Summer is a super popular time for Americans to travel. Unfortunately, the busy summer air travel season can mean more problems for travelers – lost luggage, overbooked flights and seat “problems” can all take the fun out of your summer vacation.
CheapAir.com has a few tools for helping you find the best airfare prices this summer – one of which is the Summer Flights page. But on top of that, we have a few helpful pro tips to assist when you’re dealing with airline and airport aggravations. Follow our rules of engagement and you’ll soon see those problems solved – we promise!
We’re just going to tackle this head on. It’s one of the biggest stressors of recent air travel. You book flights for the whole family – you, dad, and kiddos, you get a great fare, you show up at the airport and are surprised to find out that you’ve been assigned seats but not together. And to add insult to injury – you’re not even seated with your eight and 11-year-old. The flight is full and the flight attendants seem reluctant to work with you to get everyone seated together. What are you to do?
Luckily, this is a hypothetical so we can tell you with great conviction. If everyone sitting together is your greatest priority, spend a little more at booking and secure those seats together. The airline really isn’t under an obligation to seat everyone together on the flight day.
This might seem hard to understand, but think of it this way. These days, EVERYONE has to pay for their seat. So if you’re shelling out extra dough for a window seat in bulkhead, for example, you might be far less incentivized to give up your seat to a family – no matter how nice that family is. And again, these days, everyone on the plane with a “good” seat has paid extra for the privilege.
Now if there’s been a genuine mix-up (you bought your tickets with seat assignments) or the flight is overbooked and they’re just trying to get everyone on board there are a few things you can do to get a better outcome. If you’ve got two adults traveling with two kids – divide and conquer. You can take one little and let your husband take the other. It’s sometimes easier to get one passenger to agree to a seat change.
If you’re not in a huge hurry and the flight is overbooked, giving up your bad seats for better seats on the next flight out might be an option the airline is willing to entertain.
The worst thing to do is to angrily demand satisfaction from the gate agent. She or he is juggling multiple requests, problems and genuine emergencies on any given day. Your dissatisfaction with a seating assignment you agreed to forego is not likely to be seen as an emergency. Be polite, be kind, and ask for help. It’ll go a lot further.
To Avoid Delays, Skip the Late Flights
Flights that leave later in the day often get delayed. The domino effect is real when it comes to the air travel network. As a day progresses and mechanical problems, overbooking situations, even just a few flights running late can start to affect the whole air travel ecosystem. Generally speaking, the earlier flights have better odds for running on time. Increase your odds of getting there on time by being one of the early ones.
Luggage Woes Can Be Avoided
You know how to make certain your bags don’t end up in Detroit when you’re en route to Honolulu? Don’t check a bag. Carry-on baby! Unless the thought of traveling light gives you crippling anxiety, you should try it. Your bag isn’t going to go missing because it’s going to be with you the whole time. You;ll spend less time in the airport when you get to Honolulu because you won’t have to hang around baggage claim with the rest of the overpacked saps. An added bonus? You get to skip the hefty checked bag fees that airlines are charging. Flying light is starting to sound mighty attractive, yes?
Find Your Zen
Let’s get real for a minute. Social media has shown us (largely through citizen videographers), that there are no shortage of rude people on planes just waiting to say something unkind. This is why we advise travelers should bring a few items to keep you cocooned – maybe it’s a great new beach read, maybe it’s a scintillating new podcast – maybe it’s just earplugs and a sleep mask. Whatever you can do to tune out of other people’s stress is what you should do.
Being on an airplane can be a great place to just zone out and relax – no one can reach you, your responsibilities back home are on ice as you head out on vacation, why not just chill with a cocktail and take a snooze? Remember to be kind to yourself and others.
If all else fails, we recommend a good old fashioned letter to customer support if your problem is not resolved in a satisfactory manner in the moment. The airlines are quite responsive to reasonable complaint letters. It’s also possible to get resolution, though a much more tricky proposition, to tweet at an airline’s customer support team. The days when companies were scared of a tweet are long over. But a polite airing of a grievance with a request for help can sometimes get the ball rolling in your favor. Proceed with care and caution and you just might get a kind response.
Thanks for reading. Those are just a few ideas for keeping your cool in the face of air travel stress. So get on out there and have a safe, relaxing and enjoyable summer vacation. Happy travels!