Category: Air Travel

Southwest Overbooked My Flight, Now What?

The overbooking of flights is a common practice airlines use to ensure their flights fly full. Southwest allows overbooking of flights, and within the terminal you may commonly hear a gate agent calling for volunteers.

When a volunteer is needed, and your a glass half-full type of person, an opportunity is present. Volunteers are offered compensation to give up their seat and to fly another flight. The gate agent will present you with an offer that may include free flights, cash, and a re-ticket on the next available flight. If you are not in a rush to get to your destination, some of these offers can be quite lucrative.

It’s time to play Monty Hall, and make a deal. The Southwest gate agents do have some flexibility with their published compensation policy. It all depends on how many volunteers they need, and how many they are getting. You usually can negotiate your compensation a little higher – but for volunteers, it usually only comes in the form of a travel voucher. You will be offered the next available flight with seats, and then depending upon how soon you will arrive to your destination, you can receive a travel voucher compensation of $100 to $300 plus the amount of your one-way fare. Note: If your flight was booked using points or a companion voucher, you will not receive the amount of your one-way fare as your ticket has no-value.

When the airline cannot find volunteers in an overbooking situation, the conversation changes to Bumping. Bumping occurs when you are Involuntarily Denied boarding. Southwest has one of the better policies regarding bumping:

    When and if you get bumped, Southwest will schedule you on the next available flight with seats. They will discuss with you any change in flight plan such as connections or layovers.

  • If your alternative flight(s) is scheduled to arrive at your destination or stopover point within two hours of your originally scheduled flight(s), you will be compensated with a check or a travel voucher in an amount equal to twice the face value of your remaining one-way flight. Southwest caps the the maximum amount of involuntary denied boarding compensation at $650 in this scenario.
  • If your alternate flight(s) is scheduled to arrive at your destination or stopover point more than two hours later than your originally scheduled flight(s), Southwest will increase the amount of the compensation to an amount equal to four times your remaining one-way flight coupon(s). Depending upon what you originally paid for your flight, this can be quite large, capping out at $1,300.

    It is good to know your rights. The DOT regulations for passenger rights can be found here: http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights

Use a Car Seat when Flying with Children

Traveling with Kids: Should I Bring a Car Seat?

One of the things all parents should be concerned about when flying with their children is safety. While flying with kids isn’t the easiest thing to do, flying with a car seat may be an option that can make it easier. It may take several trips to master packing, installing and carrying the seat, but after a few attempts you will master your own technique. Below is some information you need to know in order to travel safely with your children.

    Consider using a car seat for small children. Whether you are traveling by car or by plane, a car seat is essential to keeping your child safe. If you are traveling by plane with a small child, and intend to bring a car seat, a decision is required as to whether you check the car seat under the plane or bring it on. This decision will depend on the age of your child, the size of the car seat, and whether or not your child has a ticket.

      Children 2 years of age and under may not require a ticket when sitting on the lap of a ticketed adult. This usually works out well for short flights, while the child is an infant. As soon as the child is able to sit on his/her own, I recommend purchasing a ticketed seat for the child. This keeps the parents and the children safe.

    If your child weighs under 40 pounds, then you may want to bring a car seat onto the plane. The Federal Aviation Administration highly recommends that children be secured in a CRS (child restraint system) when flying. A car seat on the plane must be rear-facing when your child is under 20 lbs and can be front-facing from 20-40 pounds. It must must be approved for use in both automobiles and aircraft and must fit within the dimensions of the seat. Make sure your seat has “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft” printed on it, or the airline may not permit it’s use during flight. Check with your carrier for the dimensions of the seats. A car seat will keep your child comfortable and restrained, may give a familiar feeling of security, and can provide support for his/her head to allow them to sleep. It may also provide a clean area for your child’s small toys and snacks to fall, without contacting the dirty airplane seats, floor or tray table.

    There are alternatives to carseats. Check out my article on the CARES safety harness. It is an FAA approved child restraint that is easy to pack and to use. The FAA prohibits passengers from using booster seats and harness vests during take-off and landing as these types of restraints do not provide the best protection. Note: Just because your car seat is FAA-Approved does not mean that it will fit in the seat of your air carrier. Some car seats are way oversized and will not fit within the arm rests, will be too close to the seat in front, or will not have ample room underneath for the seatbelt latch to open and close. Check out this guide provided by car-seat.org that provides measurements for various child restraints.

    If you choose to check your car seat under the plane rather than bring it onboard, keep in mind that this is a free checked bag. It does not count against the bag limits that some air carriers have, and it does not matter if the child is ticketed or not. One carseat may be checked for free for each child traveling. On some carriers, you may check a carseat for free if you plan on meeting your little one on the other end – even if they are not traveling with you. Check out these great carseat carrier bags which will keep your car seat clean and safe from damage.

Strollers at Disney World

When you travel with small kids, a stroller is a must-have item. Not only will it help with getting your little one safely around the park, but it also serves as a great place to take a nap.  The day’s in the park are long and hot, and a short bit of shut-eye makes the day that much better.

For the past 3 years, 5 week-long trips to Disney World, a 1 week trip to Atlantis and many days of use at home, I have relied upon a Maclaren stroller.

Maclaren is known for their line of baby strollers including the following models:  QuestTechno XT, Techno XLR and many others.

I personally have two Maclaren Quest strollers which have been excellent for use within the parks.  They are small enough to use throughtout the trip, from the airport to the jetway, from the car through the park and everywhere in-between.  The quest baby stroller is lightweight and sturdy, and has ample storage underneath for all of the items you need to carry.  The seat lays down flat, allowing your little-one to take a mid-day nap.  The stroller comes with a clear rain cover which will shelter the rider from a light rain, or cool breeze.  Check out the stroller online at the link below:
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00B98DX7E]

CARES Safety Harness

I recently purchased and used a CARES Child Aviation Harness for a trip with my 19 month old son. The restraint is a great way to secure your child into the aircraft seat when you are not traveling with a carseat, or your carseat is checked luggage. The restraint is designed for use for children over the age of 1 and weight between 22 and 44 pounds.

The restraint loops over the top of the seat and sits behind the passenger tray table. The two shoulder straps connect to the seatbelt strap. At 18 months and about 24 pounds, my son was comfortably held into his seat. We were flying on Southwest Airlines and the restraint fit the seat well. Southwest seats have a bit of a curve to the back of the seat. This prevented the strap from wrapping flush to the seat and caused the strap to hold my sons head a little bit forward. It looked was not perfect, but it was much better than traveling without it.

CARES is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and was recognized by the flight crew on our flight. It was certainly not the first time they had seen it. I was concerned before our flight that this may be new to them, but it was not. The harness weighs about 1 pound and rolls up to fit nicely in your carry-on luggage. It comes with a storage sack.

The CARES Harness requires the child to have their own seat, so this does not help lap-seaters in any way. The strap is visible to the passenger in the row behind yours, as it wraps around the seat and tucks behind their tray table. It did not disturb the passengers behind my row. They were traveling with small children as well and were more intrigued than anything else.

I recommend CARES as an alternative to bringing your child’s car seat on the plane. For less than $70 on Amazon.com, give it a shot and post feedback in the comments section below when you return from your trip.