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How to Fly Like a Pro

Posted by Deb Hopewell on Wednesday, August 27, 2014

(Photo: Getty Images/E+)

Ever wonder what the pros know that you don't? How they get the best seats, save time and money, and avoid hassles? We've queried travel writers, industry insiders, and other ultra-frequent flyers to get their tips, sometimes from things they've learned the hard way—so you don't have to!

It Pays to Be Last

If carry-on luggage isn't a consideration and the flight isn't sold out, one tactic for getting that coveted "extra seat" is to be the last person to board—that way, you can look around to see if there are any empty rows or two empty seats next to each other. If you do have carry-on luggage and you don't want to chance losing space in the overhead bin (or you don't like cutting it that close), try waiting 10 minutes before boarding starts, and politely ask the gate attendant if there are any seats with empty ones next to them. At that point—that close to boarding time—it's unlikely those seats will fill up, and you can move to one of the open ones.

Cut Out the Middleman

If you are flying with someone else and you're able to choose your seats, book one window seat and one aisle seat in the same row. The middle seat is usually the last one people want, so they'll avoid it and you'll have a seat's worth of extra space in which to spread out (because every extra inch of legroom is precious). If your flight is full or nearly full, this probably won't work. But even if someone does claim that middle seat, they'll probably be more than happy to switch to the aisle or window, and you'll be able to sit together.

Carry-On? Check!

If waiting for luggage at baggage claim isn't a huge deal to you, consider this tip: You can often ask the gate attendant to check your carry-on, especially if the flight is full or nearly full. If you have checked another bag and will need to go to baggage claim anyway (for instance, on an international flight), then it's one fewer thing to carry around. And you won't have to jockey for space in the bins along with everyone else. (And if you're one of those people who can travel internationally for a couple of weeks with just a carry-on, more power to you!)

Cover Your Tracks

A lot of attention is given to the fact that sites deposit "cookies" on your device that can track your interest in and intention to book a particular flight. Typically, on any given day, you might see the same seat offered at many different price points, and prices can change from minute to minute. There's a question of whether these price changes are a nefarious price-gouging scheme or the result of airline pricing technology. Either way, the pros use a few different browsers, if not devices—laptop, tablet, and phone—to search flights, and then they book through the one that shows the best price. And it never hurts to delete your cookies, just in case. This link will walk you through the process.

Power to the People

Whether you're working on your laptop, reading on your tablet, or playing games on your phone, finding power for your devices is always at a premium, especially on longer flights. Most pros never leave home without an external charging device to carry them through. And here's a genius hack if you have time between connecting flights: Instead of charging your devices one at a time—or worse yet, being that person who hogs multiple outlets at the airport charging station—carry a lightweight power strip with you. And once you're in your destination, a power strip is great to have in hotel rooms that skimp on outlets. We think this one is particularly nifty because its flexible shape means it can pivot for bulky chargers and it can be packed up small.

Special Delivery

This one may not be for everyone, but it comes in handy on long-haul flights when you want to get as much sleep as possible before hitting the ground at your destination: Consider ordering one of the airline's "special" meals. These usually include vegetarian, low-sodium, and kosher options, and sometime more. These meals are served (and cleared) first, giving you extra time to slap on the eye mask and catch some z's.

Keep It to Yourself

In-flight theft: Statistically, it's not a flying crime wave, but it's more common than you think. We tend to assume that since we're in a confined space, our possessions are safe. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Valuables, including passports, have been known to disappear from luggage in overhead bins. We know someone whose passport was lifted on the plane and, as a result, he was deported at his destination. You do not want this to happen to you. Keep your passport, wallet, and any other critically valuable items on you at all times. If you have to stash items in a bag under the seat, take the bag with you when you get up to stretch or use the bathroom. If you have valuable items, such as camera equipment, in your carry-on overhead, check on them just before the "fasten seat belt" sign is turned on prior to final descent. That way, in the unlikely event that something has gone missing, you can alert an attendant.

Water, Water Everywhere

We all know that if there's one thing we need to do on a flight, it's stay hydrated. Bring an empty reusable water bottle with you that can be filled at a water fountain once you're past security. If you need more, you can ask the attendant to refill your bottle (never, ever fill it up in the plane's bathroom). And once you've arrived, you'll have a water bottle for the rest of your trip.

Bag It

Have a few TSA-approved quart-sized plastic baggies stashed in the front pocket of your suitcase or carry-on at all times, so you'll never be caught by surprise without one. Sounds simple, but we've seen people have to surrender their 3-1-1 liquids because they don't have a bag to put them in. Some security lines keep extras on hand for this kind of situation, but not all.

For Crying Out Loud

Kids? We love them. Honest! But that doesn't mean we necessarily want to sit next to them on a plane. One way to reduce the chances you'll be within ear range of an unhappy toddler or uncomfortable infant is to choose a seat at least a couple of rows removed from the bulkhead seats, which are favored by parents with little ones. But bring earplugs just in case. (You're welcome.)

You Might Also Like:

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title How to Fly Like a Pro.

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Domestic Fare of the Day: Los Angeles to Honolulu $283 round-trip, nonstop

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Still available! Fly nonstop from Los Angeles to Honolulu for $283 round-trip, including all taxes, on Allegiant.

Searching AllegiantAir.com, we found seats departing LAX on Saturday, October 25, returning from HNL on Friday, October 31.

Plenty of other dates are available for travel throughout fall.

This fare is for debit card purchases only. Fares are slightly higher ($291) if paying by credit card.

Visit our Honolulu HNL fare page for a complete list of current finds from all over the US and Canada.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Domestic Fare of the Day: NYC to Burbank $261 nonstop, JetBlue promo code

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fly nonstop from New York to Burbank for $261 round-trip, including all taxes, as part of the previously mentioned promo code offer from JetBlue.

We found seats departing JFK on Tuesday, November 11, returning from BUR on Wednesday, November 19.

Other dates are also available from September 3 through December 18, for travel Mondays through Thursdays, as well as Saturdays.

Enter promo code FALL2014 to apply discount.

Tickets must be booked by August 27. For booking info, see our Fare Details.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Int'l Fare of the Day: Phoenix to Barcelona $612 round-trip, fall travel

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lots of great deals to Barcelona today, including this one from Phoenix for $612 round-trip, including all taxes.

We found seats on KLM.com departing PHX on Sunday, November 2, returning from BNC on the following Sunday, November 10. Flights connect via New York JFK, operated by Delta.

Other dates are also available for travel from November through March, excluding peak holiday periods.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

And visit our Barcelona BCN fare page for a complete listing of current finds from all over the US and Canada.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Domestic Fare of the Day: NYC to San Juan $214 nonstop, JetBlue promo code

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

As part of the current 20% off promo deal from JetBlue, fly nonstop from New York to San Juan for $214 round-trip, including all taxes.

We found seats departing JFK on Monday, September 22, returning from SJU on Monday, September 29.

Other dates are also available from September 3 through December 18, for travel Mondays through Thursdays, as well as Saturdays. 

Enter promo code FALL2014 to apply discount. Tickets must be booked by August 27.

Visit our fare page for New York JFK for a complete look at current finds.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Int'l Fare of the Day: San Francisco to New Delhi $765 round-trip, spring travel

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, August 25, 2014

For travel next spring, fly from San Francisco to New Delhi for $765 round-trip, including all taxes, on Turkish Airlines.

Searching TurkishAirlines.com, we were able to find seats departing SFO on Thursday, April 16, returning from DEL on Thursday, April 23. Flights connect via Istanbul.

Other dates are also available for travel from April 14 through May 15.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Int'l Fare of the Day: Washington DC to Hong Kong $734 round-trip, incl. taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, August 25, 2014

Fly from Washington DC to Hong Kong for $734 round-trip, including all taxes on Delta Air Lines.

With two connections, this itinerary may only be of interest to the most patient of travelers. We found seats departing DCA on Tuesday, August 26, returning from HKG on Tuesday, September 2.

Our itinerary below connects via Detroit and Tokyo on the first leg, and Seattle and Atlanta on the return leg. Connection airports may vary by travel date.

Visit our Hong Kong HKG fare page for a complete look at current finds from across the US and Canada.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Domestic Fare of the Day: Atlanta to Denver $185 round-trip, nonstop

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, August 25, 2014

Fly nonstop from Atlanta to Denver for $185 round-trip, including all taxes, on Delta and United.

We found seats departing ATL on on Wednesday, December 4, returning from DEN the following Wednesday, December 10.

Other dates are also available for travel Mondays through Thursdays, as well as Saturdays, from December 3 through December 16.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Int'l Fare of the Day: New York to Quito $556 round-trip, late summer/fall travel

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, August 25, 2014

Fly from New York to Quito, Ecuador for $556 round-trip, including all taxes, on LAN.

Searching LAN.com, we found seats available over the Thanksgiving holiday, departing JFK on Monday, November 24, returning from UIO on the following Monday, December 1. Flights connect via Guayaquil GYE.

Other dates are also available from September through early December.

For booking info, see our Fare Details.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

How to Remove Your Name from the No-Fly List

Posted by Ed Perkins on Monday, August 25, 2014

You're about to catch a flight when you get a message to "see agent," in place of a boarding pass. That agent says you can't get on your flight. Congratulations! You're on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) No-Fly List. Although this unhappy event doesn't occur often, it's devastating when it does.

Presumably, if you're a terrorist or intend harm to the country, you already know why the government listed you. But government lists have been known to contain errors. People sometimes get on the No-Fly List without any apparent cause—and without knowing why. That's why a group of travelers recently sued the government, charging lack of due process, with legal support from the ACLU. A federal judge in Portland, OR agreed, ruling that an inability to challenge the list in any meaningful way is unconstitutional. (Several other similar cases are in the pipeline.) In response, the DHS says it plans to change the system within the next six months.

Actually, DHS maintains more than one list. People on one No-Fly List won't get on a flight, period. People on another list can fly, but with additional airport screening. Both lists are completely opaque. For starters, you can't log onto a DHS website and check to see if you're on a list or why you're on that list. The DHS specifically states, "Please note that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can neither confirm nor deny whether an individual is on the watch lists because this information is derived from classified and sensitive law enforcement and intelligence information." All DHS will say is that, last year, some 48,000 travelers were banned from traveling.

The only way you can find out that you're on the No-Fly List is to be unable to print a boarding pass at home or to be refused boarding when you try to catch a flight. A website purporting to post the no-fly list calls itself the Terrorist Security Administration: It's what you get when you Google "no-fly list," but it's a fake. It may be an accurate hack, it may be a scam, or it may be a joke—but it is not official.

DHS implemented an appeals process in 2007, but that process remains Kafkaesque. DHS calls its system "DHS Travelers Redress Inquiry Program," or DHS-TRIP (clever, those bureaucrats), and you start the process by logging on to the DHS-TRIP website. There, you fill a complaint form and apply for redress online. You will need, at a minimum, a passport or the equivalent photo ID required to board a flight. E-mail the completed form and scanned copies of required ID documents to the DHS, or do the whole deal by mail. In due time, the DHS will either bounce your appeal immediately or issue you a "redress control number," which you use initially to track your application and later as a supplementary ID when you make a flight reservation.

In the end, the DHS may or may not resolve your issue. Presumably, if the problem is something simple like a mix-up in names or an incorrect number somewhere, you will be allowed to fly. But the procedure remains opaque. The DHS will not tell you why your name was on the list or how it got there. It will only tell you, if successful, you're OK to fly.

Whatever revisions may come, the result will have to be better than the present system. But how much better remains a question.

You Might Also Like:

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title New Rules Allow You to Remove Your Name from the No-Fly List.

Follow Ed Perkins on Google+ or email him at editor@smartertravel.com.

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