No Running at the Airport – Tips For Better Air Travel

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I can’t think of a trip to the airport in the last 15 years that hasn’t included someone running through the terminal to catch a flight or a person asking to cut the security line because their plane is about to depart. Today, I spoke with a customer who wound up having to put his family on two separate flights because they missed the check-in cutoff time. This unfortunate incident inspired me to offer these tips for better air travel.

1) DON’T BE ON TIME – BE EARLY. Unexpected things can happen to delay you. Traffic might be backed up, there might be a long line at check-in, the parking lot might be full…the list is endless. So do your best to get ahead of these problems by allowing plenty of time for your trip to (and just as important – through) the airport. We strongly recommend arriving at least 2 hours prior to your departure for domestic flights and 3 hours for international. It is much better to be sitting at the gate with time to spare than to test your sprinting abilities in a crowded terminal.

2) DON’T COUNT ON DELAYS. Just because your flight is listed as delayed, don’t assume you’ll leave late. While the vast majority of delays actually do depart later than their originally scheduled time, in rare instances a flight that is delayed can suddenly be back “on time” and depart as scheduled. It is a good idea to always plan your trip to the airport as if the flight is on time and arrive at the gate as scheduled. Be sure to keep an eye on the airline’s app or the gate for updates. Don’t depend on announcements as sometimes they are not made. I once watched an entire flight crew go running to another gate because the flight had been moved. No announcement was made to the passengers and only those who had the app open figured it out.

3) WHEN THINGS GO WRONG, BE POLITE. Flights are delayed. Planes break down. Bad weather happens. While it is definitely frustrating, how the situation is handled on both ends can make a huge difference. Remember that many of these airline employees are yelled at all day long (often when they have no control of the situation) and would really appreciate a little understanding and kindness. If the mistake is on the airline’s end, ask them to fix it and be firm but polite. If it is a weather or mechanical issue, remember that the poor employee who has to deal with 200 passengers has nothing to do with this delay. They are doing their best to accommodate everyone in a very stressful and time-sensitive situation. But they can’t simply snap their fingers and make full flights have more seats or add more planes to a route that has flown its final flight of the day.

4) READ YOUR TICKET & OTHER TRAVEL DOCUMENTS CAREFULLY. If it’s printed on a travel document, it’s probably important. Most boarding passes, e-tickets and other important travel-related documents will often include rules and regulations. We recommend taking the time to read these so you don’t get denied boarding of your flight. Since 9/11, airlines and airports have become much more strict when it comes to certain policies. Also, it’s important to verify everything on your tickets. We’ve seen everything from changed flight times and gates that differed from the original tickets to people who booked their own airfare and mistakenly chose Portland, Maine instead of Portland, Oregon as their destination.

5) PACK YOUR PATIENCE. Let’s face it – in most cases, flying isn’t the exciting event it used to be. When I was a kid, we would get dressed up to fly and enjoyed a full meal, even in economy. The pilot would let you tour the cockpit and they would give you playing cards and other goodies to make the flight seem shorter. Now, it’s basically just transportation. Tempers are short. Delays are frequent. But if you arrive early and make sure all your bases are covered, you’ll prevent many of the things that could cause you frustration. Remember – in most cases, you’re going on vacation. So sit back, relax and you’ll be much happier during your trip.