Making Air Travel Easier

While the idea of getting to your destination quickly is appealing, air travel has its own set of challenges. Get the hustle without the hassle with these suggestions for handling the most common complaints about air travel.

1.    Cancellations and Delays

Most of us expect a delay when the weather is bad in our departing city; and many of us are travel-savvy enough to understand that our incoming plane may have experienced weather delays elsewhere.  Unfortunately, airlines are actually at fault for many of the longest delays: pilot shortages, inefficiencies at getting the plane ready to depart, and mechanical breakdowns are all too often the cause.

The good news is that you can arm yourself with the information to avoid unnecessary cancellations and delays. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) maintains a database that allows you to check an airline’s likelihood of delaying or cancelling a flight before you buy your ticket. Better yet, use a travel agent who’s already an expert on the airlines and airports with the best arrival and departure stats; and in the less likely event that you still find yourself delayed or cancelled, your travel agent will help you re-route quickly.

2.    Legroom / Seat Space

The average distance between rows of coach seats on a typical airplane in the US is about 32”, which also happens to be about the average inseam length for American adults.  Coincidence? Probably not. 

Airlines have tapped in to legroom as a key selling feature. When booking your flight, look for words like “Semi-Premium Economy,” “Economy Comfort,” “Economy Plus,” or “Select Seating.” There will be a slight upcharge for these seats, but the price is much better than the cost of first class and the extra 4-5” would probably be worth it for a tall person on a long flight.

3.    Airport Security

Airport Security is a necessary evil: the good folks at TSA work hard every day to keep us safe. Keeping the line moving efficiently is a secondary priority; but passengers can do their part to get through quickly:

  • Look for designated “experienced traveler” lines
  • Have your boarding pass and identification ready, and have a quick place to safely stow them once you’re past the documentation check
  • Remove hats, jackets, belts and shoes while in line – extra points to the really prepared passenger who brings a tote bag for a quick and easy carry of extraneous items in the security line
  •  Keep liquids in a small plastic bag and be ready to set them in a bin; even better, leave your liquids at home if at all possible
  • Remove your computer from its cases and be ready to set it in its own bin
  • Avoid rookie mistakes, like packing a snow globe or a corkscrew in your carry-on

4.    Lost Luggage

The single best way to avoid losing a bag is to keep it with you; but if that’s not possible, try these tips for minimizing the risks of checking your bags:

  • Avoid booking tight connections as much as possible – if you have to sprint through three concourses to catch your flight, there’s a good chance your checked bag isn’t going to make it
  • Check only unusually colored or unusually decorated bags, and leave the other passengers to fight over the identical black suitcases
  • If you must travel with expensive or difficult to replace jewelry or equipment, keep it in your carry-on
  • Make TSA’s job easier: use only TSA-approved locks, don’t over-stuff your suitcase, pack your toiletries in a clear plastic bag, and don’t pack prohibited items
  • Keep your medications with you; and if it makes sense, pack one change of clothes in your carry-on
  • Use your smartphone to photograph your suitcase – both outside and inside – for the easiest and most shareable description of your bag

What are your tried-and-true methods for breezing through air travel? We’d love to hear them!