Advisories

DOT tunes up ruling on carrying instruments on flights

Austin Giant Guitars

Thanks to a new ruling by the US Department of Transportation (DOT), airlines are now required to allow small musical instruments, such as a violin or guitar, to be carried into the cabin and stowed in approved stowage spaces, if available, and/or under the seat.

“Under the rule, musical instruments as carry-on items are treated no differently from other carry-on items and the stowage space should be made available for all carry-on items on a “first come, first served” basis,” reads the new ruling. “Carriers are not required to give musical instruments priority over other carry-on baggage, therefore passengers traveling with musical instruments may want to buy the pre-boarding option offered by many carriers to ensure that space will be available for them to safely stow their instruments in the cabin.”

The rule goes into effect in 60 days.

For many years people traveling with instruments have been subject to arbitrary and contradictory size and weight requirements imposed by each airline for musical instruments carried on or checked as baggage, “[a]irlines will now follow a consistent policy for all musicians traveling with instruments, said Ray Hair, president of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada.

Airlines are now required to train air crews, gate agents, counter agents, and baggage personnel concerning appropriate procedures necessary to comply with all FAA musical instrument transportation policies and, hopefully there won’t a repeat of the incident that prompted the viral hit, United Breaks Guitars.

To help explain the new ruling, the DOT has created a webpage with helpful tips on traveling with musical instruments – and advice on what to do if you have a problem getting your instrument on a flight.

.

Alaska Airlines joins gate-to-gate electronics club

Alaska Electronics

On Saturday, November 9, Alaska Airlines joined the club of airlines that allow passengers to use their personal electronic devices from gate-to-gate.

Already in the club: United, American/American Eagle* JetBlue, Delta and US Airways.

We’re still waiting to hear when Southwest and Virgin America will get FAA approval.

Horizon Air passengers should be able to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flight next week.

But beware: the rule does not yet apply on US Airways Express, United Express, Delta Connection and *American Eagle flights operated by some of its regional partners.

Stay tuned.

Airlines updating waiver policies in response to Boston lock-down

ScreenHunter_32 Apr. 19 05.36

 

 

Boston is in lock-down mode this morning and public transportation, as well as Amtrak train service is shut down.

Boston Logan Airport sent out a tweet this morning saying it is “open and operating under heightened security. Please check with your airline on flight status before heading to the airport.”

American Airlines

United

Southwest,

Spirit

US Airways

JetBlue and likely other airlines – are offering travelers an option to change their flights plans in or out of Boston today, so as this wild story unfolds, consider steering clear of Boston today.

 

 

 

 

Travel Tidbits: blizzard, extra points and free Wi-Fi

Snowstorm

Thanks to Storm Nemo, on Thursday evening I was one of the hundreds of thousands of travelers who had to cancel important weekend plans that involved flying to the east coast.

Then I had to sit on the phone for hours trying to work out a new and, it turns out, quite expensive new plan.

For those of you still trying to figure out your options, here’s a link to a list of many of the change-fee waiver policies airlines have posted.

In other news…. Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport announced that it is the latest airport to join the Thanks Again program, which offers travelers frequent flyer miles or points for qualifying purchases made at the airport for things such as parking, food and retail items. Travelers at DFW will also be able to get points or miles for stays at the airport hotels, such as the Grand Hyatt, and at Paradise 4 Paws, the airport’s pet hotel.

170 other airports already participate in the Thanks Again program – which requires a simple sign-up and registration of a credit-card.

And during the month of February passengers at John F. Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark Liberty International (EWR) airports – as well as passengers at some New York City subway stations – will be able to get complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi sessions courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line, which is celebrating a new ship, the Norwegian Breakaway.

That should come in handy if you end up stuck at one of those airports – or in the city – this weekend due to Storm Nemo.

Airports digging out from blizzard; will travelers get to fly?

After a frightful day of snow and wind – and then more snow and more wind – New York area airports finally reopened on Monday afternoon.

Now the real “fun” begins as airlines try to reposition planes and find seats for travelers who have been stuck at airports around the country.

Here are some of the stories that have come out of the storm.

From the Wall Street Journal: Snow Keeps City at Standstill

From the Star Ledger: Hundreds of Stranded Newark Airport passengers hope to rebook flights

From the Christian Science Monitor: LaGuardia airport and others reopen, but stranded fliers still face ordeals

You get the picture…

Want to find out when you or someone you’ve been waiting for will get on a plane?

Make sure you’re signed up for all methods of flight status alerts and are following your airline and your airport on Facebook and Twitter – if they’re there.

Now that planes are moving, it should start getting easier to rebook and/or confirm a flight. Try doing it online yourself before getting on the phone or on a long line, which can take hours.  Several airlines are re-booking travelers via Twitter, so give that a try as well.  Keep in mind though, that it will take several days for get everyone where they’re going, so if you’re heading to an airport, take along some food, activities to keep you busy, a charged cell-phone, good humor and lots of patience.  While you wait, my USA TODAY airport guides and assorted apps from airlines, airports and third-party entities may help you find amenities, shops and restaurants.

And if you’ve missed the event you were heading to in the first place, ask for a refund, take out your calendar and start making a new post-blizzard plan.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner…