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Nov-13-2007 06:58printcomments

Expect Long Lines, Delays at Airports Worldwide Over Thanksgiving Holiday

Airlines say they are committed to improving the customer travel experience.

planes at airport
Planes in a long line awaiting take-off could be a common site at airports worldwide this Thanksgiving Holiday.

(SALEM, Ore. ) - The Air Transport Association of America, the industry trade organization representing the leading U.S. airlines, is forecasting a 4 percent year-over-year increase in the number of passengers traveling globally on U.S. airlines during the 2007 Thanksgiving holiday season.

Based on a sample of recent historical data, the three busiest travel days during the Thanksgiving travel period are expected to be Sunday, Nov. 25; Monday, Nov. 26; and Wednesday, Nov. 21, respectively.

Over the entire 12-day holiday travel period, ATA projects that planes will be, on average, close to 90 percent full. To accommodate the growing number of travelers, ATA member airlines are introducing a number of new customer-service initiatives this Thanksgiving holiday period.

“This 12-day Thanksgiving travel season traditionally is the busiest time of the year for air transportation. To ensure as pleasant a travel experience as possible, the airlines have taken extra steps this year to keep travelers better informed,” said ATA President and Chief Executive Officer James C. May. “Our customers deserve nothing less than safe and on-time travel and we will do our absolute best to deliver that. In the event of system delays, we also know that customers expect and deserve timely and accurate information – and ATA member airlines have all redoubled their efforts to deliver that information.”

May added that he encourages passengers to take advantage of new technologies and services offered by the carriers and most importantly, “to plan ahead and arrive at the airport plenty early.”

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Airlines are urging travelers to utilize a wide variety of new and enhanced services now available.

Many carriers suite of services include:

1. Improved online reservations and check-in services

2. Deployment of additional airport self-help ticketing and check-in machines

3. Automated travel notification services; these services provide passengers up-to-the-minute notices on their cell phone or wireless device of delays, gate changes, cancellations or diversions

4. Access to airline contact information, travel details on multiple itineraries, receive a page or reminder of upcoming flight details via cell phone or wireless device.

5. Customers whose airlines offer these services can print out boarding passes (if applicable) up to 24 hours before departure

6. More travel information via airline Web sites, including flight status, notice of carry-on and checked-baggage policies, details of meal services that may be offered on flights, packing suggestions, tips for checkpoint inspection and more

7. Easy access to customer-service commitments and contracts of carriage, which lay out the details of company policies and passengers’ travel rights

Other initiatives carriers are taking to enhance customer service include:

1. Adding more employees over the holidays

2. Enabling online itinerary-change function capabilities

3. Blocking of seats in key markets on peak holiday travel dates for use to re-accommodate passengers whose flights are cancelled or delayed due to inclement weather

4. Adding self-service machines on the secure side of airport terminals to make it more convenient for passengers to easily obtain a new boarding pass when they have been reaccommodated

5. Waiving change fees for customers whose itinerary is impacted by weather delays, irregular operations or mechanical difficulties, and toll-free hotlines to assist customers in rebooking a flight

6. Enhancing and reconfiguring gate areas and check-in areas to better meet the needs of passengers, including multi-lingual signage and kiosks

7. Offering additional payment capabilities for ticketing and onboard purchases

8. Reviewing, updating and posting contingency plans on airline Websites

9. Adjusting staffing levels to meet the demands of increased traffic during this busy travel period, including staff needed to help expedite both check-in and boarding.

10. Increasing connection times during peak travel periods

11. Beginning the boarding process earlier for full flights, and pushing back from the gate earlier than scheduled once all passengers are on board Upgrading in-flight food offerings

To help make the airport experience as smooth as possible, ATA encourages passengers to:

1. Travel with a current government-issued photo identification

2. Allow plenty of time for checking in and for security screening at the airport. If you are traveling on the busiest days, plan for longer-than-usual security lines

3. Medications taken on a regular basis should be carried with you onboard

4. If carrying any liquids or gels in carry-on baggage, they must be in containers of three ounces or less. Pack them in a one-quart zip-top bag and place it separately in a security bin for screening. Only one zip-top bag is allowed per passenger, so what doesn’t fit must be packed in checked luggage. Note that larger quantities of medications and baby formula can be carried onboard

5. Although now permitted, we recommend that you leave lighters at home. Matches are not permitted. Become familiar with the list of TSA permitted and prohibited items and under what circumstance permitted items may be carried onboard

6. Before arriving at the security checkpoint, place all metallic objects (e.g., loose change, keys, pens, cell phone, watch, camera) in carry-on baggage

7. Make sure that each bag is tagged with traveler name and contact information, both on the inside and outside, and remove all destination baggage tags from previous trips

“I am confident that with a little good weather, complemented by the shared efforts of airlines, airports, FAA and TSA, that Thanksgiving travelers will enjoy their travel experience,” said May. “We are committed to improving our air transportation system to ensure customers safe and convenient travel.”

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.