There are a couple of things you can rely on when it comes to air travel today and they are the most important things: flying is safe and flying is fast. If you need to cover long distances, there’s no better way to go. That said, there are a few things you cannot count on but I have some strategies to minimize any problems.
LISTEN: Rick Seaney says, trust but verify!
Read Podcast Transcript here.
1. “Don’t worry, your flight will be on-time.”
Airline on-time arrivals and departures are improving but they have a ways to go. In February of this year, only about 70 percent of U.S. flights were on time (but that was better than January’s 67 percent). It’s not just winter ice and sleet either because summer thunderstorms can be just as bad.
Minimize problems: Avoid too-tight connections. If connecting to a flight to Europe or other international destination, give yourself several hours of just-in-case time. When the West Coast is my jump-off point to Asia, I like to fly in the night before.
Also, don’t necessarily trust statements like, “Your flight will be delayed one hour.” If it’s a weather problem, the skies may clear before the appointed hour or a mechanical problem could get fixed sooner than expected but if you’re not in the gate area to get on the plane, you will get left behind.
2. “The security lines really move this time of day.”
Security lines can slow down anytime unprepared travelers turn up (“I have to take what out of my bag?”). Even enrollment in the TSA’s PreCheck program is no guarantee of a quick in-and-out of security checkpoints.
Minimize problems: Always build in time for this before heading to the airport – especially in summer.
3. “The airline is not going to lose our kid.”
No, the airline almost certainly won’t lose your solo-traveling youngster, nor will they allow your wheelchair-bound grandmother to sit on a plane alone when the attendant fails to show, but it has happened.
Minimize problems: Make sure anyone you’d worry about has a cell phone with pre-programmed numbers (and knows how to use it), and after you make arrangements for escorts, confirm them. Then confirm them again. And again.
4. “Sit in the back so you’ll have an empty middle seat next to you.”
If this was true, we’d all be in the back. The truth is, airline capacity-cutting has done away with most empty seats, especially during daytime flights (and there are no guarantees on red-eyes, either).
Minimize problems: If you want more room, use miles for upgrades or pay a fee for a bigger seat (it’s not always expensive).
5. “Don’t worry, these folks have a sense of humor.”
Wrong. There is no sense of humor among airline/airport/security employees when it comes to jokes about bombs or even remarks that could in any way be perceived as a threat. Safety is the major concern of airline and security employees and they won’t hesitate to have someone arrested, joke or no joke.
Minimize problems: Wait until you get to your destination before unleashing your inner Louis CK.
- Rick Seaney also wrote about this topic for ABCNews.com. See all his travel columns here.