At this time of year, we start to think about holidays, leisure and business travel to all sorts of destinations. Often, (and especially to many far flung destinations) such travel with involve a change of aircraft at some point. What I wish to talk about here, however, applies to leisure travel as it does to business travel. That is, making connections.
A recent TV programme mentioned how a person was left for a few days at a mid-way airport before being able to complete their journey home. To me, as an agent, my immediate reaction was "His travel agent should have told him..." before learning that the person had booked online. As I have mentioned in previous posts, if going from A to B involves C, then going through a real travel agent is a must. I am sure that most online agencies and airlines explain everything in the terms and conditions; the relevant bits of small print you need, probably start around page 336 (-ish).
With any itinerary that involves connections you need to know how your itinerary has been put together AND how your ticket has been put together; the two bits of your trip make-up are not the same. As to your itinerary, you need to know who made the itinerary and from where that itinerary has been taken. As to the ticket, you need to have sight of the eticket itself - not just the number, but the whole ticket, including the fare construction. Next, you need to make sure you have a working grasp of the US FAA and the UK CAA regulations, with the added ingredient of an understanding of EU regulations. Lastly, you need to understand something of the principle of what are called "Minimum Connecting Times" and by applying your knowledge of EU and US (or if you are going to anywhere else outside the US, that destination countries' ) regulations - You can work out where you stand.
Let me try and simplify things a bit. If your travel is within the EU you are pretty safe, assuming various basic stuff has been taken into account. If you are leaving the EU, then your leaving part is pretty safe and if you are returning to the EU, then the bit that LANDS in the EU is pretty safe. Of course, as and when the UK leaves the EU, then all this may well change.
Okay, so itinerary. You need to know where the itinerary is taken from. If it is printed out from one of the major GDS systems (GDS = Global Distribution Systems as used by agents and airlines) then that is a good start; a print from the actual airline website is also good. Anything else - isn't. You need the actual itinerary that has created or should I say, been the foundation of, your ticket.
You then need your ticket. Again, a print from a GDS system or the actual airline (as long as you are sure the print is from the airline website) is good, anything else, isn't. Oh! You will need to know something about code-shares and how they work too, just in case.
Why are the above points important? Over the next few blog posts I will try and explain a little bit more about itineraries, tickets and a few of the regulations and "understandings" which surround connected travel itineraries; we will then look at Minimum Connecting Times, how they work and how airlines may or may not be combined into one travel "event".
Of course, if you wish to be sure that what you are paying your hard earned holiday pound on, will work - you could call in and book with your local travel agent.