The 11 Golden Rules of Air Travel

The 11 Golden Rules of Air Travel

Air travel is a complex, often bewildering experience. It’s also unpredictable: Your flight may be delayed or canceled for any number of reasons, from inclement weather to mechanical problems. In such cases, your best defense is preparation–and knowing your rights. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics publishes an extensive booklet of air-travel rules and regulations that can help you understand and protect your rights when flying. Here are 11 rules that may come in handy if you’re planning a trip by air.

Rule 1: Know your airline’s ticket policy

Airlines are required to offer full refunds within 24 hours of purchase for tickets bought at least seven days in advance (many airlines choose to offer this option on all tickets). Some airlines allow passengers to cancel reservations within 24 hours at no charge and still get a full refund; others will charge a fee of $50 or so. You can find the rules for most major U.S. airlines on their websites; the website SmarterTravel offers a helpful summary of airline-ticket policies.

Rule 2: Check baggage fees before booking

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires that airlines disclose all optional fees they charge before you book your ticket, but not all airlines do so voluntarily,

The first time I flew on a plane, in the early 1980s, it felt like a miracle. It still does, even after millions of miles of travel. I’ve been lucky over the years to have flown on hundreds of different kinds of aircraft, from the ancient DC-9 to the brand new 787. And every time I get on a different plane–even if it’s just a tiny Embraer regional jet–I always find myself smiling at takeoff.

This year, I flew nearly 140,000 miles (that’s about 2/3 the distance to Mars) and visited about 20 countries for work or pleasure. In just one week in November, for example, I was in New York City, Seattle, and Tokyo. This kind of travel may be fun and exciting, but it’s also hard work–which is why I thought it would be interesting to share my 11 rules for air travel with anyone who cares to read them.

I hope they’re useful!

Here’s a news flash: air travel is not fun anymore.

The airlines have packed more and more people into smaller spaces, and we’re all paying more for the privilege. As we get closer to the holidays, that privilege is only going to get worse.

So here are 11 rules you should follow to make your flight as good as it can be.

1. Fly nonstop whenever possible

2. If you can’t fly nonstop, fly direct

3. Book a seat in an exit row (assuming there’s no extra charge)

4. Avoid the middle seat

5. If there’s no choice, ask for a free upgrade

6. Check in early and board late

7. When you board, put everything in an overhead bin except one personal item

8. Give your tray table some love before take-off and landing

9. Carry on items that fit under the seat in front of you (it will be easier to get out)

10. Dress comfortably, but keep it classy (you never know who you might meet on a plane)

11. Always have a good book or magazine ready

By following these rules, you’ll be able to save a lot of money on air travel.

Rule 1: Always book round trip

It is cheaper than booking two one-way tickets. The reason why is because the airline industry wants to maximize their profits and they do that by filling up every single seat. Because of this, airlines will always offer you a discount. It’s easier to earn your business with a discount if you’re buying 2 seats instead of 1.

Rule 2: Book flights 3 weeks in advance

Airlines offer special prices for flights 3 weeks from now. Once those seats are sold, the price goes up. If you see a flight that you want, buy it! Waiting will only make it more expensive!

Rule 3: Fly on Tuesday or Wednesday

On average, Tuesday and Wednesday are cheaper days to fly than any other day of the week. Why? Airlines realize that most people don’t want to fly on those days so they lower the price as an incentive for people to fly during those days.

1. You don’t have to be a frequent flier to know that air travel isn’t what it used to be. But there are still ways to make the airport experience as painless as possible. Here are some tips that will help you enjoy your journey.

2. Let’s start with the basics. To get the best fares, book early and be ready for an advance-purchase requirement (anywhere from 14 days up to several months). And always buy a round-trip ticket, because it will almost always cost less than two one-way tickets.

3. Now let’s talk about checking in online and printing out your boarding pass before you get to the airport. This is a great time saver if you’re not checking luggage, but if you have baggage, you’ll need to stop at the check-in counter anyway so an airline employee can weigh your luggage and attach a baggage claim tag before sending it on its way.

4. If you’re traveling with someone else and only one of you has checked in, both boarding passes will print out at once, but they’ll be attached, which means they’ll have to be separated at the gate agent’s desk. Ask for separate passes when you check in so you won’t have this hassle

1. Enter your frequent flyer number when you book. The airline may be able to credit you with miles even on flights booked by a travel agent.

2. Use your miles for free tickets, not upgrades.

3. Avoid booking on a Friday or Saturday; airlines are less likely to call you if there is a schedule change and more likely to bump you from an oversold flight.

4. Check in at least one hour before departure, but no more than three hours (this is when most reservations are dropped).

5. Ask for a seat assignment at the gate if none has been issued (most of the good seats go to those who check in early).

6. Volunteer for bumping, if asked; airlines have to pay higher fees for involuntary off-loading of passengers from oversold flights, so they are more willing to offer compensation and other incentives to volunteers.

7. If you’re involuntarily bumped or experience other delays, ask for a written statement about your rights and privileges under the Department of Transportation’s rules on passenger compensation and refunds; keep receipts for expenses caused by airline delays or cancellations.

8. Inquire about “hidden cities” — such as flying from New York to Los Angeles via Chicago or another city that’s closer

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