Author’s Note: In lieu of my typical destination article (because oh boy we have some great ones in the works for you) I am starting a series of the Top 10, to be continued in various intervals.
1. (Don’t) Dress up for your Flight: Ok so you’re going on vacation, and it’s been who-knows-how-long since you’ve had one. I understand that this is a special occasion, and often see those travelers who have “dressed-up” for the airport. It’s a bad idea and here’s why; firstly you’re showing every pick pocket and tourist scam-artist that you are a Tourist. That translates to pure gold for them, and you will easily become a target. Secondly, no matter how short the flight is, or how luxurious your on-board accommodations are, you will look like a sorority girl who never went to sleep after homecoming by the time you walk out of your destination airport. Best to keep things simple when flying. Be chic, but don’t be high-maintenance. For the ladies, don’t wear too much makeup or you’ll end up like Tammy Faye Baker on an evangelistic tour of the swamp. Guys, stay away from heavy colognes, and double up on the deodorant.
2. (Don’t) Fly Air France, Continental or US Airways: As a travel correspondent, and many days on the road as a model in my hey-day, I learned which airlines were the most convenient, customer-focused, and responsive to complaints or a lack of service. The three afore-mentioned do neither. Air France actually doesn’t have ANY way for a customer to call in and make complaints or suggestions. Continental has literally lied to me and hundreds of others to save themselves hotel fees, claiming weather as a factor in the delay of 6 flights. Most of the passengers missed the connecting flights, and in reality it was a downed control tower that caused the problem. US Airways has consistently the worst attitude amongst its attendants.
3. (Don’t) Drink Heavily the Night Before: Yes, this IS a hard rule to keep! Often there is the urge to begin the vacation the night before, but this will only leave you dehydrated and with a headache that the plane’s pressurized compartments will only exaggerate.
4. (Don’t) Eat Airplane Food: Ok, I admit it: Lufthansa food was amazing “" but they’re the exception. This rule also is extremely dependent upon whether you fly economy or First Class, of course, but this is a fairly easy thing to avoid, or at least diminish greatly. The day of the flight, bring along a salad, raw veggies, a sandwich, etc. Just make sure there are no pure liquid contents, and buy a reusable 3 oz dispenser for things like dressing and condiments. Fresh fruit is a great way to maintain your hydration levels when flying. If you are flying to a foreign location, pack snacks that remind you of home. Sometimes foreign fare can be a bit tricky, but with a grab bag of cookies, crackers and pretzels, you’re sure to stay satisfied.
5. (Don’t) Arrive to the Airport Late: It’s a terrible idea! Pack the night before. You never know the state of pandemonium at the airport. The earlier you show up for those morning flights, and for the mid to late afternoon internationals, the shorter the security lines. Sure, sitting at the gate for 2 hours is rough, but you brought snacks, right!? This is when to have a glass of wine, check those last minute emails and relax.
6. (Don’t) Be afraid to ask questions: Know your rights. Each and every airport has a list of various passenger rights, and you should do your homework. As mentioned above in Item two, airlines will do anything they can think of to save money and put themselves first. Don’t assume that they are looking out for you. Ask questions, lots of them if necessary, about what the delay is, or what they’re going to do in the event of an unforeseen complication. Airlines are the first major corporations to assume responsibility for their rights as a company, and they have the right to make the rules up as they go along. Be informed, be assertive and don’t let them bully you!
7. (Don’t) Board the plane empty handed: Take whatever you need to stay occupied and satisfied. It’s no secret that I travel with my teddy bear. Sure I get funny looks at my age whipping out an old ratty teddy bear, but so what! When you are away from home a lot, it’s nice to have a piece of it with you. If you’re going on an extended vacation, take photographs, pillows – anything that will make you feel at home and at peace. Take a few magazines, a book to read, crossword puzzles, emails, etc to keep you occupied on the plane and make the whole ordeal go by a bit quicker. If you’re distracted, you won’t be inclined to worry about the physics of thrusting a mega-ton piece of metal in the air.
8. (Don’t) Forget to pack any necessities in your carry on: Hopefully, your luggage will get off the plane when you do, but there is the chance that it won’t. If there are any medications you need, take them on the plane with you. The same goes for a toothbrush, deodorant and anything you think you may need should you be without your luggage for a day or two (sexy heels perhaps?).
9. (Don’t) Get in the way: This goes for other passengers, attendants and security officials. If you are on a moving walkway, please stand right and walk left. Often, moving walkways are used when the distance between gates is farther than usual and those of us with layovers do not want to run you over trying to make a mile in six minutes. Be aware of other people’s personal space, and avoid using the chair in front of you to catapult yourself out of your seat. Whiplash is bad. Don’t be fearful of using your fair share of space, but don’t be a space-hog. If you need to check your phone or grab your boarding pass, stand to the side.
10. (Don’t) Be a Negative Nelly: Everyone is annoyed by the airlines, the security lines, the bad food, the recycled air. There is no need to take that out on your fellow passengers or the flight attendants. I don’t know how many times I’ve had some random guy scream at me to move up in the line a whole four feet, when there was still 20 people in front of us to screen…DON’T be that guy. And if you hear a hearty laugh across an airport terminal one day, it is probably me, laughing at “That Guy.”
As a business traveler who has flown over a million air miles over the past 3 years, I take umbrage to your suggestion that we not fly Continental Airlines. My experience with Continental has been 95% positive. Airlines do not, as a matter of course, lie to passengers. Most times it is the passengers who do not like the answers they here. Weather and air traffic control combine to make, by far, the reasons for most delays. Passengers cannot do much about those things but complain loudly anyway. The rules laid out by the airlines clearly state that they are not liable for delays beyond their fault. The wise traveler always has a backup plan. Continental has gone out of its way many times to take care of me – and my family. I don’t know about the other two airlines you cite, but I will say this. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard,”I’ll never fly that airline again!” Well honey, there are only so many airlines to go around, and those words have been spoken by passengers of EVERY airline. My experience is that it’s truly the airline’s fault about 10% of the time. The rest, it’s just whiny, ill-prepared passengers wanting compensation.
I can’t say I wholly disagree with you, reader, BUT in this situation they lied. And they made up for all those times *not* lying to you. I can state for the record that I have no affiliations with any airline, so I come from an unbiased, trial and error system. The facts are thus: We were told planes weren’t flying into Dallas, to pick us up and go back to Houston. We were told there were massive thunderstorms and winds in the area delaying flights. We were told, by friends and family living in Houston who called, concerned, that there were blue skies and sunshine, calm winds all day (the same weather we were experiencing in Dallas). Mind you, this is Texas in Christmas- we don’t have thunderstorms that often in the winter. It’s a spring thing. The first class passengers received hotel rooms. Us lower classmen- a shaving kit, denied access to our luggage, no food or drink (as this is now well into the night everything has closed in the airport/hotels). I was agog the next morning as I sat disgruntled already, and read the headline on the Houston Chronicle outlining the tower failure, and inside the weather report- it had been a beautiful day. I sincerely doubt that a newspaper, meteorologist, and several Houstonian neighbors, friends and family were all lying. “Honey”.