Tag Archives: air travel

Flying Tips

Normally I just ignore and delete messages from the various companies who have my email address, including American Airlines. I get quite a bit of email from them because I’m a frequent flyer and I’m too lazy to bother opting out of their email campaigns so 99% of the time I just hit “delete” for anything I get from them that’s not related to a trip I’m taking. Then this morning I received an email asking me to share a travel tip and in exchange 250 miles would be donated to one of six charities – I would get to pick which – and I’d be entered into a contest with a chance to win something which I can’t even remember. I was eating lunch at my desk so I decided, “Ah, what the hell” and clicked on the link and I’m glad I did because there are a ton of travel tips shared by others that are kind of fun and informative to read. Here’s a couple:

easy snack (shared by maryt) – I pack single serve instant oatmeal packets and a plastic spoon. Just ask for a cup of hot water and voila, an easy breakfast

Empty Water Bottle (shared by StacyB) – Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up after security. Save money, stay hydrated, be environmentally friendly. Help reduce the significant amount of water bottle waste created by air travel.

Pack a carabiner (shared by Kdro) – I pack a small locking carabiner. Attached to my carry on, it holds a small LED flashlight and it can fix a broken strap; it holds my hat, on my small shoulder purse it keeps track of my sunglass case, my umbrella and sometimes my water bottle. In a pinch, it can even be a belt extender.

maps (shared by Wal) – A few days before you depart download an offline version of Google Maps of the places you are visiting. Helps you around town even if you don’t have roaming data service.

Pre-Load Phone Numbers (shared by Gregg) – Load all of the phone numbers you might need to dial in advance so you don’t wast time searching if something goes wrong.

There were literally thousands of tips shared and I’m betting the airline is mining them for customer experience data as I type this. There was most definitely a lot of overlap, with scores of people recommending that you roll your clothes when you pack, make sure you have a change of clothes in your carry on bag, the empty water bottle thing, etc., but given enough time I think even the most seasoned traveler could find a useful tip in there somewhere.

I’ll end with one of my own tips, based on hard-earned experience. If you’re on a flight that ends up being cancelled at the gate then call the customer service number for the airline immediately to try and re-book your flight. I’ve done it several times while standing in the customer service line at the airport and invariably I get it done on the phone before I get to the head of the line. And if you know you’re going to be stuck in the airport overnight, and especially if it’s weather related and the airline isn’t providing a room, then find the closest airport hotels and make a reservation, either by phone or mobile app, ASAP. If you don’t you might find all the rooms booked and you’ll end up sleeping on the terminal floor.

The True Cost of Flying

Just about anyone who has flown at all over the last few years will tell you that the data on flight delays highlighted in this Freakonomics post is not at all shocking:

The cost of air travel is going up, and airlines are counting on us not to notice.

I’m not talking about airfares, which have actually declined in real terms over the past decade, despite inching up in the past few years. And I don’t mean the ancillary fees to check a bag, check in at the airport, speak to a live agent, or pick your seat, though these, too, are going up. Instead, I’m talking about the cost of delays and schedule disruptions that waste travelers’ time and force them to travel earlier to their destinations or risk missing important meetings and events. ..

Researchers at MIT and George Mason University estimate that delayed and canceled flights imposed on passengers an aggregate delay of 28,500 years in 2007. The cost of these delays, and of risk-averting behavior like traveling early to destinations, was estimated at $15.3 billion, a startling number that accounts for the opportunity cost of time but doesn’t measure the consequences of missing critical appointments like weddings or job interviews.

Indeed, on a business trip to San Diego this past June I ended up missing my connections in both directions and spending the night in Dallas both times. The trip out was a weather issue so the airline just rebooked me for a flight the next morning and I was on my own to find accomodations. The trip back was a mechanical issue and the airline paid for a night at a Dallas hotel. Both times I missed appointments becuase of the delayed flights and missed connections. Sadly, I think this is becoming more and more common. The data would seem to back this feeling up:

Airlines are increasingly consolidating service at the nation’s largest airports, according to areport this summer from MIT. Meanwhile, the number of large hubs has declined from 20 to 10, even as the number of flights channeled into large hubs has grown 75 percent.

This means an ever-larger share of passengers must make connections in an ever-fewer number of airports, including those in the most congested airspace in the country. If weather, security, or accidents halt or slow operations at one of those airports, effects can reverberate throughout the system, as late-arriving aircraft delay flights downstream elsewhere around the country. United passengers should find this particularly alarming as five of the airline’s hubs rank among the six worst airports in the country for on-time departures.