Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tips for Coping With Flight Delays

According to the Air Travel Consumer Report from the U.S. Department of Transportation released last week, October's on-time rate for the nation's largest airlines fell to 77.3 percent the previous year’s 86 percent, with severe weather as a major factor in flight delays. With the recent snowstorms, travelers nationwide are now faced with numerous flight delays and cancellations. Fortunately, I am happy to offer the following tips for coping with flight delays during this busy holiday travel season.

How to Avoid Flight Delays Altogether

Avoid peak travel times and grab the earliest flight, if possible. With an earlier flight, you will have more buffer time at the airport, and still have the opportunity to board another flight in case your original flight is delayed. The later in the day your flight is, the higher the chances that it will get delayed.
Book direct flights whenever possible. The more connecting flights there are, the more likely they will be delayed. If you have to make a connection, consider the airport’s size and location, and the time between connecting flights. Make sure you have enough time to make your connecting flight if the previous one is delayed.
Double-check before leaving for the airport. Airlines are known to inaccurately list flights as “on time” even if they are delayed. Try checking flight delay information at the Air Traffic Control System Command Center: http://www.fly.faa.gov/flyfaa/usmap.jsp. You can also visit Flight Aware for live flight tracking: http://flightaware.com/live/
Fly with only carry-on luggage, whenever possible. This will allow you to move more quickly, and will eliminate the risk of losing luggage between flight connections.
Be prepared for a delayed or cancelled flight. If it’s important that you arrive at your destination by a certain time, say it’s for a wedding or a critical business meeting, try to give yourself an extra day.

How to Handle Flight Delays or Flight Cancellations:

If you have tried everything but your flight was invariably delayed or cancelled, here is my advice.
Be friendly and cooperative with gate agents. Treat those who service you just as you would like to be treated. Put yourself in their shoes, these folks do not set the policies but are just trying to make an honest living and service their customer’s needs and expectations as efficiently as possible. What I always do in these situations is ask, ‘If you were in my position, what would you suggest?’ If you are friendly and cooperative, they will do their best to help you.
Request a hotel voucher and do your research. Airlines may offer hotel vouchers if you are stranded between flight connections. However, do your research! You may get a discounted rate, but airlines typically have agreements with hotels further away from the airport. Find out how far the hotel is, how much it will cost, and whether there is a complimentary shuttle. You don’t want all the “savings” to be eaten by taxi fare!
Call your airline immediately to try to change or buy a new ticket while you stand in line. It’s better to play it safe and have them on the phone, because flights could be booked by the time you make it to the front of the long line.
Know your options. Have phone numbers of other airlines with flights to your destination saved on your cell phone.
Be ready to wait in the airport. Make sure you bring books, magazines, a laptop, a music player, a pillow, or other things to do to pass away the time. Perhaps you want to exercise while you wait? AirportGyms.com has a free listing of gym and fitness facilities for airports all over the US and Canada: http://airportgyms.com.
Consider renting a train or taking a car to your destination, if possible

Travel can be stressful, especially during the holiday season. Following these tips can help you ensure a stress-free and smoother journey. Before you know it, you’ll be relaxing with your family and friends, and everything you’ve gone through becomes worth it. Have a safe and happy holiday!

-Captain Karen Kahn

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Succeeding As a Woman in Male-Dominated Fields

Dealing with Discrimination:

The problems for female executives are not all going to disappear in the near future but, hopefully, they'll become a bit less frustrating if we take appropriate countermeasures.

First, don't lower your standards for anyone.

This is the 21st century, and there are many sources of support for women, including mentors, local and national women's groups, online forums, and your own family and friends. So aim high and realize that it's not an easy road but one well worth everything you put into it.

Second, be sure you are well qualified and maintain your professionalism by striving to improve your skills with ongoing practice and education.

One of the most impressive comments I received several years ago at a Women in Aviation Conference came from the Ninety-Nines President, Joyce Wells. She told me how she remembered me as being a "very serious and dedicated pilot." Funny, I never thought of myself that way, but I'm glad to hear others did. Perhaps the old "looks like, walks like, talks like, must be one" became a self-fulfilling prophesy. So take note and revise your self-image to include a clear vision of yourself in your future professional role, whatever that may be.

Third, continue to demonstrate that you don't expect any favors just because you're a woman.

That doesn't mean that you can't enjoy and appreciate the actions and attentions of a gentleman. Courtesy and consideration are valuable tools in everyone's kitbag. However, you can be both professional and feminine at the same time. Because reputations are hard to shed, make sure you earn one that you'll be proud of and that affords you the respect you deserve.

Finally, learn to take the comments you hear with a grain of salt.

Many of them will be aimed at eliciting a reaction from you. Others will be a lame attempt to talk to you when a fellow just doesn't know how to react to or approach a female executive. I find that if I allow 90% of the comments I hear to go in my left ear and out my right, that tends to place them in the proper perspective.

You don't have to play catch-up or act like one of the boys to succeed. Just be yourself and stay focused. Your efforts will pay off in the end. One day soon you'll find yourself encouraging another up-and-coming female, remembering when you were in that very same position.