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Travel Tips on Air Travel

Articles

Tips

  • Don’t only go to an airline directly, as it will limit what you see to just that airline. Always be flexible with your search, as it has been proven that people who can leave a day earlier or later wind up saving big bucks in the end. Searching across multiple airlines provides you the best opportunity to get the best fare available.
  • Sign up for email fare alerts, and follow travel providers via social media - Twitter and Facebook. For emails, you can provide the market you are interested in flying to, and emails and updates can be sent to you on a regular basis to inform you when fares are increasing or decreasing. As for social media – often times you will find last minute “fire sales” that can be up to %50 off.
  • Know when the best time of day to book travel deals. The day and even the time you book could save you big cash. Always check airline tickets on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday overnight. Airlines will update their fares through what is called a Global Distribution System (GDS) during this time and that could make a big difference on your wallet in the end.
  • Get organized and make airport inspections painless – transparent and mesh organizers in the Packing Aids section from Magellan’s keep luggage contents visible to help speed you through airport security checks.
  • If seat selection is a high priority, go first to websites that show seat availability before purchase. Northwest Airlines' nwa.com and Travelocity.com are two that do.
  • To improve your chance of getting the seat selection you want, reserve your seat at time of booking.
  • If you are unhappy with your seat, call the carrier or visit a booking office in advance of your travel date to improve your seat assignment.
  • Reconfirm your travel plans a day before the flight. Airlines sometimes switch aircraft, and you'll need to re-reserve your seat. Airlines try to reflect your initial seat choice when reassigning on the new plane, but they don't always succeed. Occasionally, seat assignments made months in advance disappear for no obvious reason. Airlines don't guarantee seat reservations.
  • If a better seat is important, buy an upgrade if available. United, for instance, sells ticket holders upgrades to its roomier Economy Plus during check-in. They start at $30. The longer the flight, the more costly the upgrade. AirTran sells upgrades to its business class starting at $35.
  • Trying to figure out the best seat on a flight? Advertising-supported SeatGuru.com offers extensive diagrams and details about airliner cabins. The site illustrates about 200 cabins of jets used by 25 airlines, including American, Qantas, JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic. Two airlines might fly the same type of plane but configure seats differently.
  • Wondering how far it is from a major airport to a neighboring city center and what your cab fare will run? Click here to find out for ten of the most popular destinations in the U.S.
  • Take your child out of their stroller or carrier before going through airport screening. You can carry an infant through the metal detector, but if the child can walk, they should go through the detector independently.
  • Airline screeners may ask that head covering be removed during the process. If doing this in public goes against your religious beliefs, you may ask to be screened in a private area.
  • Film with an ASA/ISO lower than 800 can go through the airport’s x-ray machine without being damaged. However, multiple inspections (more than five times) may cause damage. You can pack it in your checked luggage, or request a hand inspection instead.
  • Help kids understand the screening process ahead of time. Talk to them about what they’ll need to do: take off their coat, place it and their bags on the x-ray machine, walk through the metal detector, and gather their items and wait for you. Make them aware that shoes may be checked, and that, if the metal detector alarm goes off, the security guard may need to check them more thoroughly.
  • According to a London researcher, people who have had orthopedic surgery within the past three months should not take trips where they must sit for more than three hours. Dr. Ander Cohen of King’s College Hospital in London found that the risk of developing leg clots (that could possibly lead to a pulmonary embolism) increases three-fold for this group. To read about preventing leg clots while traveling, click here.
  • Call the airline before your trip and ask how and when checked baggage will be inspected. Can you check baggage curbside? Or must you go to the ticket counter? Click here for an article on the new airport screening measures.
  • WTA members can book travel through our online booking program. Click here to check rates and make reservations.
  • Several WTA articles and pamphlets about airline safety are available in the Travel Safetysection of our site. The information is free, so please help yourself!
  • Click here to read a thorough article on steps to take to prevent blood clotting while flying.
  • For lengthy flights, grab a couple of pillows as soon as you board. They’ll be snatched up quickly once passengers settle in.
  • If you leave your seat during a flight, don’t leave important or valuable items in the seatback pocket.
  • Take along some moisturizer on long flights. Use it every couple of hours to combat the dry, recirculated air in plane cabins.
  • When booking travel on a large U.S. airline, the reservations agent should be able to give you the flight’s “on-time performance code”. This one-digit code shows how often that flight arrived on time (defined as within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time) during the most recent reported month. For instance, a “7” means the flight arrived on-time between 70%-79.9% of the time.
  • The FAA issued information regarding post-9/11 security measures as they relate to air travelers with disabilities. Click here to read the article.
  • When making airline reservations, let the airline know if you have an animal to transport and then review the rules regarding kennel size, ventilation, markings and contents. Reconfirm your pet’s arrangements within 24-48 hours of the flight. It is important to realize that airlines have complete control over whether or not they allow an animal on a flight. They are not required to carry live animals and can deny the animal for any reason, such as poor health or disposition.
  • If you find your travel schedule frequently shifting, think about buying unrestricted tickets. While they tend to cost more up front than restricted tickets, they typically carry no charge for changes. Unrestricted tickets are refundable, while restricted tickets can only be exchanged.
  • When flying internationally (to or from the U.S.), you should make it a point to reconfirm your flight at least 72 hours prior to departure for two very good reasons. First, to make sure the flight hasn’t been rescheduled. Second, some airlines will bump you off the passenger list if you don’t.
  • On international flights, airlines must provide a non-smoking seat to anyone who requests one, even if the non-smoking section must be expanded. However, they don’t have to honor your request for an aisle or window seat, nor can you be guaranteed that you’ll be able to sit with your travel companion. They are not responsible for drifting smoke, but you can ask to be seated as far away from the smoking section as possible.
  • There are no federal requirements regarding what an airline must provide for passengers whose flights are delayed. It’s up to the airline, and depends on many factors. Passengers who are bumped due to overbooking are the only ones legally entitled to some form of compensation.
  • If you are financially affected because a flight is delayed, the airlines are not responsible for compensating you. When you absolutely must be there on time—closing a big business deal, giving a paid speech, attending a wedding, etc.—your best bet is to plan to arrive earlier than needed so you have some leeway.
  • Keep your laptop either in your lap or under the seat in front of you in the airplane cabin. Items in the overhead bins shift, and could damage the computer.
  • Don't count on the airline for food other than a small snack and a beverage. It's not a bad idea to carry snacks of your own onto the plane in case of delays, can't deplane at a stopover, flight is during meal time, etc.
  • If you find your travel plans constantly shifting, consider flying business or first class rather than coach. It’s usually easier to change these tickets without an extra fee.
  • Use your frequent-flyer program wisely. Concentrate your flying on your preferred airline rather than spreading points around on various airlines.
  • Major airlines generally let you keep track of your frequent flyer program online. Use this service to check their point count against your records and contact the program if there are any discrepancies.
  • Before bumping anyone from a flight, the law requires that airline personnel ask for volunteers to be bumped. If you get bumped against your will, make sure they have made an announcement doing just that.
  • Click here for tips on how to meet the heightened security measures at US airports.
  • If experience makes you suspect there may be delays or cancellations on a multi-leg flight (and there is enough time between flights), check your luggage on each leg of the trip, rather than all the way through. That way you’ll always be sure your luggage is in the same city you are.
  • If you have trouble sleeping on a plane, consider purchasing some inexpensive foam earplugs at the drugstore to block out cabin noise.
  • When booking a flight, ask how far in advance you should arrive at the airport. Recommendations differ for each airport, but generally count on two hours for domestic and three for international. More time may be warranted if you are flying at a busy time of the day, if you have to go to the ticket counter line first for checked bags or special needs, or if you are traveling with young children, infants, or persons with disabilities.
  • Increased security screening takes extra time. Do your part to speed the process by keeping your ticket and ID within easy reach at all times, by wearing shoes that are easy to get off and on again, and by not over packing your carry-on bag. An over packed bag takes longer to search.
  • You can shave some time off the long wait at the airport by avoiding the ticket counter line. If you have no bags to check or special requests to make, take your one carry-on bag and one personal item directly through security with your ID and ticket or receipt. Check with the airline and airport beforehand on bag size and/or document requirements if you are unsure.
  • You may no longer be able to carry on items that you used to. Items such as golf clubs, baseball bats, etc., must now be checked. If in doubt, call the airline or check their website for restrictions.
  • More travelers than ever are being taken aside and searched when passing through airport security. If you haven’t traveled since September 11th, this may feel invasive to you. You are not being singled out as a suspect; it is just the more stringent security measures designed to protect us all. In most cases, too, who is selected for random search is determined by a computer. If you do feel that you are being treated unfairly, however, you should file a formal complaint with the airline, the airport authority, and/or the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • When taking a young toddler to an airplane lavatory, realize that the room is not childproof. Keep control of your child’s actions at all times, and be prepared in case turbulence arises.
  • The flight attendant’s primary job is to make sure the passengers arrive safely at their destination. They are trained to deal with various situations, so follow their lead in an emergency.
  • In-flight turbulence cannot always be predicted. Keep your seatbelt on to avoid injuries to yourself, other passengers, or flight attendants. Approximately 58 passengers are injured each year in the U.S. because they are not wearing their seatbelt during turbulence.
  • Be flexible about the airport into which you will fly, and you could find great savings. For example, rates may be cheaper flying into Fort Lauderdale (FLL) instead of Miami Airport (MIA). Consider flying into San Jose (SJC) or Oakland (OAK) rather than San Francisco (SFO). Compare the prices for all the airports in the vicinity of your destination.
  • One of the best ways to get a good international fare is to book early. Discounts can usually be found for seven, 14, and 21 days in advance, but the best fares often require a reservation 30 days in advance.
  • As a general rule, it's more expensive to fly on the weekend than a weekday. Expect the lowest fares when flying on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
  • Special bereavement rates (sometimes called 'compassion fares') are offered by most major airlines to members of the immediate family. Sometimes the airline simply waives the advance-purchase requirement. The airline may also offer a discount from 15-50% off normal fares. You will probably need a copy of the death certificate. If the patient is terminally ill, you may need to pay the full price up front and request a refund later when a death certificate is issued. Each airline is different, so call to get the details.
  • Airlines tend to book the middle of a three-seat row last. Your chances of having an empty seat in your row are better if you and your traveling partner request the window and aisle seat in the same row. However if you request two seats next to each other (i.e. the middle seat and either the window or aisle), the remaining outside seat will almost surely get filled.
  • Even if you're not on a restricted diet, consider requesting one of the special meal choices when flying. These are often tastier than standard meals, and are made with more care. Call the airline at least 24 hours ahead of time to order, and confirm your request at check-in.
  • When you are checking your luggage with the airline, take a few seconds to make sure the tag placed on your bag and your claim check are marked with the correct airport code and flight number.
  • Check your homeowners insurance to see if it covers losses incurred away from home. This can help you reclaim money for lost luggage or materials stolen from hotel rooms. Check the airline's policy on reimbursing for lost luggage. If the maximum amount is too low, you may be able to purchase "excess valuation" coverage when you check in.
  • If you are concerned about flight delays, book a morning flight. Because fewer flights have occurred that day, there is less chance of a delay. Also, if flights are disrupted, there are more re-scheduling options throughout the remainder of the day.
  • Keep checking the price of airline fares even after you've booked your flight. If the fare drops, you may be able to change your ticket and receive the lower fare. You must meet the requirements-for example, there may be a two-week advance purchase requirement. You will have to pay any ticket-changing fee, so make sure the change in ticket price will cover that cost.
  • As a precaution, have your doctor check your young children for ear infections before flying.
  • Beginning a few days before an airplane trip, drink 8-10 glasses of water each day and reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol. This will help offset in-flight dehydration.
  • Finding the status of an airline flight can be a real help when you are waiting for friends or family to arrive, or when you are taking a flight and need to check that it will be departing on time. Most airlines have a "flight status" section on their web site, and many have automated response systems on their telephone for checking flight status. Another resource is the Track A Flight service. We’ve found it so useful, we include it in the Links section of the WTA web site. You can search using various methods: by departure/arrival airport, by airline and flight number, etc. Go to our Links section, and then click on the Track A Flight option.
  • There’s a good reason you’re told to stay seated until the plane comes to a complete halt at the end of a trip. A sudden stop while taxiing to the gate can cause standing passengers to be thrown into a seat back or to hit their head on an overhead bin. If you’re feeling antsy and need to stretch your legs, get up and walk through the cabin before the descent.
  • Airplane cabins have very low humidity. Contact lens wearers can prevent dry eyes by using eye drops during the flight and by making sure to take out the lenses before taking a nap.
  • The rules for airline security have changed, and will continue to change in the future. Before packing and heading to the airport, go on-line to check out safety rules for both the airport and the specific airline. WTA provides links to several airlines in our Links section. Click on ‘Airport Transport Association’, then on ATA Members. Scroll through their members and click on the airline on which you are traveling to search for security information.
  • Don’t forget to sign your children up for frequent flyer memberships; check with the airline’s rules, but most programs accept children as well as adults.
  • Although there is no seat in front of you for storage, a bulkhead seat provides additional legroom that can be a godsend for parents traveling with small children. If you can, reserve these seats so the kids can move around a bit more than they could otherwise.
  • To avoid severe pain due to the change in atmospheric pressure, don’t schedule a plane trip for the same day you have dental work performed.
  • Bothered by the lack of leg room in an airplane cabin? Request an exit row seat. You must be willing to do the extra functions required in the rare emergency situation, but you’ll also get to enjoy the additional space. This is especially nice on a long trip.
  • To be on the safe side, especially when traveling through foreign airports, check your ticket after the agent reviews it. Make sure they only took the portion they needed to and left you with tickets for the remaining legs of your journey.
  • Obey the airline’s rules about check-in requirements, which differ depending on whether you’re flying domestically or internationally. Travelers who don’t hold up their end of the contract and arrive late may be bumped without compensation.
  • Are you one of the majority of air travelers who make a point of being otherwise occupied when the flight attendant talks about emergency procedures? Reliable statistics show that paying attention – especially to the location of emergency exits, which you may have to find by feel in the smoke or in darkness – dramatically increases the likelihood of survival.
  • Stuck at the end of a long line when your flight is suddenly canceled? You’re far better off on a cell phone, or even on a coin-operated call box, talking with an agent who can re-book you before all the seats on alternative flights are assigned to the people ahead of you in line.
  • If your flight is delayed or canceled because of equipment or scheduling problems (which are the responsibility of the airline), don’t believe the passenger service rep who tells you a dental convention has taken all the hotel rooms in town. Go out to the sidewalk and ask drivers of the courtesy shuttles if their hotels have any unfilled rooms. It can mean the difference between sitting up all night in a lounge chair, and a good night’s sleep.
  • Did you know the two principal criteria for bumping passengers from an oversold flight? They are the price you paid for your ticket, and whether you bought it direct from the airline or through a discount booking service. This may be proven illegal, but until it’s challenged in court, that’s they way things work.
  • After an overnight trip, few things will refresh you quicker than washing your face and hands and brushing your teeth. Experienced travelers always pack their toothbrush and toothpaste in a carry-on, where they can use it in the lavatory before the airplane lands, and not in their checked baggage.
  • Looking for whom to contact at various airlines regarding service complaints? The Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Transportation provides this info. Go to http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/problems.htm.
  • The Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Transportation provides a number of publications to assist you with making your travel safer and easier. Below is a listing of the publications. Go to www.dot.gov/airconsumer/pubs.htmto access
  • Air Travel
  • Coping with Flight Delays
  • Travel With Animals
  • Baggage Tips
  • Charter Information
  • Defensive Flying
  • Passengers with Disabilities
  • Frequent Flyer Programs
  • Getting the Best Air Fares
  • Sources of Air Travel Information
  • If you wish to place an air travel service complaint, go to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Transportation at www.dot.gov/airconsumer/problems.htm. For tips for parents using child restraints on aircraft, go to http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/crs/
  • Be sure to give a child traveling alone the phone numbers and address of the person who is meeting them at the airport. Make sure this person will arrive at the airport well before your child’s plane arrives, and brings a photo ID with them so the airline can confirm their identity.
  • The altitude change of take-off and landing can be problematic for babies. Plan to feed your child during those times to help reduce the pain. Talk to your doctor before taking a baby with ear problems on a flight; they might suggest medication.
  • Airlines tend to assign the middle seats in the back rows last. To increase your chance of having an empty seat next to you, select an aisle seat near the back of the plane.