When the weather is bad, you know to expect travel delays and even cancelations. But sometimes when flying, other problems arise that are harder to foresee.
Here are five real-life examples of in-flight problems that don't have to turn into disasters.
Problem: A traveler was about to enter the line for security when he reached into his pocket for his driver's license. It was gone. What to do?
Solution: Don't panic. This happens more often than you think. Explain the situation to a TSA officer and you'll be taken aside for a few minutes of questioning. You may undergo extra screening but then (in the vast majority of cases) you'll be allowed to proceed.
Problem: A passenger was delighted to get a seatback touchscreen that included several free channels plus games. Once in the air she discovered it wasn't working. What to do?
Solution: It's not an emergency so don't hit the call button and don't go changing seats on your own (especially if you're in coach and the empties are first class). Wait for a crewmember to walk by, politely explain the problem and see what happens. Maybe nothing, since empty coach seats are rare to nonexistent so just sit back, flip through SkyMall while mentally composing a tweet or email to the airline ("My flight was great except for one little thing…"). No guarantees but you might get a little something, possibly even a voucher if the carrier is feeling generous.
Problem: A hungry traveler aboard a cross-country flight was just digging into a tasty bag of snack mix (purchased at the airport) when a crewmember announced an allergic passenger was aboard so no one could eat peanuts. Sure enough, the snack mix was loaded with them. What to do?
Solution: Stop munching. A crewmember's word is law on a plane and you disobey at your peril (which may include anything from a stern lecture to a diverted flight). Plus, think of the potential danger to the allergic passenger; in the past couple of months two children suffered severe reactions to peanuts consumed on planes. If you can't wait until the plane lands, pull out your credit card and buy a snack (you can usually find something for around $5).
Bad bag location
Problem: There was no room in the overhead bins by the passenger's seat so the flight attendant took his carry-on and stashed it in a bin all the way in the back. So much for getting off the plane quickly. What to do?
Solution: This clever traveler headed down the aisle after the seatbelt sign went off and politely asked the person seated below the bin if he'd retrieve the bag upon landing and pass it up; he then asked all other aisle passengers if they minded grabbing it and passing it along. It worked.
Lost luggage on multi-airline trips
Problem: A passenger was on a multi-stop connecting flight with two different airline partners; unfortunately, her bag got lost somewhere along the route and took a day or so to re-appear and in the meantime she bought toiletries and a change of underwear. Which airline did she send the bill to?
Solution:It doesn't matter which airline lost the luggage; the responsible party is the carrier that brought you to your final destination. If in doubt, copy both airlines on any emails.
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Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site