Dealing With Missed Airline and Amtrak Connections.

It’s a rule it’s inevitable it’s unavoidable: when you travel, stuff happens. Flights are cancelled. Trains are late. And connections are missed. OK, so based on my own experience and what I’ve learned from travel pros, here are some thoughts on what to do. And what not to do.

Try to remember that the airline employee standing there didn’t cancel your flight. The Amtrak employee didn’t put your train on a siding last night so three freights could pass. Your missed connection may be a big problem, but it’s your problem. And it’s not their fault.

If you’re flight is cancelled, do not trust the airline employees there in the airport to find a seat for you on another flight. They will say “All flights are booked” and that’s what they’ve been told. But they don’t know which passengers aren’t arriving due to cancellations at other airports. Plus, the people at the gate are not experienced at rebooking, especially on other airlines.  So call your airline’s main reservations number. Booking flights is what they do every day, all day. Deal with them and only them.

Now let’s say you’re traveling by Amtrak and your train is so late into Chicago that you’ve missed your connecting train. Here’s the best possible advice and there’s nothing complicated about it: The instant your train stops moving, run – and I mean run! – to Amtrak’s Customer Service Desk. The reason is simple: There will be a hundred other people getting off the train with connection problems like yours and only one or two Amtrak people waiting to help all of you. Your objective is to be the first person in that line. First come, first served and probably best served.

Finally, be realistic in what you ask for. Which passenger has the right to expect more in the way of assistance and compensation:  a husband and wife arriving in Chicago who have come from Los Angeles in a bedroom on the Southwest Chief with a ticket that cost $1700 or someone who boarded the Chief in Kansas City and rode to Chicago in a coach seat for 128 bucks?

But the best possible advice is to stay calm, don’t get mad, and remember that there’s someone in line behind you who’s got a much bigger problem. You will probably be settling into a nearby hotel room when he’s still in line and with four people ahead of him. So order a burger and a beer from Room Service. And see what’s on TV.