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Accessibility

Airline Changed Your Seat? Here’s what to Do!

By December 6, 2016 Family Travel, For Your Journey, Hacks, Solo Travel, Travel
airline-aisle

The Problem

We have probably all been there…

Meticulous care is given to book a flight, selecting the best seats for your interests, and at the gate, you get reassigned. OR WORSE, the flight attendants have reassigned you to another seat while you are waiting in the aisle!

You are probably upset, or at the least, irritated. But wait – you paid for that seat right? You booked it, secured it, have the original tickets, so what is going on? What can you do about it?

Causes

Before addressing your options, lets review real scenarios that cause you to get bumped to another seat.

  1. A Federal Air Marshal has been assigned to your flight, and has chosen to be seated in the very seat you purchased. You are going to get reassigned.
  2. A family booked tickets online, but the seats were randomly assigned, and at the gate they presented their concern about having 3 young children scattered around the plane. The gate and flight attendants will group them if at all possible, and if its on your aisle, you are getting reassigned.
  3. A person with disabilities has specific needs, and the seat you booked is one of only 5 on the plane that can accomodate those needs. Even if they booked a different seat, you are getting reassigned
  4. A person with mobility limitations was booked online for a seat near the back of the plane, but for sake of expedient boarding, and safety, that passenger is placed in one of the front rows. If you booked there, you are getting reassigned.
  5. A Customer of Size (some might refer to as obese) booked a ticket, and paid for an adjacent seat, which didn’t correspond with their booked seat. The attendants will vacate the seat next to them, thus, you are getting reassigned.
  6. You board a plane that originated with passengers earlier in the day. Someone was assigned your seat on that flight, and is continuing on to the final destination – but you boarded at the second leg of the flight. The first passenger will be allowed to retain that seat for the duration of the flight, and you will be reassigned.
  7. The flight is full, and was overbooked. You are on the last boarding call. Lucky to even get on the aircraft, to accommodate all of the above scenarios, your were actually reassigned 4 times and didn’t know it. All you know is that the seat you have in your hand is not the seat the flight attendant is giving you.
  8. A different plane then normally assigned to this flight has to be used, due to scheduled maintainence, and its seating configuration is different – including which rows are emergency exit rows. You and many others are getting reassigned.

window-seat

What do you do?

Frankly you have little option, and almost no legal protection. The airline ticket provides you carriage on the flight, but almost all airlines have fine print in the ticket contract that allows them to make seat changes without your consent, and with no compensation. But here are some things that you should be aware, and can do.

  1. The seat they offer you in the reassignment must be of the same category, or Like for Like. Meaning if you booked Business Class and they move you to Coach, they are obligated to pay the difference. They may attempt to offer a credit or air miles, but must pay in cash if you request it. I would choose cash.
  2. If they move you to a seat within your category, they are not obligated to assure its same – as in, you booked a window seat, but reassigned to a aisle. You have no recourse, and can either accept the reassignment, or leave the flight and forfeit your booking without refund.
  3. If the airline makes a fair re-assignment (under the law), you  may not have any official options, but you certainly can tell them that you will comply, but that you do so under protest. Then at the newly assigned seat, ask very politely what accommodations the airline will make for your inconvenience. Flight attendants can make a report to the company about your request, the circumstances behind the changed seating (which you may not be aware) and that you didn’t give them grief, or create a scene, over the change. The better airlines tend to offer extra air miles on their frequent flier programs, a free upgrade, or free drinks on the plane. Remember that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
  4. Some airlines make many more seating changes than others, and people who use those carriers often, can find themselves getting moved regularly. As a regular customer, you can write a letter explaining your frustration, documenting the number of flights you have paid on that airline, and how many times you or your party suffered reassigned seating. Money talks, and they don’t want to lose regular customers. You might be amazed how the letter can affect future flights. People who have done just this effort, have had it all end mysteriously! Gate attendants won’t admit it, but somewhere there is a tag or code that tells them to avoid doing this to certain customers.
  5. If you are a customer of size, and travel with a companion, your ticketing can be quite useful. Be sure to book 3 seats, and leave the aisle seat unused. Airlines sometimes make a RESERVED ticket to place on the seat, as a reminder to flight staff that the seat is paid, and serves a specific purpose. This way you and your companion can be seated together.
  6. Don’t sit in the first 3 rows or the last two rows. These are preferred location or Federal Air Marshals, and also the most likely seats to be reassigned for those with mobility concerns or need extra care. The Bulkhead seats  are notorious for reassignment. if you have long legs and must sit in seats like bulkhead, go ahead and let the gate attendant know that you are a customer of size, and that you have booked your seat specifically to meet your medical needs.
  7. Take advantage of the services of a travel professional. Explain your concerns about being seated in the correct seat, especially if traveling with a companion. They can make the calls to the right people to help make it improbable that you will get reassigned. I say improbable, as its no guarantee.

Lastly, before heading out on your flight, bring along a few thank you cards, and some nice chocolate. If those who make an effort to accommodate you on the flight, know how much you care about the effort, it goes a long way. A thank you note and some chocolate does wonders. You do it to say thank you, and with no other expectation.

airline-seats

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Travel Apps for Serious Travelers

By November 30, 2016 Family Travel, For Your Journey, Travel Apps
AirlineAPP

After installing, using, and deleting dozens of apps, a few have become “Legacy apps” that I’ve come to use while I travel. These aren’t booking apps, or itinerary apps, but apps I use while traveling and facilitating better travel.

I have not listed them in any particular order, but I would recommend that you install all of them, if  you are a serious travel.

 

Google Maps

This app is linked to the incredibly robust map data and satellite imagery with the famous online company – Google. The maps are highly detailed, major map information updates very quickly, and if you have data coverage, it will give you real-time traffic information. Since Google purchased Waze, even waze-user accidents are noted on Google Maps. Couple this with the excellent GPS directions, and transit details, Google Maps can get you anywhere. If you need to see specific details of a location, to check if your RV can fit etc, Streetview images and Satellite images are incredibly helpful. I love to use it with the wifi on a flight to see where we are flying and what is out the window.

So here are the specific reasons this app is outstanding:

  1. Real-time GPS Navigation.
  2. Real-time Traffic – with color coded severity.
  3. Real-time transit details for rail and bus services.
  4. Auto-rerouting in severe traffic.
  5. Easy search features for fuel, shopping and more.
  6. Quick restaurant search, with menus.
  7. Save places for future.
  8. Integrates with your Google Maps online.
  9. Streetview, Interior imagery, Building maps, and Satellite images
  10. Can be used offline!

 

Parkmobile

Have you ever driven to a destination, and find your parking is metered, and you are out of quarters, or it requires you to walk half a block to secure paid parking? There is an app for that! Many municipalities are moving to app integration, where you can pay for parking from your phone. If you see the app symbol on the meter, payment is possible. The app is feature rich. Here is why I like it:

  1. Pay for parking from the app.
  2. Extend time from the app – no more walking back to add more money.
  3. App alerts you when time is about to expire.
  4. Locate available parking.
  5. Locate your car with the app GPS feature.
  6. More than one vehicle can be associated with the app.
  7. I have used it to pay for multiple spaces for an oversize vehicle.

 

 

Glympse

There are times while traveling that people want to know where you are. Perhaps you have a teen driver and want to know where they are, and how fast they are driving. Coordinating the arrival of multiple people? this is the app for you. It does require gps and data. Here why I like it:

  1. Share your location in real-time, on a dynamic map.
  2. You can set the shared location to expire at 15 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  3. You can share with anyone – even if they don’t have the app.
  4. Runs in the background – Share and forget about it.
  5. Extend the time shared with a simple click.
  6. Use it to share your location with emergency personnel.
  7. Your location can be shared with anyone that has internet or data service.

 

 

 

Zello

This app has been incredibly useful to me both in travel and business applications. The app effectively turns your phone into a walkie talkie. No phone service is needed, as long as you have data, and will work over wifi as well as cell data. Speak to your friends and family from anywhere in the world.  Here is why I like it:

  1. Real-time Push to Talk communication.
  2. Missed messages are still available to review.
  3. If recipient loses data, they can still get messages later.
  4. one-one communication.
  5. Private or Public group communication via channels up to 1000 people.
  6. You can map the PTT features to specific buttons on your phone.
  7. Bluetooth compatible.
  8. Works over wifi and 2G, 3G, 4G + connections
  9. Great for use in theme parks, and on cruse ships.

 

 

 

 

With these 4 apps, you can be the master of logistics for your next big travel, or coordinating the reunion next year. I’m certain that you will find value with all of them, and once installed, they will be excellent resources for your travel.

 

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The World is Now More Accessible Than Ever – Explore and Enjoy It!

By November 27, 2016 For Your Journey, Products, Travel
You can journey anywhere!

The world is now more accessible than ever before. Twenty percent (62 million) of the U.S. population has some form of disability, and the number of these individuals is increasing daily. These people need to, want to, and can travel. If you’re part of that twenty percent, a world of travel awaits you.

Travel professionals such as myself who are accessible travel advocates certified by Special Needs Group, the leading global provider of special needs equipment for the travel industry, have unique, specialized knowledge about how to help individuals with disabilities enjoy a wonderful, hassle-free and memorable trip.

Here are a few tips from Special Needs Group to ensure that when your next travel opportunity arises, you are ready to go.

 

Outline your travel needs

Take time to evaluate the logistics of your trip in relation to your ability to keep pace. What modes of transportation will you be using? Airplane, motor coach, train, ship, transit vans for ground transfers? Make a list, referring to relevant brochures, your trip hotel-alleyorganizer or travel agent to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Now, make a list of your specific requirements. Be honest: what types of special needs equipment do you depend on at home? What do you use or need (or wish you had!) when shopping, sightseeing locally, dining out or going to the movies, attending concerts, the theater, street fairs or sporting events at home?

Can you hear and see clearly without special auditory equipment or visual aides?  How far can you walk without a rest break? Are stairs difficult? Can you get in and out of the tub or shower at home without handgrips or other assistance?

Travel, whether solo or in a group, is no time for roughing it or trying to
“tough it out.” If a wheelchair, scooter or portable oxygen
will make your trip easier, place that item on your list. Many people who do not use wheelchairs or walkers at home feel more comfortable using these mobilscooter-standardity aides for tour and excursions. In fact, most of Special Needs Group’s wheelchair and scooter rentals are to individuals who only use such aides when traveling.

 

Plan Ahead

If you already own a scooter or portable oxygen, it’s important to know the policy and procedures for bringing that equipment onboard all the transport vehicles included in your itinerary, from planes to taxis to ferry boats. Does that transport have a wayairline-seats to stow your scooter or wheelchair? Is oxygen allowed on board? Some airlines prohibit certain types of batteries, such as wet cell batteries, or oxygen cylinders. Airlines operate under strict rules, so there may be packing procedures to follow if they do allow the equipment. Keep in mind, most airlines need at least 48 hours’ notice to make special arrangements, and be prepared to fill out forms.

Overall, cruise ships are more lenient in allowing oxygen, but some disallow certain types of oxygen. All require that the oxygen be delivered to the ship, and that you have enough for the entire voyage. Oxygen may never be brought aboard in your luggage. Requirements vary, so check your cruise line for proper instructions.  Again, documentation and paperwork are required.

Whether you are headed for a cruise ship, hotel or all-inclusive resort, double check for wheelchair access at that venue, plus any venues you will be visiting on the trip.  Confirm that accessible hotel rooms, resort accommodations or ship staterooms are available for your travel dates. The earlier you book, the better your chances of securing fully accessible accommodations. And early booking increases your chances of securing a ground floor hotel room or cruise stateroom near the elevator, if these issues are important.

Check on the o2_cylindersaccess to public rooms, restaurants, bars, toilets, the swimming pool, hot tub, beach area and other amenities. Are there TDD phone devices? How will you get in and out of the shower or bathtub? Are there flashing lights to accommodate hearing? Braille room numbers? Knowing in advance the scope of yo
ur needs gives you time to arrange advance rentals of any necessary equipment, scheduled to arrive when you do. Everything from scooters, lifts, ramps, TDD kits and special mattresses, including special needs cribs, is available for rental.

Will road travel or car excursions be part of the trip? Many car rental companies have vehicles that are modified for drivers or passengers with mobility limitations. Check ahead to makairport-sign-imagee sure a suitable vehicle will be available for your travel dates. If you will be hiring a car or van, make sure the company is aware of your special needs.

When traveling with a limitation or disability, full travel insurance for medical coverage abroad and trip cancellation insurance are even more important and strongly advised.

 

Ask the Right Questions

When making the final bookings, be sure you ask the right questions, even if the accommodations or cruise stateroom are categorized as “accessible.”

For example, are doorways wide enough for the largest wheelchairs? Do the doors open outwards or into the room?

Are all the public areas of the hotel, resort or ship accessible? Do you need to make special arrangements in the dining room to accommodate the wheelchair or scooter?

Will the bathroom facilities truly fit your needs? Is the bathroom large enough for the wheelchair or scooter? Is there a roll-in shower? Grab-bars?

Are there facilities for companion/assistance animals?

Are there shopping and entertainment facilities close by if you are staying at a hotel or resort?

On shore excursions or tours, does the van have a lift and method for transporting wheelchairs and scooters?

Simply stated, don’t take anything for granted. It’s easy to arrange for almost every situation, and the world is wonderfully accessible, once you know what’s needed, what’s available and how to find the necessary equipment.

Then What?

As a life-long learner, I have taken the time to receive certificatiomap-pinsn in special needs. If you have thoughts or concerns about your own travel, or someone with whom you travel, I would be happy to discuss options available to you. Don’t ever think that because you have an impairment or disability, that you are precluded from great travel experiences- because you are not.

 

Leave me your comments, please.

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