Tips To Make Your Flight Easier
Airline travel has changed in several ways in recent years. It can be said that the changes have been for the better, i.e., seat-back video screens, self-check-in, etc., as much as for the worse, i.e., long security lines, poor meal quality, etc. It will nevertheless remain true that your in-flight experience begins the moment you reserve your airline ticket. Some people are hasty to complain about long waiting lines, delayed flights, and other unwanted flight experiences, but there are several easy and important steps one can take to prepare and help ensure the efficiency, and most importantly, the quality of your flight. This includes the questions you ask before you book, and the preparations you make before you board.
Leave early, give yourself some leeway
If your trip is of particular importance, or if you're travelling to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime celebration or other important function, depart a day early to avoid possible delays that might make you miss out on the event altogether.
Inform yourself of the airline records
Look for flights with good on-time performance ratings from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Check the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics Web site before you book, or ask your airline reservationists or travel agent, particularly if you're scheduling a tight connection or if you absolutely have to be there on time.
Get the early flight, travel mornings
Always try to fly as early as possible the day of your flight -- the first departures are ideal, if feasible. This is of particular important if you're travelling during a holiday or within a busy period. Flight delays often have ripple effects throughout the system, so the earlier you leave, the better your chances of avoiding major clogs or congestions down the line. And if something does go wrong, you'll have the rest of your day to straighten out other options to allow yourself to get where you're going. On the other hand, avoid taking the last flight of the day unless you have no other possible option available.
Think small ... for airports that is
The larger the airport the better, right? Wrong. Although some may offer diversified flight options and other conveniences, they also may offer more distractions, random problems diversions and a greater choice of flights -- but sometimes less can be better. Smaller airports are often easier to move through and offer a better passenger experience. Long lines at security checkpoints can be a problem at smaller airports, though, so make sure that isn't the case before you choose to depart from one.
Avoid Rush Hours
Stay away from airport rush hours and other peak-travel periods. On business-travel routes, that's between 8:30 and 10 in the morning and between 4:30 and 6:30 in the afternoon. To Europe, Fridays are busy; coming from Florida, avoid Sundays. Holiday weekends are always busy.
Non-stop is better
Travel non-stop whenever you can. Each time you change planes, you increase the possibility of things going wrong. You become subject to weather and congestion conditions at not only departing and arriving airports, but at a third, and thus also increasing the risk of mechanical problems or personnel-related delays on two airplanes rather than one. Checked luggage has to make the connections, too. If your connection is to a different carrier, things can get even more complicated.
Leave time for connections
Be smart about connections. If you do have to make one, don't cut it too close. Ask about the minimum connecting times between flights, and then add 20 minutes. Airline connecting times are best-case scenarios. Don't put yourself in the position of possibly missing your flight because the gate agent didn't show up, the elevator didn't work, or someone took forever to get his or her bag out of the overhead. And have a backup plan: know the alternative flights out, just in case.
Stick with one or two frequent-flier programs. In addition to racking up free trips faster, you'll also accumulate more quickly the perks that can make trips easier. On some airlines, these include a special reservations number, early boarding, access to upgrades, and roomier economy-class seating.
Check the Plan
Seating position isn't just a question of aisle or window. If you require constant access to your carry-on baggage, for instance, make sure you're not in a bulkhead seat. Different makes of planes have different layouts, moreover -- so if you don't want to be stuck next to the lavatory or galley, tell the reservation agent or check the seating plan.
Luggage loss prevention
Put your name on the outside of your bags and inside your bags. Even better, put a copy of your itinerary in each checked bag so the airline can locate you. The most common causes of lost and delayed bags are late check-ins and tight connections. Avoid both whenever you can.
Pack valuables in your carry-on bags
Make sure the person who checks your baggage attaches the correct destination ticket to every checked bag, and make sure you have a claim ticket for each. Travel insurance is the best guarantee that you'll recoup any losses. See this guide to travel insurance for more information.
Delays happen. So do bad movies, unappetizing meals, and overworked flight attendants. Bring snack food, water, and sufficient diversions, and you'll be covered even if you get stuck in the airport, on the tarmac, or in the air during turbulence (when flight attendants may not be available to assist you).
Keep these things in mind, and you'll find yourself with less on your mind.