restriction.

Advance purchase and maximum stay qualifications greatly affect an airfare. Typically, the more advance purchase and shorter the stay (within minimum stay requirements), the lower the fare. These restrictions often have many levels.

Suggestions:

Consider alternative airports, which may necessitate some driving time but save you hundreds of dollars. If you're able to conform to airline preferences -- such as taking connecting flights or non-stop flights at an inconvenient time -- you may also save money. Some carriers run specials offering companion fares if two people travel on exactly the same itinerary. Budget airlines usually sell more seats at discounts with fewer restrictions.

In addition, plan to conform to the following rules:

  • Ticket ahead. Most lower fares have advance-purchase requirements which range from 7 to 30 days.
  • Plan to stay at your destination for the required minimum. For domestic travel, and some international, that means spending a Saturday night. Most other international minimum stays range from 7 to 14 days. . (Many MTS international negotiated fares for not-for-profit travelers can save you considerable money for shorter stays. Ask your MTS travel consultant for a fare quote.)
  • Travel when others are not. When heading to Europe, avoid the popular and expensive summer season. For Chicago, avoid flights there on Monday morning and late Friday afternoon, when most corporate travelers are flying.
  • Check with MTS TRAVEL as to the rules that are likely to affect travel on your itinerary.
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4. What is a Consolidator?

A consolidator is a firm that buys excess seats from airlines, or that has a special contract based on volume. The consolidator then resells tickets to travel management companies like MTS TRAVEL as well as individual travelers at a markup. Consolidators carry inventory risk as the airlines require them to sell the seats or forfeit the price paid for them. Since deregulation permits a wide range of fares on any given aircraft, buying tickets from consolidators, or consolidator-like outlets, can save you money.

MTS TRAVEL works with several reliable consolidators who represent multiple airlines serving many routes. With a consolidator ticket, you'll usually fly on scheduled airlines and know the airline on which you're booked at the time of reservation.

Purchasing tickets from a consolidator may not be the most cost effective for you. With MTS TRAVEL' booking volume to certain destinations, we can obtain consolidator-like contracts with selected airlines. We consider all options (including sale fares listed in our computer reservations system) and provide you with the best price.

There are a few drawbacks to using consolidator tickets. They include:

  • Some will not accept a credit card payment or will levy a surcharge of up to 5%.
  • Most have advance booking restrictions and are also nonrefundable. Those that are refundable usually take longer to return your fare.
  • They do not permit accrual of frequent flyer miles.
  • There is no provision for lodging or transportation on an alternate carrier if your flight is canceled. (However, the airline must eventually fly you to your destination on their aircraft.)
  • They do not permit seat assignment before check in.

With most low-price tickets, you'll save the most by reserving and purchasing your space in advance. However, airlines often run specials to select popular destinations. These fares may undercut consolidator prices and carry their own advance purchase and day/time restrictions.

Airfare wars pop up frequently with no advance warning. Keep this in mind when purchasing your consolidator ticket if you're traveling to a popular European or Asian destination. Domestic consolidators sometimes save you money if you must purchase a full-fare coach ticket on short notice.

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Travel Q&A

Tickets

1. How is electronic ticketing handled?

Today most all airlines offer ticketless or electronic tickets. The worldwide elimination of paper tickets is projected within the decade.

Once your reservation is executed, the airline holds a place for you. To guarantee the fare quoted, you must authorize MTS TRAVEL to request generation of an electronic ticket, using either your credit card number or an MTS TRAVEL check (if your organization has an invoice-on-account status).

Should you alter your plans, you will be subject to change or cancellation penalties by the airline. In exchange for your payment, we'll give you a confirmation number and printed itinerary. Electronic tickets provide piece of mind, as they cannot be lost or stolen. If you leave home without your printed itinerary, you will still be able to obtain your boarding passes and fly on your scheduled flights.

For domestic flights, you may check-in and print boarding passes on-line with most airlines 24 hours prior to your flight time or at the airport on departure day. Many international flights will allow a type of on-line check-in that provides them with passenger information and provides you with seat assignment options, but it will still be necessary to stop at the main airport counter for documentation check and boarding passes.

Suggestions:

As electronic tickets have become more prevalent, some carriers have limited advance seat assignments to 24 hours prior to flight departure. You choose your seat, or they assign it, at check-in. When they permit advance assignment, MTS TRAVEL will work to satisfy your preferences.

If you are not able to check-in and print your domestic boarding passes at home, major airlines have automated kiosks available at many airports that will eliminate the need to stand in line.

For refunds or exchanges -- if you cannot use all or part of your electronic ticket -- notify MTS TRAVEL. We will verify the unused portion(s) with the airline and if it's eligible for a refund, your MTS TRAVEL consultant will process for you. If applicable only toward future travel, we will advise you of the useable value and the date by which the value must be used.

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2. What can I expect when I send my ticket back for a refund?

Many tickets have complex rules regarding a refund. When you cancel a trip, notify MTS TRAVEL immediately and we'll help you sort through it. If it's after hours, and your MTS TRAVEL office is closed, cancel directly with the airline, and notify us the next business day. If your ticket holds any refund value, MTS TRAVEL will pursue the refund on your behalf. Credit card purchases will be credited to your card; if you paid by cash or check, we'll send you a check when the airline pays us the refund. The process may take up to six weeks and any applicable penalties will be deducted.

If you have a partially used ticket, this is a more complicated process. The airlines require that we calculate the cost of the portions used, and they will deduct this from their total payment.

Suggestions:

Remember that the least expensive airfares are not generally fully refundable, and many are nonrefundable.

One-way fares are much higher than half a round-trip fare and often higher than the total round-trip fare. Therefore, many partially used tickets have no refund value.

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3. What can I do with an unused nonrefundable ticket?

Each airline, indeed each fare basis, has different rules. Most airlines allow these unused tickets as full or partial payment toward a new ticket on the same airline and for the same passenger. Some fare bases do not permit this, but right now they are the exception.

If you cancel before the original departure date, we will contact the carrier to cancel your trip, verify that the ticket is nonrefundable and review the re-use policies. If it is the day of departure or one day ahead, and your MTS office is closed, call the airline to cancel your travel. Then notify your MTS travel consultant the next business day. Most airlines require you cancel your reservation prior to flight time, or you will forfeit the ticket's value. The airline may assess a transaction fee which is due at the time of reissuing even if there is leftover value. If the old ticket has less value than the new, you must pay the difference at that time.

If the old ticket was of greater value than the new, we consult the airline's particular rule. Some airlines save the excess value in voucher form for future use. Even so, there is a transaction fee that's not deducted from the excess value. Other airlines require issuance of a new ticket at a ticketing office. For yet other carriers, the excess value is lost. If a reissued ticket MTS TRAVEL handles results in a voucher, the voucher becomes nontransferable and nonrefundable.

Most airlines require that nonrefundable tickets only be used toward the purchase of other nonrefundable tickets; others permit use toward a refundable ticket, but that portion of the new ticket remains nonrefundable.

Suggestions:

Before making travel plans, consider choosing an airline for which you have an unused ticket and remind MTS TRAVEL that you have one on hand. Plot your travel bearing in mind the values and expiration dates of those unused tickets.

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Travel Q&A

Seats

1. Why can't I have an aisle?

With the majority of travelers preferring certain seats, most domestic and some international carriers allow assignment of seats in advance. The process and restrictions vary by airline. On some carriers (American, Continental, United) seat maps are available a full year in advance. On others, the maps become available nearer to departure. Increasingly, non U.S. flagged airlines key advanced seat assignment to the fare level paid.

Not all seats on the plane are open for pre-assigned seating. All airlines hold some preferred seats for last-minute reservations and airport check in. These accommodate passengers who must book late, and consequently pay higher fares - or have special needs.

According to government regulations, airlines may assign exit row seats only to those people deemed willing and able to perform emergency duties. With most airlines this means they assign exit row seats only upon check in. Bulkhead seats are most often used for passengers with special needs or those traveling with young children.

The level of frequent-flyer membership increasingly affects seat choices. Automation advances allow airlines to offer additional options for seat selection when the frequent flyer reaches "preferred" or "premier" member status.

Suggestions:

Make your reservation well in advance to maximize choice and possibility of pre-assigned seats. Clearly express your preference to MTS.

Check to see if you can improve an unsatisfactory seat location when you check-in on-line or at the airport. Reservations constantly change and something may have opened up.

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2. How can there be empty seats on a sold-out flight?

For each flight, the airlines carefully calculate the number of passengers and resulting revenue, the income for cargo and the anticipated weather conditions. From this calculation they decide the number of seats to make available for each flight. This process also determines how many seats at each fare level are offered. Sometimes cargo takes precedence when calculating the total load. This means a flight can be "sold out" when there is still passenger space available.

Hint:

Advance planning greatly increases your chance of securing a seat on the flight of your choice.

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Travel Q&A

Luggage

1. How much free luggage may I take?

The airlines allow each paying passenger a specified amount of free baggage. Specific rules vary by airlines. If in doubt, check with the carrier.

Carry-on: An item which must fit under the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin. The approximate maximum size is 45 inches (9 + 14 + 22 inches).

Checked baggage: Pieces given to an airline attendant to place on the same flight(s) with the passenger. The passenger receives baggage claim checks in exchange for his luggage.

Excess baggage: The item(s) or weight which exceeds the free allowance the airlines permit each passenger.



 Domestic

The following applies to travel to/from all US points, plus travel to/from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.

Free Allowance

For first class, business and economy passengers, age 2 and over:

  • 3 pieces total (that's pretty standard).

Some airlines allow you to:

  • check all 3
  • check 2 and carry on 1
  • check 1 and carry on 2

Many airlines say:

    Maximum weight each piece: usually 50 pounds
    Maximum size each piece: 62 inches (158cm)
    (Add the width, depth and length to arrive at 62 inches. For example: 12 + 22 + 28 inches.)
    The sum of the linear dimension of Piece 1 and Piece 2 of your checked baggage must not exceed 106"; some say 107"; some say 117"!

 International

Free Allowance

Economy class-direct international flights, passengers age 2 and over.

Checked

  • 2 pieces, combined dimensions of length + width + height of each piece measured separately, not to exceed 107".
  • Neither piece may exceed 62 inches.
  • Maximum weight per piece is generally 50 pounds, depending on the airline and destinations. Check with the carrier to make sure.

Unchecked

  • 1 piece, with maximum combined dimensions of 45 inches.
  • Must be stored under a seat or in an overhead compartment.

For infants (under 2, who pay 10% of the adult fare)

  • 1 piece, with total maximum dimensions of 45 inches.
  • 1 collapsible stroller

The stroller may have to be checked, unless the airline allows you to store it in the cabin's garment-bag department. Ask the carrier.

First and Business Class:


Free Allowance:

    Checked: 2 pieces

      Each may be up to 62" and usually 50 pounds maximum



    Carry-On: 1 piece, up to 45"

Carry-on:

Must fit under the seat or in enclosed overhead bin.
Approximate maximum size: 45 inches (9 + 14 + 12).

However, some airlines say the dimensions vary by flight. Some give weight restrictions for carry-ons. Be sure to check with the airline.

You may also carry on the following free "personal items" besides your one or two pieces:

  • Purse
  • Overcoat
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Reading material for flight
  • Umbrella


Hints and Suggestions:

The airline has the right to refuse baggage which:

  1. Is not marked with the passenger's name on the outside
  2. The passenger refuses to allow the airline to examine
  3. The airline deems unsuitable for transport, or
  4. Is to be transported on a flight other than the one on which the passenger is traveling.

Liquids and Gels:

Recent regulations restrict the size and quantity of liquids or gels that can be carried in your hand luggage. The basic rules are maximum of 3 ounces each container, with the total number of containers fitting comfortably in a one-quart Ziploc bag.

Packing

Your destination will determine what is best to pack in the way of clothing, but there are some basics to keep in mind:

  1. Keep all medications in your carry-on luggage.
  2. Do not put valuables such as cameras, passport, jewelry in your checked luggage.
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2. How do I deal with excess baggage and special equipment?



Domestic carriers (Within the USA and Canada)generally follow these basic guidelines:

Excess Baggage:

For a piece over the free allowance, the airline charges one flat fee-if the bag does not exceed 62 inches or 50 pounds. If overweight or oversize, double the charge.

Many airlines charge one flat fee for the 1st, 2nd & 3rd piece of excess-a higher fee for the 4th, 5th & 6th piece-and still a higher fee for the 7th+ pieces.

Maximum Excess Baggage:

Due to aircraft limitations, an airline may:

  • Restrict excess baggage,
  • Accept such baggage on a space-available basis, or
  • Refuse acceptance seasonally.

Contact the airline for specific information

For special pieces, such as the following, contact the airlines for individual rules and regulations.

  • Sporting Equipment
    When a passenger's baggage exceeds the maximum allowance and includes sporting equipment, the articles generally will be subject to specified excess baggage charges.
  • Musical Instruments
    Airlines will accept as baggage only upon advance arrangements and subject to certain conditions. Generally, they count portable musical instruments as one checked piece, provided they don't exceed 30".
  • Live Animals
    Airlines will accept certain live animals for transport, provided they are in approved carriers. Most airlines impose temperature restrictions for extreme hot or cold weather for the safety of the animal.
  • Firearms and Ammunition
    Airlines will accept firearms and ammunition for transport if they meet certain conditions.

For International carriers -

The piece system applies to most international travel between points to/from USA/Canada-baggage booked directly through to the passenger's destination. There are some notable exceptions. Always contact the airline for specific rules.

Excess Baggage Charges:

  1. Each piece within 62 inches and 50 pounds: One flat charge.
  2. Piece over 62 inches but not exceeding 80 inches; weight up to 50 pounds: Twice the flat charge-except between Canada/USA and Mexico, it's three times the flat charge.
  3. Pieces whose dimensions exceed 80 inches and/or weight exceeds 50 pounds: Three time the flat charge-up to the first 100 pounds. Each additional 22 pounds charged extra according to tables in the Worldwide Official Airlines Guide.

Check the airlines for specific charges for excess - including snow-skiing and skydiving equipment, bulky baggage and pets.

The weight system applies from points outside the USA/Canada traveling to destinations other than the USA/Canada. It may also apply from various destinations to the U.S.

There are exceptions by airline and/or by country of origin/destination-so always check with the carrier.

The basic rate for excess baggage is:

  • 1% of the first class airfare per kilogram (2.2 lbs.)

There are exceptions to this rule, however. For example, excess baggage from - but not to - Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay is charged 1% of the economy fare per kilogram.

Hints and Suggestions:

Refusal of Baggage

The airline has the right to refuse baggage which:

  1. Is not marked with the passenger's name on the outside,
  2. The passenger refuses to allow the airline to examine,
  3. The airline deems unsuitable for transport, or
  4. Is to be transported on a flight other than the one on which the passenger is traveling.

To avoid last-minute problems with excess baggage at the airport, contact the airline well ahead of the scheduled travel date.

  1. Make sure that both the domestic and international carriers enter all flights into their records. This shows the complete routing of the bags.
  2. Notify the carriers at least four weeks in advance (longer, if possible) of the…
    1. Number of pieces
    2. Dimensions and weight of each piece
  3. Let the airline know you're carrying only "personal effects" - not commercial equipment. (Only if this is true, of course!)

Other Valuable Tips:

  • Try to avoid domestic commuter flights. Very often these small planes cannot hold any excess.
  • You may want to have extra tape, string and banding material for repackaging - in case your bags or boxes are opened for inspection.

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3. What if my luggage is lost?



Compared to the number of pieces handled, luggage losses are rare. But what can you do if your bag doesn't arrive with you? Here are some suggestions:

Regarding lost luggage, "ounce-of-prevention" rule applies here. Listed are some precautions to take to keep your baggage from becoming an airline statistic:

  1. Label your bags inside and out, with your name address and phone. If practical, also put your destination address/phone in the bags. (It's wise to use your business address, as would-be thieves scan airport luggage to detect homes which are vacant.)
  2. Remove shoulder straps to prevent catching in the baggage-handling machines.
  3. Remove any old airline tags from previous trips
  4. Double check the three-letter airport code the agent places on your bags. This should be your destination city, unless you must clear Customs in a foreign country or upon your first U.S port of entry. You usually must claim your luggage, bring it to Customs and recheck to your destination city, (Upon request, your MTS agent will gladly give you the three-letter code for all segments of your journey.)
  5. Deter thieves by using inexpensive luggage, not designer bags.

Baggage insurance:

The maximum amount the airlines will pay per passenger for lost luggage is $3,000 for domestic flights. This is expected to be adjusted every two years, to allow for inflation. You may want to read the baggage notice on your airline ticket. (The printed official-looking stuff that's attached to your ticket, or placed in your ticket jacket.) It contains important information regarding airline liability. If lost, the airline will base your compensation on either the total actual weight noted at check-in or 50 pounds, the maximum weight allowed per piece.

If you are flying internationally, including on flights connecting to international flights, subject to the Warsaw Convention, the liability limit for delay, damage or loss is approximately $9.07 per pound ($20 per kg) for checked baggage and approximately $400 per passenger for unchecked baggage. Where the Montreal Convention applies, the liability of the airline for the delay, damage or loss to checked and unchecked baggage is limited to 1,000 Special Drawing Rights per passenger.

A special Drawing Right is a sort of international currency equivalent, set by the International Monetary Fund. The value of an SDR changes daily; (on 3 Feb, 2005 1 SDR=US$1.519, so the airlines would pay up to $1519.)

This 1000 SDR limit is expected to be reviewed every five years.

This 1000 SDR limit can be exceeded if you can prove the airline and its employees was acting recklessly and had to expect that damage would result from its actions (a 'please handle with care' sticker for example might help establish the airline's knowledge and increased duty of care.) On the other hand, the airlines won't pay for damage to fragile items that are not adequately packed.

MTS has information regarding insurance you can purchase through reliable companies which will cover the contents of your luggage. The premium fee depends on its declared value. You may want to check your homeowners' policy first, to see if it covers "off-premises loss or damage" and the maximum you'll be reimbursed. Some credit cards also provide baggage insurance when you purchase your tickets with their card.

It's wise to keep a list of your luggage contents and the approximate value of each piece. You'll need this to submit a claim to the airline, your homeowners' insurance or supplemental policy. Remember the airlines and most policies will reimburse you for depreciated value-not replacement value. If you've recently bought costly items, it's a good idea to know where the receipts are to verify the date of purchase.

Never pack cash, negotiable documents, jewelry, furs, cameras or electronics in your checked luggage. They are generally excluded from airlines liability and baggage insurance. You will not be reimbursed if they are lost. Individual personal policies may have different rules, but be sure to check.

Delayed Bags:

Within hours, the airlines return about 98% of misplaced bags. If your bag doesn't come off the conveyor, report this to the airline before you leave the airport.

  1. Be sure to fill out a form listing its contents. Be as accurate as possible. If the bag is lost, the airline may use this information to settle your claim. Keep a copy of this completed form for your records.
  2. Get the phone number for baggage services so you can check on your bag. Also ask for the person's name who took the report.
  3. Ask if the airlines will advance you a small sum for emergency purchases. Many carriers will do this if your destination is away from home. If you do not receive a cash advance, purchase only necessities and keep all receipts. The airline may reimburse you later. Generally they pay for toiletries and basic clothing. They may only partially reimburse clothes, since you can use them well after your trip. Usual amounts range from $25 to $75-somewhat dependent on your ability to negotiate! If you are a frequent-flyer with the airline, be sure to mention this and put it in writing on your claim form.

Damaged Bags:

If your suitcase arrives damaged, the airlines will usually pay for repairs. If it can't be fixed, they'll negotiate payment for the depreciated value. This is also true for any damage to contents. (To avoid rain damage to your suitcase contents, it's wise to travel with hard-sided luggage, rather than soft-sided. Some airlines will even refuse liability if contents of your soft-sided luggage are water damaged.)

  1. Check the contents immediately. If anything is missing, report this right away.
  2. Report damage before you leave the airport.
  3. Insist on completing a form.
  4. Get the phone number for the local airline baggage service office.

If your destination is away from home and your clothing is soiled, ask the airline for a small cash advance for laundry/dry cleaning services.

Lost luggage:

If they declare your bag officially lost, you'll need to submit a claim. Some airlines use the delayed baggage claim you completed; others want another one filled in.

Be realistic in valuing the contents. Airlines reject inflated claims. Remember they will pay you on the depreciated value, not replacement value. For expensive items, they may ask for sales receipts to back up your claims. If the airline gave you a cash advance, they will generally deduct this amount from the final settlement.

Claim processing takes from six weeks to three months. Call the airlines frequently-to show your concern and to make sure they're following up on your claim. Should you experience service problems, contact the Customer Relations or Consumer Affairs office of the airlines. If you get no satisfaction from the airline, you can call the U.S. Department of Transportation to lodge a complaint.

    Office of Consumer affairs
    U.S. Department of Transportation
    400 7th Street S.W Room 10405
    Washington, DC 20590
    202-366-2220

Include your name, address, and daytime phone number. A photocopy of your airline ticket may also help.

Hints and Suggestions:

Essentials for carry-ons:

In addition to the above outlined expensive, irreplaceable or fragile items, always take prescription medicine on the plane with you. You may also want to pack enough essentials in your carry-on bag to sustain you for two days just in case your luggage is lost.

Late check-in for Flights:

If you arrive late for a flight, the airlines may want you to sign a Late Baggage Tag. By signing, you accept responsibility if your luggage doesn't arrive at your destination the same time you do. If you're running late, it's safest to bring your luggage to the gate and have it tagged there. Most of the time, this will be placed on the same plane with you.

Item to note: On the front of your ticket, there's a box the airlines are required to complete listing the number of checked pieces and the total weight. Sometimes they don't bother entering this into the system. If they don't and your bags are lost, you may have a case for higher than maximum compensation-providing you can back your claim with purchase receipts.

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Travel Q&A

Changes and Problems

1. What if the airline changes my schedule or cancels my flight?

Airline schedules change daily and the notification to passengers varies considerably. If we make a reservation for you, via the airline computer system, the airline sends any changes to us. Reservations made directly with the air carrier have schedule changes communicated by phone. e-mail, or regular mail.

Most schedule changes are insignificant and create little, if any, inconvenience. If a schedule change is significant or inconvenient, you have the right to request changes in the itinerary.

If they cancel your original flight before the day of departure, the airline rebooks you on the next available flight. Should that be unsatisfactory, contact MTS immediately and we will contact the airline. In extreme cases, it's possible to obtain space on another carrier or get permission to refund the ticket and reissue on another airline.

Should your flight be cancelled on the day of departure, and the reason lies with the airline (mechanical or crew), the airline is responsible for your housing, if necessary, and meals until they are able to get you on your way. The airline has no responsibility to cover your expenses if the cancellation is weather related.

Keep in mind that once you are a cancelled passenger, and your airline does not have available seats on subsequent flights, you are now a stand-by passenger. It will be to your advantage to remain as calm and polite as possible, but pro-active in determining all your options, such as traveling on another airline.

Suggestions:

Since the airline may not have reached you, especially in your destination city, it's always wise to reconfirm your reservation a day or two before departure for domestic flights and at least three days before international flights. This will enable you to know of any schedule changes. When a schedule does change, it may mean the carrier has changed aircraft. As a result, you may lose your original seat assignment. Be sure to check with the airline agent.

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2. What if I'm bumped from a flight?

The following generally applies to U.S., Canadian and western European airlines. Airlines in other parts of the world vary in their treatment of passengers: some offer a fair amount, while others offer no compensation.

Voluntary Bumping:

If they oversell a flight, the airline gate agent will ask if any passenger is willing to give up their seat for compensation -- which is normally a free ticket for future travel (a Denied Boarding Compensation coupon is most frequently issued). Before giving up your seat, you may want to check when the next confirmed seat available to your destination is. And, if you must wait for an extended time, will the airline provide free meals, hotel, phone calls and other services?

Involuntary Bumping:

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires each airline to provide a written statement to every involuntarily bumped passenger, describing your rights. Infrequent travelers are entitled to cash compensation, based on the ticket's price and length of the delay.

If your substitute flight arrives:

  • Within one hour of your original flight, the airline is not required to offer any compensation.
  • More than one hour but less than two hours later, the airline must pay you the price of a one-way fare to your destination (not to exceed $200).
  • More than two hours later, or the airline does not make arrangements for you, the compensation is doubled to 200 percent of the one-way fare (to a maximum of $400). You retain your original ticket to have refunded, or have it applied to another itinerary if nonrefundable.

Involuntary Bumping (European Union):

If your flight originates in any European Union country, you qualify for immediate involuntary bumping compensation. The amount received depends on the distance of your flight and the length of delay (four hours, if an international flight).

Suggestions:

Here is what's required for compensation.

  • You have a confirmed reservation.
  • You meet the airline's deadline for buying the ticket.
  • You obey the check-in deadline, which varies by airline. Sometimes this is measured from the time you reach the ticket/baggage counter; other times it's the gate.

The airline is not required to compensate bumped passengers if:

  • You substitute smaller aircraft and thus diminish seat capacity.
  • The flight is a charter.
  • Seat capacity is less than 60 passengers.

The airlines may offer free future transportation but you can insist on a check if you prefer. Once you accept the free ticket or check, you may not have further recourse. However, if being bumped cost you more than the airline was willing to compensate, you may follow up with their customer service department. If you haven't cashed the check or taken the free flight, you retain the right to take the airline to court for more compensation.

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Travel Q&A

Good to Know

1. What safety precautions should I take in a foreign country?

Many short-term missionaries and less-seasoned travelers have little experience in foreign cultures. Appreciating another country's customs opens up genuine cross-cultural communication, and protects the traveler against unnecessary distress. While your mission-sending agency is a most valuable information source, here are some additional safety and sensitivity hints for international travel.

Know Local Dress and Social Customs.

Foreigners are noticeable-even in western European countries. Before you pack, consult your sponsoring agency or the host country's embassy for local dress customs. For example, shorts are not acceptable street wear in Russia. Camouflage clothing is illegal in some countries, like Zimbabwe. In many places, only women of questionable character wear slacks. In some major foreign cities-like Caracas, Venezuela-some citizens and missionaries do not wear their wedding or engagement rings. Inflation is rampant, prompting the widespread thievery of jewelry and other items. Locals invest their money in possessions rather than in savings accounts.

Nations with military governments often forbid photos of military posts, bridges and even airports. So ask before snapping that shot of your group gathering around the baggage carousel at Harare Airport!

Consult Travel Advisories.

The U.S. Department of State regularly updates its list of countries where potential violence or physical danger reflects a trend or pattern. Local governments included on this list are unwilling to unable to afford normal protection. Isolated terrorist or criminal acts do not trigger travel advisories. Reports are available on the web http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_1168.html. by calling 202-647-5225 or writing:

    Citizens Emergency Center
    Bureau of Consular Affairs
    Room 4811, N.S.
    US Department of State
    Washington, DC 20520

When you contact them, obtain the addresses and phone numbers of the U.S. embassies in the country you'll visit. If you run into trouble while in the country, contact the nearest U.S. embassy.

Protect Your Money.

Avoid standing in long lines at airport exchange counters and the inconvenience of traveler's checks. Purchase your foreign currency in advance at competitive rates. Otherwise, exchange money only at designated banks or at airport exchange counters. People offering this service on the street may be part of the "black market." It could be a punishable crime to deal with them. Keep your money in a pouch pinned inside your trousers or skirt. Magellan's catalog. Essentials for the Traveler (800-962-4943), offers a discreet, concealable pouch. Be aware that credit cards and travelers checks may be accepted only at airports and large-city banks. Avoid carrying a purse. Store necessary items in coat or jacket pockets. Many developing nations forbid carrying their currency outside the country. Near the end of your stay, make sure you exchange the currency back into U.S. money before exiting the country.

Suggestions:

Just Use Common Sense.

Many safety rules can be obvious, buy may bear repeating-especially if you are responsible for a group or traveling as part of a group.

  • Stay together.
  • Travel in groups, never alone.
  • Always tell your group leader where you're going and when you'll be back.

In large cities, also observe these precautions:

  • Be alert and walk purposefully. Be aware of where you are and who is around you.
  • Stay in well-traveled and well-lighted areas.
  • Use only official taxis, not gypsy cabs.


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2. What ID do I need when traveling?

ID is required for all air travel, whether domestic or international. For travel within the United States, a government (federal, state, or local) issued picture ID or passport is acceptable. For international travel by air, a valid passport is required. Many countries worldwide require a visa to enter in addition to your passport. Your MTS TRAVEL consultant is your best resource for documentation requirements.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced a flexible approach to domestic document requirements for children. Birth certificates are accepted as proof of identity for minors age 15 and under, as well as for those ages 16-18 who meet certain requirements, such as traveling with school or youth groups. Most airlines, however, will require a government issued photo ID at check-in for passengers age 18 and over.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) will require that all U.S. citizens traveling by air, land or sea to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda hold a valid passport for departure and/or re-entry to the U.S. as early as January 2008. Currently (late 2007) only air travel is covered by the WHTI passport requirement.

If traveling to any country not covered by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, U.S. citizens must adhere to that country's entry requirements, regardless of age.

Suggestions:

Since the time when all U.S. citizens will need a passport for any travel outside the United States is quickly approaching, it is advisable to apply for your passport immediately.

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3. When should I get to the airport for my flight?

Check-in times vary for different airports. For international travel, a minimum of two hours prior to flight time is required. Some airlines advise three hours in advance. Domestically, your travel agent or airport web-site are your best resources. Check-in times vary by airport, where smaller airports may take less time through security, but larger, busier airports take more time.

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4. What about insurance?

It may be obvious that you need a passport and perhaps a visa to enter a foreign country. Medical protection and evacuation insurance are less apparent-but vital-considerations. Most U.S. insurers-and Medicare-do not cover policyholders when they travel outside the U.S.

    Travel accident and sickness insurance: Coverage that protects you from the time you depart the U.S. to your arrival back into the U.S. It can cover such things as a simple doctor's visit to hospitalization overseas.

    Evacuation insurance: In case of catastrophic illness or accident. This insurance will provide emergency airlift to the nearest medical facility capable of treatment?or back to the United States.

Check your current medical insurance to discover its validity in a foreign country. Many policies will still cover you in Canada, but will give you another phone number to call in an emergency. Even the policy which will cover you in Canada may not assume medical responsibility in any other country. If your policy does not cover you, other reliable insurers will issue supplementary travel accident and sickness insurance for the duration of your trip. Many of these policies contain an evacuation clause which provides transportation to the nearest medical facility capable of treatment-or transportation home if the policy's Medical Director deems it necessary.

MTS TRAVEL offers both short term and long term affordable medical evacuation coverage by simply going to our website www.mtstravel.com.

When traveling on vacation, restrictions and penalties on tours, cruises, or packages may make trip cancellation insurance advisable. Consult your MTS TRAVEL professional for policy options and information.

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