Info & Tips on Air Travel

Check List | Airline Ticketing | Carry-on Bags | Baggage Limits | Delayed Bags
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Dealing wtih Delays & Cancelations | Best Routes to Entebbe

Flight Interruptions
Flight schedules are subject to weather, mechanical issues, security issues, connecting flights, and just dealing with people. When disruptions occur, some passengers get angry and vocal. My son once worked for Delta Airlines and said how counterproductive it was for passengers to walk up to the gate agent, the only person there that could actually help them, and the begin the conversation by rude and abusive language. He told me that pretty much took away any incentive to help, for no one wants to help a jerk. You can be sure that the person standing behind the gate counter had absolutly nothing to do with the flight delay or cancelation. That person is a much a victim as you are.

He offers these suggestions:

  • Be polite but determined. You need help. They can help. So build a team spirit
  • Know what your options are with that airline (i.e. re-booking, meal vouchers, overnight accommodations, flight delay compensation vouchers, etc.)
  • Do your best to get confirmed reservations rather than simply being added to a wait list
  • If you are put on a wait list, do not leave the gate area when boarding begins so if you name is called, you are ready to go
  • Depending on the length of your delay, the airline may or may not keep your checked bags. Make sure you know the status of your checked bags and whether or not you must take control of them. A friend once had his bags put on the baggage belt. He was not paying attention so they went unclaimed. The next day he flew on to his destination without his bags. It really complicated things for him since his "delayed bags" were really his own fault.
  • Do not hesitate to ask for a supervisor if you are just getting the run around

Air Travel Security
Even before September 11, 2001, security for overseas travel has been extensive. For example, at Entebbe Airport, all bags are x-rayed, not just your carry-on. Also, once at Heathrow Airport, our 747 was ready to "push-back" and take off for Entebbe when a passenger had not gotten on the plane but his bags had. The flight was delayed an hour while his bags were found and removed - which was fine with me! This same level (or higher) of security will only increase.

Aerosol Products
It appears that any products (shaving cream, hair spray, bug spray, etc.) in areosol cans will eventually be prohibited on commercial flights. Therefore, I recommend avoiding aerosols in preferance for products in squeeze tubes and hand pumps. This should make your trip through airport security that much easier.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continually adapts to circumstances and threats so rather than post outdated information here, I recommend that you visit their web site for the latest information. You should especially check their Permitted & Prohibited Items section. Also, if your bag is inspected, you will find a TSA Inspection Form in you bag when you open it.

Airline Tickets are almost exclusively being issued in E - format (E for electronic) which means you arrive at the gate, show your ID, and the E-ticket receipt and they pull up your reservation and issue boarding passes for your flights. I print the E-Ticket receipt and/or itinerary received by email from the travel agency and take two copies with me (kept in two separate bags so if I lose one, I still have the other) and then leave a copy in my Home Travel Folder in case of need. Having a copy of your entire itinerary is a must. We were once traveling on a split itinerary (the domestic flights were on one itinerary and the international on the other). Our domestic flights were interrupted and the airline easily made the adjustment. However, since our overseas flights were on a separate itinerary, the domestic airline could not make downline changes to reflect the delay. We then had to call the overseas carrier to update our travel and had to pay a change fee. If we had a copy of both, this delay and cost could have been avoided.

Best Time To Purchase Tickets

  • This is a very inexact endeavor. Today Airlines use computers that can analyze all kinds of data continuously and make adjustments to pricing, not just daily, but hourly. These program consider the history of a route, time of year, special events (graduations, sporting events, conventions, etc.), number of searches they have received for a given route (yes, the more times you search you are helping drive up the price) and number of seats sold or unsold. Therefore, the info below is helpful guidance, but not exact at all.
  • Some say best time to book domestic flights is between 57 & 47 days before a flight
  • Traditionally Tuesday was the best day to purchase tickets with Wednesday being second. But this too is no longer exact.
  • Flights three to four weeks away may be cheaper but in the last few days, go way up. Airlines know those who purchase last minute tickets do so because they must travel and they must also pay for it. For international travelers, this can be problematic as at three weeks, there might not be enough seats for a team.
  • Then there is the un-advertized special which can appear on any day at any time and who knows why. The airline goal is to drive traffic to their website continuously.
  • So what does all this mean? I have no real idea because you are shooting at a moving target.

Frequent flyer miles The round trip to Uganda and back earns at least 16,000 miles and more from western US airports. It depends on the program of the airline you fly. Delta Airlines allows you to earn miles not only on Delta aircraft but also their code share partners. This means you still earn Delta miles on the KLM leg of the flight to and from Entebbe. I assume other airlines have a similar program. Here is an "unofficial" mileage calculator for Delta.

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Flight Progress Tracking
If you provide your family and friends with the name of your airline, flight number, and scheduled depature time, within an hour or so of the departure time, they can go the the Flight View® website and get information on your flight and once in the air, it will show the progress of the flight.

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Dealing with Jet Lag
Jet Lag is simply the disruption of your normal body clock so your desire for food and rest are out of sink with the clock on the wall. Jet travel allows us to go farther and faster than our bodies can adjust on an incremental basis and that produces the body clock disruption.

    Some Helpful Suggestions
  • It is best to fly during daylight hours and rest a night, but at least one leg of the flights from the US to Europe and from Europe to Uganda are overnight.
  • In the few days before your departure, try to get as much sleep as possible. Do not use an alarm clock, but allow yourself to wake up when you body is ready.
  • Do your best to get some rest on the overnight flights and to aid this you, may wish to take a fast acting, limited duration sleeping aid such as Ambien© (Zolpidem Tartrate 5 or 10 mg tablets). This is a prescription item but worth talking with you doctor about since it has about a four hour effectiveness range and does not leave you with a hangover. There is also available a time released version which causes longer sleep that may last past the flight time and leave you very drowsy.
  • On the afternoon and evening of your flight, avoid alcohol and caffeine. Drink water or Ginger Ale©, Sprite©, 7Up©, etc. that do not contain caffeine.
  • Once at your destination, go outside at noon allow you body some exposure to the noonday sun.
  • Fight the weariness during the day with only short naps.

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Airline and Airport Related Websites

The Airlines and Airports related sites listed below represent the USA gateway airlines, airports and overseas hubs that transition to Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. Please make me aware of additional airports and other information that needs to be added or updated in this section


The following airlines are commonly used by ACTI teams.

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Delayed Bags
For the first time in all my travels, several of our bags did not make it to Uganda with us on our 2005 trip. As is always the case, this became a learning experience and here is what I learned. The folks at the airport are very responsive in taking your claim. However, when the bags arrived at Entebbe, things got more complicated. I had my Uganda contacts name and cell phone number on all our bag tags (see below) and wrote his name and cell phone number on the claim form I filled out at the airport. But I failed to write on the form in big clear letters that I granted him permission to pick up the bags and them permission to release them to him. When they called, we were 200 miles away in western Uganda. He went to the airport but they would not release the bags to him. Therefore I had to write a letter, sign it, find a fax machine and fax it to them before he could get the bags. Bottom line, it took us three days to get our bags AFTER they arrived in Uganda.

If you bags are delayed, the airline is responsible to pay you a certain amount so you can purchase necesary items (tolities, one set of clothes, etc). For KLM this amount is $100 US but you must go to KLM office in Kampala to get this. While this is supposed to apply to all airlines, I have never tried this on any of them. If a bag is truly lost, then a totally different set of rules comes into play. Bottom line rule, what you need to survive MUST be in your carry-on.

One more lesson learned by experience was the individual claim number on each bag airline bag tag. Making certain you have you bag tag receipts and knowing which bags they are on, is a great help in resolving delayed bag issues. When we first checked in, they printed us twelve bag tags and they were just put on our bags at random so that bag tag numbers were not necessarily associated with the bag owner. The further complicated retrieving our bags.

Carry-on Bags

Carry-on Bag

The bag on the right is a standard 20" Carry-on "Pilot Case" (14x20x7 inch) with wheels and a retractible pull handle. These bag easily fit in the overhead bins in the cabin on overseas flights.

You should note that if you must take a regional jet from you home airport to the international gateway airport, you will most likely have to "gate check" this bag on that leg of the trip. Overhead bins on those aircraft are not large enough for 20" carry-ons.

The airline will put a special tag on such bags at the passenger loading gate at departure and they will be available for you to retieve them at your arrival gate.

I recommend team members get the $19.95 K-Mart "Concourse" Pilot Case model rather than the really expensive brand name carry-ons. Luggage in Uganda takes a beating. These inexpensive models are very durable, I have one that lasted eight trips.

Carry-on Bag Maximums

# Bags Height Width Depth Girth Weight
British Airways
13 lbs
Delta Airlines
11 lbs
22 lbs

International Checked Baggage Maximums

Bags Girth Weight Excess
British Airways
50 lbs
51-87 lbs
88+ lbs
Delta Airlines
50 lbs
51-100 lbs
101 + lbs
50 lbs

  • Girth is the total of height + width + length (I have never had an airline quibble over total girth, just weight)
  • Bags approaching the 50 pound limit will probably receive a heavy tag which is not a problem, just a warning to baggage handlers that the bag is close to 50 pounds.
  • Excess baggage is the additional weight on bags over 50 but not exceeding 100 pounds. The airlines handle this charge in different ways. I did learn on a recent trip that instead of having to pay this fee on one of my two allowable checked bags, I could just keep them under 50 lbs and take a third bag that was at 69 lbs and paid KLM $150 extra and got both and extra bag and more weight for the same dollars.
  • Air Cargo is baggage in excess of 100 pounds which is charge by the pound but does not count against your two bag limit. I have never tried this, but have been told you must contact the airline weeks in advnace of your flight to work this out.
  • Many on our teams have used military style dufle bags and I have personally starting using plastic footlocker style trunks with wheels which are easy to pack, provide better protection from items being crushed and keeps things dry when baggage is left in the rain on the airport tarmac.

Note: Most airlines have more generous allowances for business and first class carry-ons, but those on a missionary trip would not commonly be seated in one of those sections.

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Baggage ID Tag

Here are several tricks I have learned about properly identifying your baggage. I get some bright colored card stock and make baggage ID tags for all the bags in our team - including carry-ons. On one side I put the common identification information you would expect. On the other side I print our team travel itinerary and our contact in Uganda. I also print a copy of all this information and place it inside the bag so that if the bag tag gets torn off in the airline baggage system, proper identification can be found on the inside as well. The value of the itinerary and flight routing information is that speeds up the process in getting the back to where our team is. The exterior tags are sealed in 10 mil clear laminate and secured with those clear rubber type tag loops that seem to be unbreakable. One advantage of doing every single bag with the same type tag is it provide an added level of security in that all our team members can easily recognize bags belonging to other team members at the baggage belt or if a thief picked up a back and started to walk off.

Here is an example of the tag I make:
(Data below is ficticous)

John Q. Traveler
1234 Anywhere Street
Chattanooga, TN 37341 USA

(Travel Itenerary on Back)

Itenerary, Jul-Aug 2003

7/15 DL 4278 CHA - ATL
7/15 BA 2226 ATL - LHR
7/16 BA 2227 LHR - EBB

8/10 BA 2225 EBB - LHR
8/11 BA 2223 LHR - ATL
8/11 DL 4256 ATL - CHA
Contact In Uganda

John A. Ugandan
Plot 1014 Namirembe Road
Kampala, Uganda
256-77-789123 Cell
256-41-276542 Fax

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U.S. Airport

Atlanta, Georgia
Hartsfield International Airport ATL
Chicago, Illinois
O'Hare International Airport ORD
Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte Douglas International Airport CLT
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport DFW
New York, New York
John F. Kennedy International Airport JFK

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Overseas Airport

Amsterdam, Holland
Schiphol Airport AMS (you will need to select English language.
Schiphol airport is about 6 miles (10 K) outside the city of Amsterdam with a local train link every 15 minutes during the day and hourly at night to Central Station, a ticket costs about $6.00 and the journey time is approximately 20 minutes. The station in the airport is underground and linked to the terminal building by a pedestrian tunnel. KLM offers a bus transfer, for $10 to most of the major hotels in Amsterdam. Taxis charge $50.00 to the center of Amsterdam. See warning about airport phone use.
Brussels, Belgium
Zaventem Airport BRU
Entebbe, Uganda
Entebbe Airpot EBB. There are some good photographs of Entebbe Airport at Brian McMorrow's photo gallery. Entebbe airport phone numbers: 256-41-320-516 or 320-519 or fax at 320-571. They also list 256-77-412-314 which is part of the Uganda cellular system.
London, England
Gatwick Airport LGW Presently the departure point for Entebbe.
Gatwick Express Complete information on train from Gatwick Airport to central London.
Heathrow Airport LHR Some flights from USA land at Heathrow and transfer to Gatwick by Speedlink for trip to Entebbe.
Heathrow Express Complete information on train from Heathrow Airport to central London.
Speedlink Bus express transportation between London Airports.
London Tourist contains many good links about things in and around London.

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