SAFETY FIRST’S ADVICE FOR LOST OR DAMAGED LUGGAGE

The lowest level of inconvenience is delay. Airlines have tracking systems, and 98 percent of all misplaced luggage is ultimately located, typically on the next flight. If you can’t wait the few hours, give the baggage attendant a phone number of your hotel or home address. Many airlines deliver your luggage when it is found. Some even reimburse costs of items purchased because of the delay when adequate receipts are presented. Make sure to obtain the proper phone number to obtain status updates on locating your missing luggage.

It's hard for inconvenience to not escalate into aggravation in the rare cases when your luggage is actually lost. Airlines often use different forms for “lost luggage” than for “missing luggage.” Make sure you get a receipt documenting the loss. Domestic flights cap loss at $3,300 while international flights vary depending on international treaties. You can check your carrier’s website in advance, but why aggravate yourself in advance.

Travel insurance provides additional indemnification for missing and lost luggage.

STRATEGIES OF HOW TO SCORE THE BEST SEATS

Often the best strategy is as simple as being friendly to the agent making decisions who gets bumped up into first class. Other times, dressing well is all it takes to score the much sought after upgrade. A business suit trumps torn jeans.

There are great differences in coach as well. Check out a plane’s schematic, which are typically available online. Sitting too close to the bathroom guaranties a non-stop parade of traffic. Try reserving the seats in an exit row. Our research has shown that some exit rows offer as much as 6 inches more leg room than other coach aisles.

Another great tip is to familiarize yourself with the differences of plane body types. SeatExpert.com and SeatGuru.com offer useful information about seat types and floorplans that are helpful guides to your best choices.

Frequent Flier programs can give you the advantage to those who accumulate enough use in their programs, particularly when flying mostly within one airline. This is the quickest route to upgrades.

CROSSING BORDERS

New passport rules move ahead with only a few hiccups. While stricter identification is now required for Americans returning from Mexico and Canada, immigration officials may still allow travelers through with a passport or official identification. This will not last. Be careful. One of our travelers did report a problem with her minor child. The regulations state that children under the age of 16 only have to present a birth certificate.

Security rules for land and sea border crossings now require U.S. citizens to present a passport, passport card or enhanced driver's license with microchip I.D. information. Regular business crossers often face background checks, which can generally be reproduced for future crossings.

These new rules under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative were scheduled to go into effect in 2008, but were delayed a year. Air travel re-entry requirements went into effect in 2007.

Delays from these regulations are rare. Customs and Border Protection agencies report that nearly 100 percent of the people crossing borders into the U.S. after midnight carry the required documents.

The Helicopters Have Arrived

The Japanese are ahead of the rest of us, but countries like the US will follow soon. How would you like to cut your travel time to the airport into a mere fraction, all the while riding in Hermes designed luxury helicopter. Tokyo has one, taking off from thirty locations. Each can do twenty-two flights a day, starting in the fall. This service not only shortens your time, but increases the adventure with breathtaking city views along the way. A limo is provided to ferry people from the heliport to airport. The only downside so far, no drinks offered on board.

AVOIDING LUGGAGE FEES

Sick of paying extra for your luggage? Safety First has 5 tips to avoid these annoying fees.

1. Bring less is the first obvious answer. Lighter bags and less luggage both translate into not only savings but convenience. Consolidating purses with diaper bags or laptop cases with business files will avoid paying unnecessary fees.

2. Flying certain airlines such as JetBlue or Southwest helps. JetBlue doesn’t charge for the first bag, and Southwest tops that by not charging for two.

3. Frequent fliers are exempt from fees on certain airlines such as US Airways. Unaccompanied minors are often not charges. Neither are servicemen. The airlines differ in these rules. Check for loopholes because only one in four passengers pay the fees. Be smart.

4. Hotels are known to sometimes pick up the tab as an incentive to stay at their location. Some are offering up to an $80 room credit to cover checked baggage fees.

5. When all else fails, mail it. Companies like Luggage Forward can help you avoid the fees. Federal Express or the US Postal Service is often less expensive than the luggage fees, and they are less likely to lose your treasures.

Web Etiquette For Air Passengers

Finally airlines such as Delta, Virgin, Continental are offering internet service and even Wi-Fi, but watch your sky manners. Here are the top etiquette tips:

Tip #1: Don’t presume that the bathroom is your personal conference room.

Tip #2: For those of you who do Skype, remember that shouting is for the race track. Keep your voice down to respect your seat mates.

Tip #3: Family-rated conversation helps avoid problems, regardless of how boring the flight. Porn sites need not be discussed further here. Just remember that you’re not at home while surfing the friendly skies.

Tip #4: Be careful with web meetings and other company secrets. Some business travelers use privacy screens.

Tip #5: Paper trail. Spilling all your notes and charts into the laps of your seat mates is just plain rude.