Tuesday, December 20, 2011

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There are few feelings as frustrating as encountering a flight delay or cancellation, especially during holiday travel.

Your anguish can be compounded by poor communication and a lack of customer service from the airlines.

First, try these 6 Tips To Avoiding Flight Delays. But if delays and cancellations do occur, realize that you’re not powerless in these situations.

Take these steps to reach your destination as soon as possible – while making the most of the situation when you can’t…

  1. Arrive armed. Not with guns, with knowledge. It’s the greatest weapon against airport delays. First, check the status of your flight before leaving home. I once found out that my 8 a.m. flight was going to be delayed two hours, so I slept in an enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at home. When I arrived at the airport, it was clear that most of my fellow passengers had been waiting at the gate since sunrise.

  2. Plan alternates. As a pilot myself, I know never to take off without a back-up plan in case I encounter a problem en route to my destination. As a passenger, I practice the same technique. If it’s critical I get there that day, I do some research before my traveling to find out what other flights I could take if mine is delayed or cancelled. I investigate alternate routes on the carrier I’m ticketed on, as well as other airlines with service to my destination. I might even look for flights to another airport that’s not too far from where I’m going. In the event of a delay or cancellation, I can quickly propose these alternate plans to the airline’s customer service – speeding things up for me while making their job easier.

  3. Stay away from lines. I’ve seen hundreds of people in the gate areas lined up to get what’s called re-accommodated when airlines start delaying or canceling flights. By the time these passengers reach the front of the line, it’s likely they’ve already missed the next flight or lost out on the remaining available seats. So the moment you’re aware of a lengthy flight delay or an outright cancellation, call the airline and ask to be confirmed on a new routing. Some carriers, such as Delta, even offer the ability to do this at an airport kiosk or online. If you can’t get through on the phone or their website, use any other means necessary to speak with a representative as soon as possible. This can mean exiting security and going back to the check-in counter – or even paying for a business lounge day pass to promptly speak with an agent. Some travelers have received immediate assistance by tweeting their airline with their problem.

  4. Get out! The only thing more depressing that watching people try to kill the day in an airport is seeing people who are spending the night there. Once you know you aren’t going anywhere for a while, try to make the best of it. If you have a few hours to kill, go to a decent sit-down restaurant and have a nice meal – one of my favorite Alternatives to an Airport Lounge. If you have longer, leave the airport. Nearby hotels may have a free shuttle and offer a reasonably priced day pass to their pool and fitness club. Some airports have observation lounges or even aviation museums, such as the Smithsonian Air and Space annex at Washington Dulles. When you must spend the night, get a room. If your airline won’t give you a hotel voucher, be sure to get a distressed-traveler rate or try these 8 Tips to Save at Any Hotel.

This post originally appeared at Money Talks News.

Consumers Dealt With Even More Delayed Flights In November >

Republicans and Democrats may finally agree on something: Small business owners and entrepreneurs need better and more plentiful opportunities to gain access to capital, grow their businesses, and create more jobs.

Last month, the House voted 407 to 17 to pass passed the Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act, which seeks to makes it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs to raise capital through crowdfunding. The new bill would let let small companies sell up to $2 million in equity online. Investors would be allowed to put in as much as $10,000 or 10 percent of their annual income—whichever is less.

In addition to the overwhelming bipartisan support the bill received in the House, the President supports it as well. In a September 8 address to a Joint Session of Congress on jobs and the economy, the President urged Congress to remove the red-tape—and SEC restrictions—that make it difficult, if not illegal, for entrepreneurs to raise funds in public.

"This bill will make it easier for entrepreneurs to raise capital and create jobs," the White House noted in a statement. "The Administration looks forward to continuing to work with the Congress to craft legislation that facilitates capital formation and job growth and provides appropriate investor protections."

Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, a vocal Republican supporter of crowdfunding, addressed the Senate Banking Committee last week, urging members to consider crowdfunding as a viable method for entrepreneurs raise funds. He described crowdfunding as "the grease that keeps the gears in the American economy churning."

Current online investment platforms—such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo—allow people to offer funds for projects, though they do not offer true equity in return. Sites like Microventures do offer equity, but to invest you must be an angel investor. Right now, there's no legal way for unaccredited people to invest in companies for equity.

"Imagine that," Brown said. "The next Steve Jobs being held back by rules from the age of the typewriter. When are we going to give the tools and resources to our job creators?  [Crowdfunding] is an innovative way to look outside the box and get up with the times to open up capital markets to new businesses and existing small businesses. It has the potential to be a powerful venture capital model."

Although much large-scale crowdfunding still illegal in the United States, there are several crowdfuning firms overseas already connecting investors with entrepreneurs. Symbid, a Netherlands-based crowdfunding firm, enables entrepreneurs to secure funding from €20,000 up to €2.5 million. Crowdcube, which is based in the U.K., offers a similar service, but with no investment maximum. Entrepreneurs go online, write their pitch, and offer two numbers: the target—which is the total amount of money they wish to raise and invest in the business—and the equity offered.

Critics to the bill argue that devious entrepreneurs will have open range to set up phony companies and lull neophyte investors into dropping them cash. And because there's potential for thousands of daily transactions, there would be little oversight. Brown, though, believes the benefits outweigh any risks.

"Americans are allowed to gamble unlimited amounts at casinos, and can send donations to charities halfway around the world with one tap of a trackpad," wrote Brown in a recent Wired editorial. "Yet, we are legally prevented from making even modest investments in job-creating small businesses."

Carl Esposti, the founder of Crowdsourcing.org, points out another argument: that the investment risks involved are actually lower, since there will be many investors doing due diligence on the investment.  Therefore, he says, if 150 or 200 people decide to vote on an entity, the aggregate of the risk assessment might indicate that that entity is not such a bad bet.

"There's an interesting dynamic on whether it actually creates a natural calibration of risk-reward," Esposti says. "From that perspective, it has some really interesting potential."

Read more:

  • Why You Can't Get Funding: It's Not Because You're a Woman

  • 5 Tips to Rock Your Holiday Etsy Sales

  • Best Tech Gifts for Geeks

  • http://cssa.mit.edu/forum/index.php?showuser=45958

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