Why is Tri Travel a nightmare right now? – Triathlete

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It’s every triathlete’s nightmare. You may claim your baggage only to find that your equipment did not make it to your destination. Whether it’s your suit, helmet and shoes, or even worse your bike, nothing puts a damper on a race like lost gear.

When Sarah Latonas flew from Ontario to Idaho for 70.3 Coeur D’Alene a few weeks ago, she was dismayed to find that her race gear wasn’t in the hold. “When my bike bag didn’t arrive, and United couldn’t tell me where it was, I started to panic,” she said. “At that point, I was worried that the bag was lost and I wouldn’t be able to race. This has never happened to me before.”

Desperate, she posted about her dilemma in the race’s Facebook group and almost immediately received responses from 13 different people willing to lend her bikes, shoes, helmets and suits.

“I was amazed at how many people immediately offered to help, with no strings attached,” she said. “In my experience, the Ironman community is very close-knit and supportive, but the response I received was above and beyond what I could have hoped for.”

Luckily, at 9pm the night before the race Latona’s gear arrived and she didn’t have to rely on the kindness of strangers, but not everyone has been so lucky lately. Even Olympic champion Flora Duffy found herself a victim of the airline’s recent woes. Although she took a direct flight from Denver to Montreal, her bike never made it onto the plane for 70.3 Mont Tremblant. Unfortunately, she ultimately was unable to competebut she is not alone. Olympic silver medalist Georgia Taylor-Brown’s device never returned from the Montreal UK raceand a number of pros trying to fly to Edmonton for the PTO Canadian Open at the end of the month said their flights have been canceled or changed.

What is the problem with airlines now?

Flights are overbooked and airlines are understaffed. Thousands of flights are being delayed or canceled and there are not enough pilots, crew and ground staff to operate the rest. Oil prices have skyrocketed and prices have also been extremely high.

These problems are the result of a severe supply-demand imbalance. Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, tens of thousands of workers have left the industry due to layoffs, employee buyouts, and early retirement. Companies sold their planes and equipment to offset costs. Now that travel restrictions have been eased, travelers are ready to hit the skies again, but airlines haven’t been able to return to full capacity at the same pace.

In June, 23% of flights were delayed and nearly 3% were cancelled.

“The major carriers, especially the big three — United, Delta and American — have taken as many pilots as they can from their regional partners, leaving regional flights without enough pilots to operate,” said CP, a flight attendant. “We don’t have enough people to operate these flights – from the pilots, to the flight attendants, to the gate agents, to the ground crew. Everyone is getting overwhelmed.”

Combine these issues with the higher incidence of cloudy weather in the summer, and it’s literally the perfect storm.

What can you do to get to your race (with all your gear)?

After spending months, even years, training for a big race, the last thing you want is for a delayed flight or a lost bag to derail your plans. While much of this is out of your control, there are some tips to increase your chances of success.

1. Know how and where to book the right fare.

If a flight is oversold and no one volunteers to give up their seat, the first people to get hit are those who saved a little money by booking on a website like Expedia instead of booking directly with an airline . “Never, and I mean NEVER, buy from a third-party website,” CP said. “When things go wrong, your airline can’t or won’t help.”

Also, purchasing travel insurance or booking with a credit card that offers similar purchase protection can help minimize financial damage if you need to rebook.

2. Check the statistics on time for your flight.

This information is available upon request, by phone, for major airlines or online at Department of TravelBureau of Transportation Statistics website. For example, the highest on-time arrival rates through April 2022 were: Delta-81.9%, United-80.9% and Hawaiian-80.8% and the lowest were Jet Blue-53.3%, Frontier-58.4% and Spirit-58.5 %.

3. Book the first flight in the morning (or for a few days before you need to be there).

As the day progresses, the likelihood of delays and cancellations increases significantly. Also, summer storms build in the afternoon, which can cause re-routing.

“Early morning flights rarely have problems,” CP said. “Also, try to fly the day before so you give yourself plenty of time in case things go wrong.”

4. Schedule longer stays and limit connections.

The typical one-hour move is no longer enough, because if a delay occurs and baggage crews are short-staffed, your equipment may not make the connection. CP says a three-hour layover is your best bet to ensure your luggage makes it to your connecting flight.

“When a flight is cancelled, passengers get on other flights, but the ground crew has nothing to do with what happens inside the terminal, so your bag is waiting to board your original flight or the next available flight.” said CP.

Also, a direct flight reduces the likelihood that your equipment will be lost in transit. Another way to ensure your luggage arrives at your final destination is to check in early. With a last-minute check-in, you might make the flight, but your bags might not.

5. Download the airline app.

Not only can you get a virtual boarding pass and view the status of an incoming flight, you can also track bags and make a flight change. Often, the app will update you about a delay or cancellation long before gate agents make an announcement, so you can get a head start on making other arrangements.

6. Make the airline replace (or pay for) your bags.

Under DOT regulations for domestic travel, airlines are required to compensate passengers if luggage is damaged, delayed or lost. However, this won’t help if your luggage is a $5,000 triathlon bike and your race is in 24 hours. If your baggage hasn’t arrived, file a claim with the airline as soon as possible, keep notes of the employee you spoke with, keep your baggage receipts, and stay in close communication. Also, look for a phone number you can call to track the status of the claim. According to the US Department of Transportation Airline Rightsan airline may have to pay for the rental of replacement sports equipment if this is the case.

If a bag is lost, an airline is responsible for compensating you for the contents of the bag and refunding any fees for carrying the bag. For domestic flights, the maximum liability amount is $3,800 and will likely require proof of contents.

7. Pack and fly, smart

If you plan to use a bike box to ship your gear, consider putting clothing like your clothes, bike shoes, and helmet in a separate bag to increase the chances that at least some of your gear will make it to your destination.

Of course, always label the outside and inside of your bags with your contact information. Consider setting one up Apple AirTag, tablet, or similar tracker on your important luggage. While these devices rely on Bluetooth technology for short-range tracking, there is a way to locate the device if it is further away. For an AirTag, mark it as lost within the Apple Find My app. For a tile, use the “Notify when found” or “Latest location” feature.

“Given the post-COVID chaos currently affecting the airline industry, I would fly three days before a race, rather than two, to give myself more of a buffer in case of issues such as lost luggage, flight delays or cancellations. said Latonas. “I would also try to have more direct flights and longer holidays. I might as well start bringing my suit, shoes and helmet handy, just in case.”

CONNECTED: A professional guide to packing and traveling with your bike

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