CBSN

Easing Airline Woes

As airlines cut back routes and increase fares, many travelers are wondering how to cope. Kelli Grant, Sr. Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, has some tips to ease the stress.

First, avoid problem routes. "You want to steer clear of these smaller airports. That's where airlines are making the bulk of their cuts this fall," says Grant. Instead, be willing to drive to larger airports where airlines tend to focus their flights. If your flight does get cancelled, you'll have more options at a hub than at a small airport.

You can further ease strain by booking your ticket early. As airlines cut back on flights, finding a seat at a good price is hard to come by. "Last minute deals really don't exist anymore," says Grant. Be sure to start checking fares as early as possible, preferably three months - or more - in advance. As a side note, Grant adds that if you're planning to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday this year, you should already have your tickets booked.

Even though travel is stressful, be sure to leave plenty of extra time before your flight. Leave for the airport earlier than you normally would and get to your gate sooner than your assigned boarding time. In addition, leave extra time for connections when you first book your ticket. According to Grant, fewer flights means less wiggle room at the airport, so if a delay or cancellation occurs, it's more likely to cause a major travel headache for you and your family.

Also, do your homework. Before you head to the airport, research alternative flights, even if it means looking at other airlines. In the event of a cancellation, you'll be ready to work with airline employees to get you to your destination as fast as possible. If your carrier rebooks you on a flight that doesn't work with your schedule, suggest one of the alternative flights you've mapped out. "If there are seats available, they should cooperate and not charge you that pricey ticket change fee," says Grant.

Finally, know your refund rights. Even if your ticket is non-refundable, it is possible you may be eligable for a refund. "If the airline has changed your schedule to the point where you no longer want to fly, you are entitled to a refund," says Grant. "The same thing holds true if your flight's been cancelled - if you don't want a seat on the next available flight, you are entitled to get your money back." Grant says these rules are part of the Federal Airline Regulations, so it guarantees that you'll get your money back.

For more information on avoiding travel hassles, as well as additional personal financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.

By Erin Petrun