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Family-Friendly Holiday Travel TipsNovember 18, 2009 By: George Dooley
American Airlines, a founding member of the global oneworld Alliance, is offering holiday travel tips with the family in mind— including how to survive TSA’s new security rules, baggage fees, carry-ons and traveling with children.
* In accordance with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Secure Flight program, customers who purchased tickets on or after September 15 will be asked to provide additional information as part of the Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD) requirements. AAdvantage members are strongly encouraged to update their accounts with their SFPD by logging into their account on AA.com and clicking the “Contact Information and Password” tab at the top of the screen. Visit www.aa.com/secureflight or www.tsa.gov/secureflight.
* When traveling on an international itinerary with a lap child (infants under the age of two), contact American Airlines Reservations prior to departure at 1-800-433-7300 (en Español 1-800-633-3711) for information on the proper documentation required for security clearance and boarding. Infant ticket and fare rules for international destinations, including Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, vary by country, so call ahead to avoid surprises at the airport. Although there is no charge for traveling with lap children within the U.S., allow for extra time at the airport to provide proper documentation to a ticket agent.
* Consider purchasing a lightweight child-restraint system for use inflight and ease your way through security. The system is easily transportable and fits almost all American and American Eagle seats. See www.aa.com/children for more information.
* Some countries require a child traveling with only one parent to carry written, notarized consent from the absent parent. Contact the embassy or consulate of your destination country for information.
As You Pack
* Domestic Economy Class customers can check one bag for $20, and a second checked bag is $30. If you’ve achieved AAdvantage Gold, Platinum, or Executive Platinum status, the first two checked bags are free, provided the bags are within the current weight and size limitations. See www.aa.com/baggageinfo for information, as other exceptions apply.
* Include your name, flight number, itinerary and phone contact inside each checked bag in case the bag tag becomes detached in transit.
* When traveling with an infant, be sure to bring enough food and supplies with you. American does not provide baby food, bottles or other related items. However, baby bottles can be heated on all flights operated by American Airlines. American Eagle and AmericanConnection flights are not equipped to heat baby bottles.
* For young children, fill a backpack with crayons, coloring books, inexpensive toys and snacks. Consider holding a new or special item aside until you are airborne.
* Place all prescription medicine, jewelry, documents, car keys and other valuables in a carry-on bag that will fit under the seat in front of you. That way, if overhead bin space happens to be full, you won’t have to check your bag with valuables at the gate.
Before Leaving for the Airport
* Dress yourself and your children in comfortable clothes, and wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off at the security checkpoint.
* Save time by checking in online. Visit www.aa.com/checkin up to 24 hours prior to flight to check in for your flight and print your boarding pass.
* If you’re over the age of 18, federal law requires you to show a government-issued photo ID at TSA checkpoints. See www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/acceptable_documents for examples of TSA acceptable IDs. If you’re traveling internationally, don’t forget your passport, as well as other important documents for all customers, including lap children. Make copies to carry with you (or scan and e-mail a copy to yourself) and leave with others at home.
At the Airport
* TSA limits the amount of liquids, gels and aerosols you may carry on board. However, medication, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in a zip-top bag. Families should declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. For more information, including limitations on international travel, visit our carry-on baggage page. TSA’s website, www.tsa.gov, is also a good source of information.
* Looking for airport information, destination guides or ticket counter hours? Visit www.aa.com/airporthelp to find this and other useful information to help you breeze through the airport.
* Customers may carry onboard one bag that fits in the overhead bin or under the seat, plus one personal item, such as a purse, briefcase or laptop. A diaper bag and umbrella stroller (as long as they fit in the overhead bin) for a lap or ticketed child are permitted onboard in addition to the standard carry-on allowance. Additionally, an approved safety seat and collapsible stroller may be checked at no charge. Don’t forget to label seats and strollers with your name and contact phone number.
* Allow extra time for traffic, parking and transportation to the terminal. Travelers should plan to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before departure for domestic flights and two to three hours prior to departure for international flights. Some cities have even earlier suggested arrival times because of lengthy TSA security checkpoint lines. See www.aa.com/airportexpectations for cities where earlier arrival is recommended.
* Instead of trying to remember your parking location or writing it down on a scrap of paper, take a picture of your location sign with a camera phone or digital camera.
* If you haven’t already checked in beforehand at AA.com, try one of American’s quick and easy Self-Service Check-in machines. They’re a great time-saver and can be used for both domestic and international flights. You can print a boarding pass, check luggage, select or change seats, confirm flight changes, and purchase upgrades.
* Curbside Check-in is another great time saver. You can check your bag with a skycap at the curb, and then it’s a straight shot to the security line and your gate.
While You’re Waiting
* Visit an Admirals Club lounge. Select locations in Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York offer children’s rooms equipped with computers that have “kid-friendly” games and programs, as well as a TV featuring age-appropriate programming. One-Day passes are available for $50, and can be purchased in person, online, or at Self-Service Check-in machines.
* American and American Eagle typically begin boarding aircraft about 30 minutes before flight time for domestic flights (45 minutes for international flights) in order to help ensure an on-time departure.
Onboard the Plane
* A portable video player, audio player, or reading material can make the time fly, especially for young travelers. However, audio and video equipment may only be used with headsets.
* When traveling on an aircraft with Gogo inflight Internet, take advantage of the opportunity to visit AA.com for free. Take care of last minute e-shopping, check e-mail and stay connected with your friends and family.
* Changes in cabin air pressure during descent may cause discomfort in small children. Be prepared by having a bottle, pacifier or chewing gum with you. Frequent swallowing allows air to flow freely out of and into the ear and sinus cavities, preventing discomfort.
* American and American Eagle offer complimentary non-alcoholic beverages onboard, and juice and milk are available for children. In addition, American offers a choice of fresh light meals and snacks through the food-for-sale program. Options vary based on flight time and length.
* Families traveling with a child who is a first-time flyer can commemorate their first time in the sky with American’s new “First Flight Certificate.” Ask a flight attendant onboard any American Airlines flight for the keepsake signed by the aircraft’s pilots and flight attendants.