Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Figuring out flights

Booking airline travel these days is getting a little crazy. In general, prices have been high and changing quickly. A few things to keep in mind when booking your flights:

1. You must use the name on your ID. If your ID and name on your ticket do not match, you may not be able to get on your flight. Even the smallest issues like Bob on the tickets versus Robert on the ID could be a big problem.

2. If you are travelling internationally, it is your responsibility to figure out if you need a VISA.

3. Direct is not the same as nonstop. Nonstop means your plane will not stop between the two destinations. Direct means that you will stay on the same plane, but that plane could land in another city. To investigate this, always click the box that says "Show Itinerary". This will let you know where you are stopping and how long you will be there.

4. Play attention to your connections. As a general rule, I only connect through southern cities in the winter f I can help it. Connecting in Chicago, Denver or New York is just asking for trouble due to weather delays. 

5. Be sure to know all the fees in advance. JetBlue allows one free checked bag. Southwest allows two free checked bags. The other Domestic airlines charge for checked bags. Some airlines charge for requesting a seat assignment or carrying on a bag. 

6. Check your connection times. If you are landing in a huge airport like Chicago O'Hare or Atlanta, there is a chance you may have to switch terminals. Make sure you have enough time. If you aren't sure if you will have to switch terminals, check the flight status today for the flights you are considering. It will have the arrival gate and the departure gate for your flights. If these gates have different letters in front of the numbers, you should count on switching terminals.  

7. Make a contingency plan for delays. If you are on the last flight of the day, what will you do if it is cancelled? If weather is looking scary, call the airline to see if you can wait a day or get rerouted. The number one consideration for airlines is safety - not your schedule.

8. Bring a snack and sweater - Hungry and cold is no way to spend a flight.

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