Spring Break is fast approaching, and flights are filling up, especially to places like Florida, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Traveling at a peak time can often be stressful, but keeping in mind these tips can help make your travel experience more pleasant.
1. If possible, schedule your outbound flight for first thing in the morning. These flights are the least likely to be delayed or canceled, especially in the NY area. Weather and air traffic problems tend to accumulate as the day wears on, so the morning is the best time to get out. And, when these flights are affected by inclement weather, crew, or mechanical problems, the airline usually knows the night before, in time for alternate accommodations to be made.
2. Choose your seats when booking your flight. If you’re traveling with others, and need to sit together, this is imperative. If you don’t have an advance seat assignment, you will be assigned a seat when you check-in, on a first-come, first-served basis. At peak times, flights are often overbooked, and, if you don’t have an advanced seat assignment, you risk not getting a seat on the flight.
3. Check in on-line. Most airlines allow check in at least 24 hours in advance of your flight. Checking in early on-line gets you a better choice of seat (if you haven’t reserved one), as well as extra perks like skipping the ticket counter. Some airlines charge extra for personal service at the airport, so this may save you money as well. For instance, Continental charges more for bags checked in at the airport. Checking them on-line saves $2-3 per bag.
4. Travel mid-week. If possible, travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday. These are the least busy travel days most of the year, so parking, bag check, and security usually go quicker. They’re also the cheapest travel days. The lowest fares traditionally restrict fliers to Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday travel.
5. Know the rules. If a flight is canceled or delayed due to inclement weather, the airline is NOT obligated to provide you with a flight on another airline, a hotel, or a cab home. The same is true for flights delayed due to air traffic control problems. However, if the reason for a delay or cancellation is maintenance or crew related, the airline MAY use another airline to accommodate you, if that’s the fastest way to get you to your destination, and if that other airline agrees to accept your ticket. (HOWEVER- not all airlines can do this. The airline must have a ticketing agreement with other airlines in order to re-route passengers. Some airlines, such as Southwest and Jet Blue, do not have agreements with other airlines, and cannot route you on another airline.) Additionally, if you are delayed overnight due to maintenance or crew issues in your destination city (NOT in the city where you started your travel), and you have a round-trip ticket, the airline should provide you with hotel accommodations.
6. Call ahead. Always confirm your reservations. Not only do you get added insurance that your travel was correctly booked, but, if there is a problem with your flight, you catch it BEFORE standing in a long line at the airport. Also, if you are affected by a delay or cancellation, most airline reservations agents are able to reroute your flight to another airline, if applicable.
And finally, 7., Be nice to the staff. Most airline personnel are used to being harassed, especially at peak times. A kind word or patient attitude goes a long way, and when better seats or earlier flights open up, agents remember who’s been nice, and try to reward them.
Follow these tips, and have a great trip!