RESERVATION AND TICKETING TIPS

Once your next business trip is planned out, you know exactly where you are going and which airline you want to use, getting reservations and tickets is a fairly simple process. You can make all of your arrangements by telephone, at the airline's ticket office, or through a travel agent or other ticket outlet. There are a few potential pitfalls, however, and these pointers should help you avoid them.

* If your travel plans fall into a busy period, call for reservations early.

Flights for holidays may sell out weeks - sometimes months - ahead of time.

* Don't buy a standby fare or an 'open return' ticket if you need to fly

during a high-demand period, especially the end of August. You could be

stranded for a week or more before a seat becomes available.

* Ask the reservations agent to give you the on-time performance code for any

flights that you are considering. This is a one-digit code in the

reservations computer that shows how often that arrived on time (within 15

minutes) during the most recent reported month. For example, an "8" means

that flight arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time between

80% and 89.9% of the time. If you are deciding between two flights with

similar schedules and fares, you may want to choose the one with the better

on-time record. (Only the largest U.S. airlines are required to maintain

these codes.)

* When you make a reservation, be sure the agent records the information

accurately. Before you hang up or leave the ticket office, review all of the

essential information with the agent - the spelling of your name, the flight

numbers and travel dates, and the cities you are traveling between. If there

is more than one airport at either city, be sure you check which one you'll

be using. It's also important to give the airline your home and work

telephone numbers so they can let you know if there is any change in their

schedule.

* Your ticket will show the flight number, departure time, date, and status of

your reservation for each flight of your itinerary. The "status" box is

important. "OK" means you're confirmed. Anything else means that the

reservation is not yet certain (e.g., waitlisted).

* A "direct" (or "through") flight can have one or more stops. Sometimes

flights with only one flight number can even involve a change of planes. Ask

about your exact routing.

* If you are flying to a small city and your flight number has four digits,

you may be booked on a commuter airline that has an agreement with the major

carrier in whose name the flight is held out. If you are unsure, ask the

reservations agent about the airline and the aircraft type; these flights

are identified in the computer.

* When a reservations agent asks you to buy your tickets by a specific time or

date, this is a deadline. And if you don't make a deadline, the airline may

cancel your reservations without telling you.

* Try to have your tickets in hand before you go to the airport. This speeds

your check-in and helps you avoid some of the tension you might otherwise

feel if you had to wait in a slow-moving ticketing line and worry about

missing your flight.

* If your reservations are booked far enough ahead of time, the airline may

offer to mail your tickets to you. However, if you don't receive the tickets

and the airline's records show that they mailed them, you may have to go

through cumbersome lost-ticket procedures. It is safer to check the

telephone directory for a conveniently located travel agency or airline

ticket office and buy your tickets there.

* As soon as you receive your ticket, check to make sure all the information

on it is correct, especially the airports (if any of the cities have more

than one) and the flight dates. Have any necessary corrections made

immediately.

* Bring a photo I.D. when you fly, and have your airline ticket issued using

your name as it appears on that I.D. Many airlines are requesting such

identification at check-in in order to reduce the re-selling of discount

tickets. (Airlines don't permit tickets to be sold or given to other

persons.) On international flights, make sure your name is the same on your

ticket and your passport. If your name has recently changed and the name on

your ticket and your I.D. are different, bring documentation of the change

(e.g., a marriage certificate or court order).

* It's a good idea to reconfirm your reservations before you start your trip;

flight schedules sometimes change. On international trips, most airlines

require that you reconfirm your onward or return reservations at least 72

hours before each flight. If you don't, your reservations may be canceled.

Check your ticket as you board each flight to ensure that only the correct

coupon has been removed by the airline agent.

Information provided by the U. S. Department of Transportation.

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