• Valkor Top 10 Airline Travel Tips

Hey folks, Valkor here. Now I consider myself a well traveled individual. I still have the stub from my very first domestic and international flights, which began some ten years ago. Throughout that time and with each passing flight, I’ve learned a thing or two about air travel. I’ve made some mistakes like show up late, waited standby, been misconnected, luggage misplaced, been on delayed flights and even stuck on a tarmac once or twice. I’ve spent nights in other airports, spent long delays in other airports, hell I’ve done so much flying that starting a new trip, requires little to no thought on my part as I know what has to be done to make the trip go off without so much as a flinch on my part. But in this day and age, when air travelers are increasing, flights are filling the skies, it ticks me off that people have no idea how to face a flight, even frequent travelers miss a step or two and they should know better than a newbie traveler. I can deal with an airline losing my bag (I don’t pack the good shit in there anyway) but to see some mook stand in front of me at the counter and start asking stupid questions like “when will they serve the meal?” or “what’s the movie?” or “Are you sure my bags are going to (destination)?” Are you kidding me? So to do my part to help the uninitiated I’ve come up with ten rules for air travel that should make your next trip as easy to handle as can possibly be.

1)      Confirm your flight. Lately a lot of airlines will tell you, you don’t have to confirm your flight. And there in lies the mistake because anything can happen between the time you book your flight up to the actual day. Schedule changes, weather issues, cancellations. If you’re flying domestic confirm 24 hours in advance. If it’s international, do it 48hrs in advance. Confirm your flight, make sure it’s still going at the time it’s supposed to go, and if possible confirm a seat. (Some airlines will let you do this over the phone, some you have to wait until you are at the airport). If you can check in online, the night before, do so. It makes checking in for your flight that much easier as you'll only have to check your luggage. But confirm the damn thing. This is KEY!

2)      Check the weather. This is another mistake a lot of people make, not realizing weather can and sometimes will affect a flight, domestic and international alike. If you’re taking a local flight (a flight that will take 1 – 2 hrs) chances are, because these flights will more than likely be small planes, they will be delayed or canceled. (Again this is where confirming the flight is key). Weather.com is a good place to start, to see how the weather is where you are and where you are going. Flightstats.com is also a good site to visit to find out about delays and such. Better safe than stuck at the airport if you don’t have to be.

3)      The Luggage. Dude this is an easy rule to follow. Only pack your clothes and toiletries in your check luggage (luggage that you will have placed under the plane.) DO NOT pack your laptop, digital cam, IPOD or other MP3 player, medicine, cellphone, cellphone charger, jewelry, money, other electronic devices, important documents, even DVD’s and CD’s. Buy a carryon and put all that shit in that bag, so that if anything should happen to your checked luggage, you don’t have to worry so much about the shit that really matters. Clothes and toiletries can be replaced, but for most, having your laptop go broken or missing sucks balls. Meds, especially if you need it to live, take it with you no matter what. NO MATTER WHAT!! There are people who still insist on packing their meds in your checked luggage. I cannot stress this enough, don’t pack your meds. Oh ya and no liquids (other than meds) in the carryon. As of today the 3 oz or less rule still stands, but why bother? Just chuck it all in a plastic bag (to prevent leakage on your clothes) and pack it in your checked luggage.

4)      Checking in for your flight. Ok your flight is confirmed, weather is good, and your bags are packed. Now things will start to get interesting as you have to make your way to the airport in time to make the flight. Because there is an increased amount of air travelers, you wanna get yourself at the airport with enough time to get yourself checked in, check your luggage, get through security with enough time that you will make your flight with time to spare. Easy right? Hells yea it is! With a domestic flight, give yourself at least 2 hours before departure and 3 hours for international. If you prep the night before, make sure you have everything in order, have all your documents ready, and give yourself enough time for traffic, you will make it to the airport in time to make that plane with little or no hassle at all.

5)      The luggage part deux. This is not really something that should be too complicated, but yes you wanna make sure your bag goes where it’s supposed and more than likely it will. Simple step is to check the luggage tag as it is placed on your bag and confirm. Once the three letter destination of the tag matches where you're going, simply walk away. No need to further bother the agents with questions about where your bag is going. You check it and ensure it. Now if you’re connecting you SHOULD make sure before you walk away from the counter that your bag is going to its FINAL destination. If your connection is not part of your original itinerary, give the agent the information needed to check the bag thru. Or else your bag will be in one place and you in another.

6)      Security. This was covered in another list and still stands. Read it [here]

7)      Dealing with delays. I don’t like em as much as anyone. But you know what, delays, like shit, happens. Mechanical, weather, or air traffic at one point or another you will fall into one of these events and you’ll have to be ready for it. It’s best to stay calm and don’t go freakin out all over the place. Some people just need to know what the hell is going on. Most likely you’re not gonna get a real straight answer and even if you do what can you do? Travel another airline is an option, but what happens if they are dealing with delays and cancellations too? So it’s best to ride it out. Get a book, whip out the gameboy, open the laptop and do some work or watch a movie. Do something to kill the time. Now I’ve learned that any delay more than 3 hours, isn’t worth the wait, especially if you are in your own home town. Better to just call it a night, go home and try again another day. But if you’re somewhere other than your home town, again remain calm and ride it out. Coming home after a night like that feels all the more better. Delays do happen and getting pissed off doesn’t help any. Oh ya one other thing, stay near the gate. I made that mistake once during a delay, I went an made a phone call thinking I had oodles of time only to come back and *poof* everyone was gone. Turns out my plane took off a bit earlier than expected. My advice? You don’t have to live at the gate but stay close by to get any updates because you never know.

8)      Dealing with cancellations. Here is a big tip and should help a lot of people. Standing in line at a service center after a flight gets cancelled sucks the biggest donkey balls and I’ve never had to do it. Not once! Fuck that aggravation; there is an easier way to handle it. If you booked through an agent such as Orbitz or Expedia, just call them up and have them rebook for you. Why? Because if you’re at the ass end of a service center line your gonna get dicked. But if you call up the airline directly or one the aforementioned agents, then you’ll have a better shot of getting a decent flight. You know a lot of people will wait in the line for hours just to try and get something from the airline, hotels, meal vouchers, travel vouchers, reimbursements. Again this is more aggravation because depending on the situation, more than likely you won’t get anything but a new flight. This is why I refuse to stand in that line. I’ll get my own hotel and pay for my own food, but I refuse to wait three hours for nothing when I can be cozy in a room of my own choosing.

9)      Dealing with misconnects. Misconnects suck, you get delayed at one airport only to arrive at another airport and find out your flight is gone without you. This is where you can make that call to your agent, unless the line at the service center isn’t too long. Just have them rebook the new flight and move on. Again a lot of people will feel that the airline owes them something when it comes to delays, cancellations and misconnects. Here is the dish mookwads. No flight is guaranteed. Ever. Just like your daily commute to work, you’re not always guaranteed you will make it there on time, same goes with air travel. If you misconnect you have to deal. Trying to throw your weight around at the airlines will only mark you as a troublemaker and you’ll get more of nothing. But sometimes if you're levelheaded and things aren't to hectic, the airlines will put you up. But don't get upset if they don't. Again, it's not worth the anger.

10)  Oversold/overbooked/bumped. This is actually a good one and sadly it’s never happened to me. But Airlines can and will overbook their flights. Why? Because of cancellations/misconnects/ or uncle Bill got a little lushed at the airport bar and now has to sober up in jail, the airlines wanna make sure all those seats are filled. Here’s where you can make out like a bandit with some cool stuff. If the airline is looking for volunteers and you’re in no rush to get where you’re going, wait till the last possible minute then volunteer your seat. Why do I say wait? Because if you’re a chump who jumps at the first offer you’re gonna kick your own ass because you can always get more. Here’s what you can get: 1) Travel Vouchers, which are good for… well travel. Maximum is about 1000, which is basically a free trip. 2) Upgrade to first class. (Business First I dunno about, but I think if you press hard enough and if the airline is desperate you can get it) 3) if it’s the last flight of the night you can get a hotel stay 4) meal vouchers. 5) Extra frequent flyer points. (Not always but check to see if the airline can pull some strings on this). And you can actually finagle this so you can get just about everything on this list. Now what if you’re one of the persons who didn’t get a seat at check in? Then you’re considered to be an oversold passenger. This is when the airline asks for volunteers to give up their seat to try and get you on, but did you know you can also volunteer? That’s right all that stuff you get if you volunteer your seat applies to you too. So if you’re flexible get in on that action. But what if you’re not flexible? What if you gotta be where you gotta be? What if no one volunteers their seat? Then you my friend, you’re about to get “bumped”. Bumping means you don’t have a seat and there won’t be a seat for you so you cannot go on your original flight. Yea you booked this trip umpteen months ago, doesn’t matter because now you’re the low man on the totem pole without a seat. But don’t despair because now the airline HAS to compensate you. Just like the airline can overbook, they also have to give you something for the inconvenience. So options 1 – 5 apply as well as cash compensation (this is if you don’t want the travel vouchers). If you’re in this situation, stay calm, ensure the airline has another flight with a confirmed seat, then milk it for all its worth.

(Valkor's note: Below you will find additions to the ever growing list of tips folks should use to assist them in air travels. Again if you have a tip, send it by using the email below.)
11. Do not under any circumstances yell at, scream, berate or insult the agent behind the counter. This will get you nowhere, or possibly a trip to jail. The aforementioned agent has no control over the weather, maintanance issues or the fact that you were supposed to arrive at 3pm and have an important meeting at 4pm. The agent has no control when the computers go down. Also, there is no need whatsoever to tell the agent all your credentials or an in-depth explanation of your resume. (The fact that you are a doctor, with a P.H.D. has no bearing on the fact that the plane is late and there are no other flights out on this airline or any other carrier from this airport today. Telling the agent that you have been a store owner for 30+ years and have had 100's of employees that never would have treated customers this way only sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher ...blah, blah, blah....).
The agent knows people have important things to go to. That is most likely the reason for your being there. Even if you are angry about the situation, vent if you need to then get over it and you will most likely be given good service. The mouthier you are is when the agent will do the fastet thing to get you out of his/her face even if it means 5 connections to wherever you are going. If you are polite most agents (that I have ever worked with) will go out of their way to help you.

Finally here is the best advice. If you have an important event coming up such as a cruise, wedding, or other event that you must attend, then try not to do shit the last minute. Try to get away a day or so earlier, just in case of delays and cancellations, because once again shit happens and you don’t wanna be at a loss. Oh ya and make sure you have all your numbers handy such as the hotel, travel agents, car rental place, etc. That way should a delay or cancellation go down your not stuck scrambling in a panic looking for numbers that should be readily available.

Trust me traveling doesn’t have to be a scary event; it should be a fun moment (unless your going to a funeral, then ignore my statement). Traveling smart is the best way to go and if you follow my tips your next trip will be cake.