Air Travel Tips

I travel quite a bit for business and have accumulated over 1 million miles on one of the major airlines alone.  When you think about the number of flights and passengers that travel every day, you have to give the airline industry credit for operating what is generally a; reliable, on-time, and convenient way to cover the miles.  On the flip side, when things go bad (e.g., long lines at check-in, flights delayed or cancelled, luggage lost, etc.) your trip can become a frustrating event.

Here are some tips to hopefully help you make the best of your airline travels?


Preparing for the trip:

  •  Research your options:  Do some research before committing to purchasing your tickets.  The internet offers a number of sites dedicated to purchasing tickets.  This allows you to search across multiple airlines for travel locations, times, and prices.  Get familiar with one or more of these sites as a starting point for doing your trip planning research.


  • Buying your tickets:  Tickets can easily be purchased online from one of the online travel-specialty websites, or from the airline company’s website directly.  Read all the fine print carefully to understand specific conditions regarding; refund policies, charges for changes after the purchase, etc.


  • Take advantage of Customer Service:  When in doubt, take advantage of available customer service phone numbers to talk to someone in person.  It can often be easier to talk to a representative to understand specific details or to assist with seating assignments – and you may find that the representative has information about alternative flights or times that may be more convenient and less costly.


  • Frequent Traveler Programs:  Whatever airline you’re on, make sure you’re on their frequent traveler program.  Membership is free and is usually a simple procedure to sign-up online or by calling their customer service number.  Even for infrequent travelers, airline programs typically offer perks that can be beneficial to the traveler (e.g., points just for signing-up, earlier boarding sequence, etc.).  Since most airline travel programs are aligned with a variety of hotels and rental car agencies, the points can accumulate surprisingly quickly. 


  • Packing and Luggage:  Pack accordingly – and determine if you will check or carry-on your luggage.  I understand that some people don’t want to check their luggage (some airlines charge for checked luggage, and people are often paranoid about releasing their luggage to the control of the airline system), but be rational when making your decision.  Having to drag your suitcase through a terminal, and then hope you board early enough to be able to store your luggage by your seat can be a hassle.


 The travel day:

  • Timing is everything:  Schedule your time accordingly and give yourself plenty of time to allow for lines at check-in and lines at security.  You can print your boarding passes online, and if you won’t be checking any luggage, you can proceed directly to security bypassing the airline check-in counter which can be a real time saver.  Planes typically start boarding 30-minutes before departure and don’t wait until the last minute to arrive at your gate.


  • Security Check-in:  OK, if you’ve traveled at all over the last decade, you should know what to do.  If you haven’t, research the TSA website to familiarize yourself with the basic procedures and understand items that cannot be taken aboard in your carry-on luggage.


  • Pre-Boarding – special assistance:  Airlines allow early boarding for customers needing assistance (e.g., wheelchairs, walkers, etc.) and for people traveling with small children.  If you’ve recently suffered an injury and would like some extra time to get on and settled, let it be known to the gate agents and they will happily allow you to board early.  You’ll be doing yourself – and the passengers boarding behind you – a favor.


  • General Boarding:  It’s comical to watch the herd gather at the boarding gate as boarding time approaches.  All the airlines have a system for boarding, so crowding the gate offers little advantage to when you’ll get on the plane.  Typically, first-class (or business class) ticket holders board first, then most airlines call their frequent flyer members – often in priority depending on their membership status (e.g., Platinum, Gold, Silver) – another advantage of being a member of an airlines frequent flyer program, even if you don’t travel very often.  Finally, the remaining passengers are boarded typically in groups depending on your row or zone. 


  • Getting settled in:  Find your seat, store any carry-on items – and sit down.  If you know you’re seated in a window or middle seat, get your book, reader, headphones or tablet out beforehand so you don’t have to unpack in the aisle while other people are trying to get by.  If you’re in an aisle seat, you’ll have plenty of time to retrieve your items after the boarding is completed and before the aircraft door is closed.


Final thoughts:  Have fun!  Traveling is very enjoyable if you don’t let the little things bring you down.