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Holiday Travel Survival Guide, Part II: How to Make It Through the Airport Unscathed (11/08/2002)

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November is here, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and that means it’s time for another edition of the "Holiday Travel Survival Guide!"

During the last edition of the Survival Guide, we talked about booking holiday flights, but that’s the easy part -- the real pain doesn’t begin until you go to the airport. From clearing security to dealing with flight delays, the airport can quickly become a nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple things you can do to make the airport experience a little less painful. What are they? To answer that question, Diana chats with John McCorkle, a flight attendant with 13 years experience. John has spent thousands of hours schlepping through airports. If anyone knows how to minimize the hassles, he does. Here are some of the tips he gives us:

Before You Leave …

  • Bring a map of the airports you will be using so you can find your gates quickly. Most airlines have maps on their Web sites, or check out www.QuickAid.com. Many airlines list security wait times on their Web sites. Make sure you leave plenty of time to clear security before your flight.
  • If your airline offers online check-in, print your boarding pass before leaving home.
  • Be sure you don’t pack stuff that will be confiscated by security.
  • If you’re traveling alone on a plane with a three-across seat configuration, reserve a seat in a row that already has one seat filled. Chances are, you’ll end up with an empty seat between you, giving you more room.
Checking In …
  • If you’re a gold-level mileage member, you can take advantage of VIP security lines.
  • Use the kiosks. Not only can you print a boarding pass, you can change your seat assignment and buy tickets as well.
  • If you’re at the gate and want to change your seat assignment, wait until 15 minutes before departure. This is usually when pre-reserved seats for passengers who didn’t show up are released.
  • Be kind to gate agents -- they hold the key to getting upgraded.
Dealing with Luggage …
  • Check your baggage curbside, if you can. It’s faster than going to the ticket counter.
  • If possible, travel only with a carryon. If you must check luggage, keep in mind that transfers account for 40 percent of all misplaced luggage. So, if you’re catching a connecting flight and you have enough time, fetch and re-check your bags.
Between Flights …
  • No joking about bombs and terrorism. You will be cuffed and taken away in a car with sirens.
  • If you’re flying on an airline that has a marketing alliance with another carrier, in most cases, you can use the partner airline’s airport lounges.
  • Not an elite flyer? You can still use those spiffy executive lounges. Some airlines allow you to buy a yearly membership, or pay a day rate -- usually about $30.
  • If you need to change your flight, don’t go to the ticket counter to do it. A gate agent can handle the transaction, and it will probably be a much shorter wait.
Making Your Getaway …
  • Taking a limo from the airport is sometimes cheaper than taking a cab, especially if you split the bill with other people.

Savvy Resources:

To find out how to “pack smart:”
http://www.tsa.dot.gov/trav_consumers/travel_preparation.shtm

To pick a good seat:
http://www.seatguru.com

To get a map of the airport:
http://www.quickaid.com

To figure out where to park:
http://www.airportparking.com

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