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How to be a happy flier.

Trevor No Comments

I have spent much of my life flying. In fact my first flight was at age six months from New York JFK to Bridgetown, Barbados. I do not remember that flight but I am positive that is when I became addicted to flying. I grew around planes all thanks to my mother who has dedicated almost 30 years at American Airlines. I am only 22 so when you do the math, I was blessed into the luxury of flying. But I have seen the airline industry at its best, when in 1999 it was very common to find me and other little kids inside the cockpit before take off. Taking pictures with the captain and pretending to fly the plane were common prior to the tragic events of 9/11. After that, plastic airline wings, pillows, blankets and headphones disappeared. Accompanying those draw backs were new fees slapped on cash strapped passengers that received the bare minimum from the struggling airline. But today the airline game is healthy or healthier than it was last decade. Today we are seeing new amenities making their way into all 3 cabins of service today and flying is once again a little less hostile, but how can we do our part to make airline operations run smooth and in our favor. I for one fly at least 5 round trip journeys in a calendar year, much less than the global businessman. So how do I get through the airline terminal smoothly and at the gate worry free? It is simple you have to become a team member in the airlines operation and everything the airline does will work for you.

24 Hours before your flight.

Ensure your bags are packed and are not overweight. Check your carriers website for size and weight allowances for your bags. Make sure to ensure your carry on bag is actually the size of a carry on and if you are checking luggage make sure your bag is not over sized or overweight. A little research before departure can save you time and money.  Some carriers also have separate allowances for bags on domestic flights versus international ones. Ladies remember a purse no matter how big or small is considered a carry on bag.

Check in online. This is possibly the best thing you can do to avoid long lines and a misunderstandings with ticket agents or the self check in systems. Utilize airline websites because they truly want to help travelers and if you save them time at the airport then you earned yourself some time yourself.

Print your ticket at home and if the airline allows you to choose your seat before hand, than seize the opportunity! Why show up to the airport and realize that you are in the last row that does not recline and to make it worse the middle seat. Avoid check in lines as well, try and spoil yourself as much as you can before you enter the battlefield.

Day of flight.

Arrive at the airport 90 mins before departure for domestic flights and two hours before international flights if you are flying with carry on bags only. Add 30 minutes to your arrival time if you plan on checking bags.

If you are so lucky to only have carry on items I suggest making your way to the nearest TV monitor and checking if your flight is still on time and the gate has not changed from what was posted on your ticket printed the night prior. An easy way to also save extra time is download the app of the airline you are traveling on. They are a great resource and alternative to staff personal if the terminal is busy. If you want a simply answer to a very simple question. Apps for your smart devices include flight status, alerts, terminal maps and baggage information upon arrival.

I have always been a fan of packing certain things in my smaller carry on in plastic zip lock bags. It makes everything easier once I am on board but also through security. Pack wires, headphones and chargers all in one clear zip lock bag. Pack another zip lock bag with your passport, pens, sleeping aids and medicines. I always suggest packing a toothbrush on flights 6 hours or more. These zip lock bags are easy for security to see and when you are on board you are not frantically looking for things every 45 mins in the overhead bin. No one wants to be the person who stands up every few hours to retrieve an item from their carry on. Once on board take the plastic zips from your bag and place them in your seat back pocket, they are easily accessible and very well organized.

But before you can enjoy the wonders of finally being in your seat on a plane you need to pass through security as easily, quickly as possible. I usually believe this is the worst part for travelers and of course security measures vary from country to country. I am an American so security for us is a multi step process. But in order to pass through security easy I try to follow a few simple rules. I try to avoid entering security lanes that have children or elderly passengers waiting in Que before me. Unless security places you in that line opt out for another line even if it seems a little longer. I like to wear shoes that can slip on and off and use my shoes as a storage compartment for all my valuables. Stripping down before I even reach the convener belt is important and placing all my items in the bin neatly is also a plus. If you stay organized then your flight process will as well. Give yourself a pat down before you walk through security screening and it is that simple. Now it is just a waiting game for your items to pass through as well.

Make your way to the gate and charge all your items before hand and take this time to reorganize your carry on. Make sure books or other reading materials are easily accessible for a long journey. Have flyers etiquette and if you are charging your laptop use the USB ports on your computer to charge cellphones, tablets or cameras, no one likes a power port hog.

Use the bathroom before departure so you wont delay push back from the gate. Airlines receive millions of complainants and fines for late departures due to standing passengers. So do your part to keep a crew happy before they close the door of the aircraft, by staying in your seat.

But now it is time for boarding. Boarding seems to be the process in which everyone regardless of culture, upbringing or language looses their mind. First class passengers and frequent elite flyers never seem to have an issue boarding because they board before the remaining 85% of the aircraft.  I do not know why passenger catch cabin fever in the terminals but main cabin boarding seems to be a stampede and only delays the process.

So make sure you board when requested or permitted to board by airline personal. Refer to  your boarding pass as a guide to a successful boarding and know your group number. I always question when they board Group 1 and everyone on the entire aircraft surrounds the boarding lanes which makes it harder for everyone to get through. So sit tight and remember that if they run out of overhead space then your bag gets checked for free and life could be worse.

Once you hear the beep confirming your ticket is sending you to your next destination its time to have faith in your fellow passengers and realize you need them to work with you and the crew to hear the amazing words “flight attendants prepare the cabin for departure”.

Once in your seat give yourself a high five and sit back and relax but don’t sit back to far. Remember that you cannot have your seat out of the locked position until after take off, the same goes for tray tables and for you lucky ones in business / first class your lie flat seats and foot rest need to stay put tight until after the captain pulls back and brings the wheels off the ground.

But your fight to stay happy during your flight is not over yet. Landing and departure is also when you question if you are on a plane with people or cattle trying to escape from a barn. Observe the cabin and try and time when it is best for you to jump into the aisle like a car jumping lanes on a packed highway. But before you want to anger all the passengers in the rows behind you should take a few minutes to pack your things up that you have at your seat. Grab your carry on out of the overhead compartment and keep the line moving and make sure to compliment the crew, even if they gave Pepsi when you ordered Coke. It is okay because they are here for you safety and you made it where you were going safe and sound.

Remember that everyone smooths or destroys the airline flying experience. We are responsible for about 50% of our travel experience. Airlines, weather conditions and fellow passengers make up the rest of the equation. So do your part in making yourself and everyone else as happy and calm as possible.

Before flying remember

  • Dress simple for security and comfort
  • Plan the night before and complete check in task before arriving to the airport
  • Research your airline
  • Have knowledge of airline rules, allowances and federal / international regulations.
  • Pack, and pack with intelligence
  • Move quick
  • Keep items organized
  • Have faith in fellow travelers
  • Say Thank You!

and remember everyone wants to get to their final destination just like you do.

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