Show Up at a Destination Without Lost Luggage

Have you ever arrived at your destination and discovered that your luggage never made it? Travel can be stressful as it is, and if your belongings don’t show up with you, it adds to the stress. Though sometimes things may be beyond your control, you can take these precautions to avoid lost luggage on your next trip and know exactly what to do in case you do encounter such as situation.

Pack a Carry On

Though you may want to travel light, I firmly suggest a small backpack to hold valuables, such as passport, money, jewelry, camera, tickets, credit cards, copy of itineraries and important documents. Many hotels require you to show a passport to check in, so if you lose your bag you may not be able to get a room. I also keep a copy of the documents (passport, drivers license, itinerary, tickets, etc.) on my phone and laptop (backed by Evernote) in case I lose my backpack.

Additionally, keep a change of clothes and medications. One time I flew to Omaha for business and my luggage did not arrive till the next day. I had to sleep in the oversized Delta branded t-shirt and go in to work wearing jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. Looking back, it would have been nice to pack clean underwear, slacks and dress shirt in my day bag.

Track Your Bags

Left your purse in the bathroom or a laptop in the sleeve of your airplane seat? I am guilty of it. Many of new luggage brands have built in tracking devices. I attach a Homing Pin ($10) on to my laptop, backpack and check in suitcase. That way, I can track your lost bags even if they weren’t lost by an airline and have them delivered to me for a small fee.

Check In On Time

Also, make sure to check in at least 1 hour before departure to give the airline enough time to load your luggage on to the aircraft. Take a photo of the bag, note its weight and contents before handing it over to the airline agent. Save the luggage tag carefully as it is the only numbers you will be able to use to communicate with the airline about lost or delayed luggage. On one instance, my luggage did not arrive to India for 10 days and Air France could not track it. Apparently, it was lost at Sharles de Gaulle airport along with 80,000 bags during a snow storm. I had to give detailed descriptions of the contents in my check in for the airline to reimburse.

Be Smart About Booking Tickets

As a rule, if I have more than 1 flight changes or less than 1 hour between flights, I do not check in any bags. The chances of losing a bag goes up significantly if there are multiple carriers involved or if they don’t have enough time to move them between connections. You really can’t blame the airline for this. Often times, busy airports require loading up to 200 bags per aircraft in just a few minutes.

Have you gotten a good deal from another city and then bought a connecting flight on another ticket? Even though both the airlines may share systems (Skyteam, One World, etc.) they don’t necessarily talk to each other. On a recent trip to Japan, I traveled on Delta from ATL-LAX, got out to get my luggage and rechecked it at China Souther for LAX-TOK. Though it is inconvenient, it ensured that I got a luggage tag from the last carrier and if anything were to happen, I will not be shuffled back and forth between Delta and China Souther to find out who made the goof up. With connections, try to book all legs on one ticket.

Report Immediately 

In case of lost or damaged bags, report immediately to the Baggage Claim Customer Service of the airline you flew and don’t leave the airport without addressing the matter. After a one hour flight from EDI-SHN on Aer Lingus, I found the handle of my checked in bag was completely broken. It was clear that it had been mishandled. I went to the customer service counter of Aer Lingus in the baggage claim area and reported it. At first, they told me that “wheels and handles are not covered” but I stood my ground and refused to leave unless a solution was found. I was heading off on a 12-day trip around Ireland with a broken bag. The agent went to the back room and gave me a brand new American Tourister of about the same size for no charge.

Get Insured

If you paid a baggage fee (for checked bags) the airline is required to issue you a refund when your bag does not arrive with you. Your luggage is considered lost only after 21 days. The airline may reimburse you for the contents and the expenses occurred during the delays, but don’t expect too much (average comp $100/ day). It is better to have a back up travel insurance such as Allianz Global Assistance. An Annual Deluxe Plan costs $350 and reimburses up to $1000 for Baggage Loss/Damage and $200 for Baggage Delays. 

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Review of Air Canada

Recently, I got a chance to fly on Air Canada, one of the largest airlines in North America. I took two flights making my way from Atlanta – Toronto – Tokyo and back. Fortunately, I was upgraded to business class (thanks to Air Canada’s PR!) which made the 24-hour long journey relatively easier to get through. Here is my unbiased review.

Planes

The E175 plane between ATL-YYK was very old, with 1-2 configuration, small seats even in business class, and outdated TV screen (ones where you see a mouse pointer and a rotating wheel each time you select a tab).

Between YYK-HND, the Boeing 777-300ER plane was newer and more spacious, with a total of 40 seats, spread across two cabins.

International Business Class cabins had a 1-2-1 configuration, each of the Executive Pod seats equipped with 18″ touch flat screen TV’s and flat beds. The firmness of the mattress on the chair could be adjusted using a touch screen comfort system, though I could not feel the difference. There was also a chair massage but I could barely feel it vibrating. The pillow and comforter were quite comfortable for a good night’s rest. There was also an adjustable armrest and a foldable tray table.

Air Canada provided a Canadian-brand Escents Aromatherapy amenities kit for business class passengers with just the basics – socks, toothbrush, ear plugs, lip balm.

The business class cabin had a total of three restrooms, including two between business class cabins, and one at the very front. The restrooms were standard size, and didn’t have especially nice finishes or amenities.

Timeliness

3 out of my 4 flights were delayed by at least half hour. One of the flights was related to a typhoon in Japan, others did not have an explanation.

Entertainment

Noise cancelling headphones were given to the passengers in business class cabin. The selection of movies and TV shows included French, English, Japanese and Hindi, though not as many as I have seen in some of the other airlines. I had seen most of the new releases two months ago on Delta. Also, the ‘search by category’ was rather funky, resulting in English movies when I selected Hindi language.

A selection of premium newspapers, including route-specific titles were offered before takeoff.

Each seat had a personal power supply and USB port for charging electronic devices. It’s always great to arrive at your destination with your cell phone fully charged. There was no Wi-Fi on any of the planes.

Duty-free selections could be accessed from the screen monitors as well as the inflight magazine. Most products were standard, with nothing new or exciting.

Food

The food on board was quite good on Air Canada. Drinks and salted nuts were offered soon after takeoff, though a generous pour of champagne was served in a regular glass.

Meals were served 60-90 minutes after takeoff. For lunch, I had a fresh mixed greens salad, poached tiger prawns with marinated artichokes, grilled eggplant and zucchini lasagna, cheese tray and a decadent dark chocolate fondant with hazelnut praline and cherry compote. This was the best dessert I have eaten in air!

Plentiful snacks were stocked in the galley for between meals, and water bottles were passed out at regular intervals. Since I was flying between Canada and Japan, there were Japanese menu options also including dim sum, noodle soups, congee, chicken teriyaki wrap and yakitori chicken.

The menus on Air Canada are created by celebrated Canadian Chef David Hawksworth.

Service

I have mixed feelings about the service provided by Air Canada. Only on one of the flights, the cabin attendant introduce himself before takeoff and asked for my order. At other times, nobody bothered to even bring a welcome drink before takeoff. Service during the flight was courteous and to the point. I didn’t feel like anyone went out of their way to make me feel special.

The on-ground staff was a bit more courteous and smiling.

Prior to landing, the flight attendant passed out enveloped asking for donations of left over currency for the The Air Canada Foundation, a registered charity focused on the health and well-being of children and youth. I thought this was a great idea since I hate bringing back foreign currency coins, which I eventually lose or never use again.

Lounge

I visited Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge in Toronto on a Friday evening. Though parts of the airport are quite modern, the lounge looked outdated with uncomfortable brown and blue leather chairs and dirty tables. Limited food and drinks were offered to guests. At dinner time, there was only mac n cheese, nachos and salads. They did have kids play room, a loud entertainment room, and a business area. I was also able to use complimentary shower facilities where they provided a towel, but no toiletries. Also, there is no place to hang your clothes in the shower rooms so leave your jackets outside.

Air Canada is Canada’s largest airline and the largest provider of scheduled passenger services in the Canadian market, the Canada-U.S. trans-border market and in the international market to and from Canada. Air Canada is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and employs 30,000 people. Its corporate headquarters are in Montreal, and four major hubs are Toronto (YYZ), Montreal (YUL), Vancouver (YVR) and Calgary (YYC).

In my opinion, Air Canada can be best described as ‘safe, reliable and no frills’ airline that prioritizes serving the people, environment and community.

Flying Qatar Airways Business Class

Honestly, I am jealous of my friends in the corporate world who get to jet set when they fly for work. They relax in their flatbed seats while sipping on a glass of champagne served in real crystal glass, while I am squeezed in the economy middle seat for up to 30 hours at a time. As a freelance travel writer, I have to more then often cover my own airfare when going on assignment, which is every month. Usually, I am scrambling for cheap fares, using my miles, or negotiating with airlines for discounts.

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So when I had the opportunity of traveling Business Class on Qatar Airways (QA), I grabbed it!

qatar airways

I booked a round trip flight from Atlanta, GA to Yerevan, Armenia, both of which are new hubs for QA. In May 2016, a launch party featured a private concert by American singer and actress Jennifer Lopez at Atlanta’s historic Fox Theatre, which enraged Atlanta-based Delta Airlines. Grow up Delta! Read more about their reaction to it.

The online booking process was easy. QatarAirways.com website gives several options of flights for each day and shows a calendar of low fares through the week. You can pick any combination of flights based on schedules and prices.

Checking in at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport was strange as the attendant at QA counter did not know recognize the city Yerevan, or the country Armenia. He said he worked with the airlines, but perhaps a geography lesson wasn’t included in the training.

I got access to The Club At ATL lounge at Atlanta airport, which is a far cry from any VIP lounges I have seen before. It was crowded, the wifi was slow, and there was hardly anything to eat at the buffet table.

Once I boarded the plane, things got a lot better. An attendant escorted me from the entrance of the flight to my seat and helped me stow my carry on bag. Soon, the cabin attendant addressed me by my name and made polite conversation about my journey. I got a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice right away and was feeling relaxed already.

qatar airways

I was on the 777-200 airplane which featured fully flat horizontal beds in a 2-2-2 configuration. The maroon (official color: Qatari red) leather seats were equipped with massage functions and I had over 6 feet of legroom! Sorry coach people. I had the biggest individual flat screen TV screen I have seen on board (estimating 17 inches) which was programmed with over 3,000 hours of entertainment in 30 languages through the award-winning Oryx One system. Some of the flights also have WiFi but neither of my legs (Atlanta-Doha-Yerevan) did.

qatar airways

Next they brought out amenities – A Giorgio Armani toiletries bag with a perfume and lotion, cozy PJ set (in my size) which contained a long sleeve shirt and pants, along with slippers, fluffy pillow and comforter. Once I changed into my lounging clothes, the attendant asked to make my bed for the night. She flattened the seat to 180 degrees, laid out bedspreads and tucked in the comforter, a left a chocolate flight on my pillow. I felt like I was getting a turndown service at a hotel.

qatar airways

QA business class features a Dine On Demand style of dining, meaning passengers can order whatever food and drinks they want whenever they feel like it. The drink menu had a great selection of wines and champagnes from around the world. One could chose from Australian Shiraz, Spanish Mencia, French Bordeaux, Tawny Port, as well as spirits, cocktails and teas.

The food menu offered a good selection of vegetarian and regional choices.   I had a fresh salad of butternut squash and goat cheese on a bed of arugula; a flavorful paneer tikka masala with herbed rice and lentils; and individual size carrot cake and chocolate tart for dessert. Just before we arrived in Doha, I ordered my breakfast – kadak cardamom chai, kippered salmon with capers, muffin and croissant. The sun shone in from the large windows as I sipped on my strong hot tea and read the morning news.

qatar airways

Another thing I really liked about my QA flight was the attention to the bathrooms. During the 15-hour long service, the toilet was always clean and well equipped with toothbrushes and hand lotion. One of the attendants made sure to clean the toilet after every single use.

If you have a 4 hours or more layover in Doha, Qatar Airways offers free city tours. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to avail this opportunity. The airport does have a hotel, art displays, spa, lots of shopping and dining, as well as VIP lounges.

Doha

Qatar Airways is commitment to giving back to the community. You will see some of their projects featured during the in-flight entertainment and  announcements are made on board asking for contributions. Read more about QA social projects here

Would I fly QA again? Absolutely! In my opinion, QA delivers a lot more than it’s counterparts when it comes to seat comfort, food and entertainment, making it an overall much better flight experience. And the best part is, you would probably end up paying a lot less for a business class ticket on Qatar Airways versus some of the US-based airlines.

Qatar Airways is the national carrier of the State of Qatar. Launched in 1997, QA flys to over 150 destinations worldwide. It was named Airline of the Year by Skytrax in 2015 and Business Class of the Year by Skytrax in 2014.

The Airline That Makes Sense

New York City to Oslo for only $150 round trip! If your first reaction to that is, “Great price, but I’m sure I’ll get what I pay for” you think like me. For years, I have frowned upon discount airlines for fear of the unknown. I would rather pay a few extra bucks to know that my flight will arrive on time, in one piece, my luggage will get there safely, and the ride would be somewhat uneventful.

FAST AND AFFORDABLE

Little did I know that Norwegian Air is not only cheap, it is even better than many of the well known brands in the airline industry. I flew the brand new 787-9 Dreamliner from New York to London in only 5 hours earlier this month! The flight was so quite and smooth that I didn’t even realize when it took off. Normally, I have to wear ear plugs on the plane because of the loud noise, but not on the 787 Dreamliner. The 787-9 Dreamliner is a faster airplane that consumes less fuel. The best part is, Norwegian decided to pass the fuel cost savings to their consumers.

norwegianSTRETCH YOUR LEGS

There are only two classes in Norwegian – economy and premium. The main difference between the two is the number of seats per row, allowing for extra room, as well as superior meal service. The Premium seat (there are only 5 rows) I was in, reclined enough to stretch my legs and each seat had its own charging area with USB and electric outlets. There was also a lot more room in overhead for carry on bags, so there’s no hassle of shoving your bags under the seat.

norwegian airlines

SAY NO TO JET LAGS

The interior of plane is designed to reduce jet lag and keep the air well circulated. Clever cabin lighting system changes with the time zone. Electro chromatic window system allows each passenger to control how much light they want to come in. If you wish to take a nap, you can block the sun out completely and make the window appear dark. The viewing area is also 65% more than other planes.

FLAT AND TOUCH SCREENS

Norwegian claims to have state of the art entertainment system, which is somewhat true. Flat screen televisions are touch screen enabled, though the selection of movies and games is very limited. Most other airlines now offer hundreds of hours of inflight entertainment, which also includes many foreign features.

norwegian airlines

HEALTHY MEALS

Food on the flight was decent. I had the vegetarian section which included salad, fruit, rice cracker, and pasta with vegetables. Fresh and healthy, unlike most airplane food that is overloaded with carbs and cheese. Why do you need so many calories when you are not moving about?

There was red and white wine as well, though only one kind each. You need to pre order your food in short haul economy. Snacks were also available for purchase (Visa and MasterCard only) and could be ordered through the tv monitor. norwegian airline

The duty free selection was very limited, offering a few cosmetics and alcohol. The items were displayed on the entertainment system for a short duration of the flight.

FREE WIFI

Perhaps the biggest perk for 21st century travelers. The Norwegian flights within Europe offer free wifi to ALL passengers. I used it on the London-Helsinki leg and had no issues connecting with my iPhone and laptop.

NO FRILLS

Do you feel left out when you pass by the elite business section and trail your way into the back of the plane? Those who normally travel business or first class and look for ultra luxury may be a bit disappointed. There is no champagne on arrival or TUMI amenity kits. You can expect to get a cozy blanket and headphones – thats it. Equality (mostly) for everyone!

CARE FOR THE PLANET
Norwegian Air started in 1993 and is voted the best value environment friendly airline. They are the third largest low-cost carrier in Europe with 5,500 employees and operate over 400 routes to more than 130 destinations across Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Thailand, the Caribbean and the US. Norwegian is remarkably dedicated to the environment and focuses on how airlines can contribute to less pollution and emissions by flying new and fuel efficient aircrafts.
Would I fly Norwegian again? In a heartbeat! I believe in 2016, we must support businesses that care about sustaining the planet foremost. On top of that, if you can get there faster, cheaper, safer and without jet lag, then thats the best way to travel.
To learn more or make a reservation on Norwegian Air, click here.