8 essential tips for your next flight
Ever get thirsty during your flight and wished you didn’t have to wait an hour or so for the beverage cart to come down the aisle?
You may not have realized you could bring a bottled drink onboard. You can — your best bet is to buy it after you go through security. Screeners limit the size of liquids you can bring through checkpoints.
That’s just one of many options passengers may not know they have to make their air travel experience more comfortable.
Here are some others you should know about.
1. Airport VIP lounges are not restricted to just members. Several airlines offer one-day or monthly passes. Delta Air Lines charges $50 for a one-day pass. If your flight is delayed and you have a long wait, check out one of the lounges, which offer a comfortable atmosphere, Internet access, drinks and snacks.
2. Don’t fret the annoying checked bag fee when bringing strollers and infant car seats. Airline personnel will put those items on the plane for you for free when you get to your gate, and they will not count against your carryon bag allowance. Always bring them with you when traveling, especially so you can push the little one through the terminal rather than have to carry him or her.
3. You don’t have to pay big bucks to fly in business class. Several airlines offer deeply discounted rates on upgrades to business class on the day of travel if there are seats in the front cabin still available. Members of airline frequent-flier programs can use miles or flight credits to upgrade from coach to business class.
4. You don’t have to pay big bucks to fly period. Rick Seaney of FareCompare.com says the best time to shop domestic tickets is Tuesday afternoon because airlines typically file sales Monday evening and other airlines match Tuesday through noon. “Be wary of shopping on the weekends,” Seaney says. “Most discounted airfares expire or are removed from the reservation systems on Friday, leaving higher prices in the system over the weekend.”
5. Don’t worry about printing out your boarding pass at home. At some airports and with some airlines, travelers with Web-enabled mobile devices like a BlackBerry or iPhone can download their boarding passes, then hand over the devices for scanning by federal security screeners and airline gate agents. Continental Airlines spokeswoman Mary Clark says the carrier offers the mobile boarding pass option at 28 airports, including ones in Houston and Newark, N.J. Even if that isn’t available at your airport or with your airline, at many airports you can print out your boarding pass quickly at a self-service kiosk in the terminal. You can generally find out if your airline offers the mobile boarding pass option and at which airports the carrier offers self-service kiosks from the airline’s Web site. AirTran Airways says all of its ticket counters have self-service kiosks for printing boarding passes.
6. Traveling doesn’t have to be a hassle. If you fly at off-peak times like in the early morning hours or on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays, flights are less full, and often the lines at security are much shorter. At the right time of day there are no lines at all, and many smaller airports are rarely congested at all, says aviation consultant Mark Kiefer of CRA International in Boston.
7. Speeding through security is easy if you pack certain items in your carryon bags before reaching a checkpoint. Alaska Airlines’ in-flight training manager stores his belt and small wallet in his briefcase. According to the airline, he no longer carries a laptop, just memory sticks. Often, he does not even need a tub when traveling without liquids; He stores metal items in his briefcase.
8. If you’ve ever wondered how close you are to your destination or how long the security line is at your airport, you don’t have to be in the dark. You can track your flight online by entering the flight number at flightaware.com. Several airlines offer Wi-Fi on some or all of their flights. As for security wait times, the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, posts that information on its Web site and updates it regularly.