So you’ve packed your bags and made all the prior proper planning. Now what? Well if your next stop is an airport, the following post discusses various flight-related optimization hacks to save you money and give you piece of mind.
UNIQUE AIRPORT TRICKS
To avoid long lines, you can book red-eye flights at late hours when airports are less busy. Most people, though, hate red-eye flights, and if you are one of them, don’t fret. Many major airports have multiple security screening and check-in stations. The checkpoints in fringe concourses and far terminals tend to have less foot traffic. Stations on different levels can also command varying levels of traffic (for example some airports have lesser-used checkpoints in the lower level near the baggage claims). You can avoid long lines at Detroit Metro Airport by going through the checkpoint in the Westin hotel attached to the main terminal.
Those traveling JetBlue out of New York’s JFK International can use the checkpoint farthest from the escalator (next to Dunkin’ Donuts), where the line is often half as long as the next one over. At the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, the fastest stations are at the ends of each terminal – Terminal A being particularly fast. Within the San Francisco International Airport, the first check-in point inside Terminal 3 is the best. At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, there is a checkpoint in the south end of Terminal 1 with less magnetometers, and therefor a lower wait time. The rule of thumb is to go to the left-most screening station, as the majority of right handed people subconsciously choose to go right
Some airports will charge you for the privilege to use a luggage cart. Many, however, are left strewn about the pickup and transport area by lazy travelers who didn’t return them. As an added bonus, you can some times receive small sums of money by returning the carts to their station.
If you are worried about the size or weight of your carryon baggage, you can layer several articles of clothing – making sure to wear the heaviest items like jackets and coats. After you check in, head for the bathroom and shed those layers right back into your bag. Alternatively, you can go to an airport store and ask for a plastic bag; the flight crew cannot stop you from bringing on items that you “bought” in the duty free shop.
While waiting for your flight, if the airport Wi-Fi is timed or restricted, use it for just under the threshold time limit and then roll your system’s clock backwards. You can also look on foursquare to find passwords to airport Wi-Fi. This trick can also work in restaurants, coffee shops, and bars, but it’s usually easier just to ask an employee. If your flight has been cancelled or overbooked, you can avoid the bewildered herd surrounding the gate attendants by calling the airline; let a phone operator help you out instead, they can do pretty much everything that the desk attendants can.
If you need to check your bag but don’t want to wait for days at the baggage claim carousel, all you have to do is request a “fragile” sticker. You may have to sign a form absolving the airline of any fault, but bags marked with this sticker are placed on top of the bag heap, thereby making them first off the plane and first onto carousel conveyer belts.
If a flight is overbooked, airlines typically bump the people who paid the lowest fares or checked in last. Ergo, if there’s a chance you might get bumped anyway and your planes are not overly pressing, you may as well volunteer and reap some compensation. Either way, however, you should insist on written documentation to facilitate your dealings with airline customer-service representatives. According to the US Department of Transportation, your rights for reimbursement depend on your delay time and ticket costs. If the delay is less than two hours (and more than one hour, for which you get no compensation at all), you are entitled to 200% of the one-way ticket price up to $650). If your delay is more than three hours, you are entitled to 400% of the original ticket price up to $1,300. There are a few caveats however. The airline might not have to compensate if you are bumped due to safety-related issues or if you checked in late. Also, these DOT regulations don’t apply to inbound flights to the US (although many airliners abide voluntarily). Even if you obtained your tickets via award miles or flight vouchers, you are still entitled to some compensation; albeit not as much. Most times, the airline will attempt to grant your denied boarding compensation using free tickets or travel vouchers. Insisting on a check rather than vouchers, though, is imperative, as vouchers often come with time restraints as well as blackout and expiry dates.
When you have reached your gate and the boarding process has commenced, you can gain early access by claiming to have a peanut allergy. Simply say you need a little extra time to wipe down the arm rests and foldout tray. You can also request uncommon meals (such as vegetarian or kosher) to get your food before everyone else. On some flights, particularly those without Wi- Fi, the card reader for the TV on the seatback in front of you houses the transaction information for processing on the ground, and any card with a magnetic strip has he ability to activate it.
Another in-the-know secret is to give chocolate to the flight attendants (as this is common among attendants who are flying privately. It also helps to know and speak flight attendant jargon, but be careful as it is easy to spot a phony. Various flight attendant lingo includes:
Deadhead — When a crew member flies as a passenger but does not work on the flight, because the airline needs to get them from one location to another.
Galley queen — A flight attendant working in the galley position who is very territorial and won’t allow uninvited guests to step or lounge in his or her area.
Crop dusting — When a flight attendant takes a stroll down the aisle to rip ass on the passengers.
Baby Jesus — An infant passenger whose parents treat it with utmost importance, which may result in a lack of polite behavior.
Miracle flight — When elderly passengers require assistance to board the plane but miraculously don’t need wheelchairs once they’ve landed.
Crash pad — An apartment or home that crew members share as a spot to sleep between flights, sometimes with up to 30 beds or bunks.
Hot bunking — Originally a military term for when a crew member’s bunk has been occupied by someone else just before them… so recently that it’s still hot.
Crew juice — A special beverage shared among crew members during an overnight stay (usually concocted from ingredients found on the aircraft).
Slam clicker — A crew member who doesn’t socialize during overnight stays, but rather beelines for the hotel room, slams the door, and clicks the lock behind them.
Coach roach — A crew member who enjoys working in coach class.
Crotch watch — When a flight attendant walks through the cabin for a seatbelt check.
Landing lips — Used when applying fresh makeup before the plane lands.
If you are cunning enough, you may be able to use this information to score some freebies, or, better yet, some digits.
If you’re a real asshole, you can utilize a little gadget called the Knee Defender. Although banned on some airlines, this device is a small plastic clamp that, when positioned properly on your fold out tray table, prevents the person in front of you from reclining. Be careful when using this device, however, because it has been known to start small quarrels and fist fights.
If available, try to find and take local transportation systems such as trains, busses, and metros. If you really want a taxi but the queue is rather long, head to the departure zone and grab a taxi that just dropped someone off. Similarly, sharing a taxi can reduce costs, and if you’re loquacious, its a perfect excuse to make a new friend.
If you are renting a car, it should be noted that airport rental cars are typically more expensive. If you want a true deal, try tweaking the rental duration, often times there are specials for specific lengths. Many rental car companies also offer relocation deals to get their cars from where they are to where they need to be. Although the time constraints can be rather restricting, this is offset by the drastic price reductions. It is also prudent to check exclusions and list all drivers. If you get in an accident with an unlisted driver or outside the permitted areas or times, you may be stuck with a steep fee.
If you want to know which side of the car the gas tank is on, there is a small arrow that points to the proper side right next to the gas icon on the dash board. Are you under the age of 25? If so, you can register for a free USAA membership to get the rental surcharged waived. Finally, it is wise to take pictures of the car (especially already damaged areas) so they can’t blame you for causing any harm to the vehicle.