While I love Europe more than words can say, I despise getting there! The first time I flew to Italy, I got stranded in Milan and acquired an airport stalker. The first time I flew to Germany, all three legs of my travel were delayed and my luggage, lost for two days. Moreover, if I had been less assertive with the airline personnel, I would have had to try to start the Germany journey an entire day later, with no compensation. This article is going to give you the quick and dirty, need-to-know facts about getting to Europe in one piece and avoiding the mistakes I made.
Bad weather happens, especially when flying out of Florida, as I usually do. However, generally speaking, it dissipates just as suddenly. That being said, if a flight is delayed or even cancelled, insist on being rebooked on the next available flight with the same or if necessary, entirely different airline. Airline personnel will be reticent to do this but they are most certainly able to do so, as they have agreements with their competitors for just such situations. Therefore, be persistent! If you have any sort of status or airline miles, use these standings to your advantage and even call relatives who may have such status to help.
Let us assume you have been able to get yourself onto another flight; the reality is that traveling on a flight that is not your original itinerary will generally result in your luggage not arriving at the same time as you. This. Really. Stinks. However, there are a few things you can do to avoid this situation or make it more bearable. Firstly, at each stop in your itinerary, ask airline personnel to check on the status of your luggage, using your baggage claim tickets. Do this, of course, after you are at your gate and ready to travel to ensure you do not miss your flight. They may be able to tell you that your luggage has in fact made it on to your new flight and then you can rest easy. If at your final destination, you find that your luggage is not on the turnstile, check with your airline to see if perhaps it arrived before you. ALWAYS, always, check by using your baggage claim tickets. It may have come in on another airline even, so double and triple check.
But more often than not, air travelers who must change their original itinerary are not so lucky and their luggage remains in the states while they begin their travels in Europe. If this happens to you, fret not. Report your luggage as lost immediately and see if the airline can identify where it is. They will require an address to where they can send the luggage once it is located, so have your hotel address(es) on hand. The airline is responsible for any costs in this regard. Also, most airlines will provide you with basic toiletries in the event of missing luggage. Feel free to call the airline too, to follow up on your missing luggage as frequently as you like.
Also, this may sound a little elementary, but try not talk to strangers in the airport who are not directly assisting with your travel. When I once missed a flight from Milan to Bologna, the sweet Southern girl in me thought it wise to help an English speaking man struggling to use the Italian pay phone. He took this as an invitation to spend the next five hours by my side and then attempt to kiss me when it was time for me to board my rebooked flight. Avoid this if possible!
The moral of my stories is simple: air travel in this day and age is all about defending your rights as a traveler and getting those things to which you are rightfully entitled. Be persistent, follow up and do not talk to strangers! Check in next week to read about the hidden travel destinations in the Austrian Alps.