My “tips” posts were getting long so I split them up — this one’s all about the plane ride …
Upgrades: The early bird gets the seat
So, the competition is getting more intense for these, so you have to face facts — even if you are a major flyer, you are probably going to find it harder and harder to win free upgrades for your status. The airlines are just going this way, which us, the consumer over, but there’s really nothing we can do about it right now, other than of course fly them all versus stick to just one airline because loyalty MEANS NOTHING NOW. Ahem.
That said, the top elites get early access to automatic/free upgrades. But some airlines offer some unique bennies you can take advantage of, like the ability to login right when your upgrade window opens and to buy an upgrade (an add-on to your current fare or to upgrade to another class of service) at a discounted rate (a rate cheaper than if you had bought that class of service back when you first bought the economy ticket). Airlines are starting to phase this out, so, YMMV — explore and play with fares as you shop and test it out. This works best if you’re an economy flyer that doesn’t mind getting stuck in economy if the gamble on a higher class of service doesn’t pan out.
Seatguru: Know thy seat before you book it
I love seatguru.com — you get full on details for every plane, worldwide, for the specific routes you’re flying it. Before you click on that seat on the seat map, ALWAYS CHECK THIS. You may discover that your seat doesn’t recline, has less leg room than the row behind it, or doesn’t exist on some planes and is at risk of being magically reassigned somewhere you can’t control.
Pimping your economy seats is worth it
If you are a low or middle tier mileage flyer, premium seat fees may be waived for you or discounted. Either way, if you can afford it – DO THIS. It may not seem like much but sitting way at the back of the plane and waiting for all those people to get on and off when boarding and exiting can make the difference between you 1) making it through the passport line in a decent timeline and 2) not losing your mind.
This is random but a cool discovery — you can buy and bring these yourself! A friend of mine told me about this and I thought it was brilliant. You don’t have to bother with flagging down a steward!
Earplugs, sleeping mask
If you’re flying elite (or an international carrier that is decent to its economy passengers), you’ll probably be given a swanky little pack that contains some bennies like these two precious items. But, you can never be sure, and you can always lose them. I paid $7 for a pair of earplugs once in the airport, when I had a pack I’d forgotten at home that cost $6ish and had 15 pairs in it. Yeah.
Slap these on and you can spare yourself from the noisy talkative seat companion, or the baby or toddler two rows away who plans to make your life … not so pleasant for the next several hours.
Don’t touch anything
Lolz, I’m kidding — sorta. They don’t really clean planes between rides. I literally sat on the plane during a fueling layover on Singapore Airlines (one of the top in the world) and watched them use ONE damp rag briefly across all the CLOSED tray tables and mini screens in the economy row. Just the one. No bleach. No nada. No opening and closing the trays. Which is why when you get on a well-used plane and look closely you will find all kinds of unpleasant things in that tray table when you open it up.
The staff “pick up” — but they do not germkill anything and they literally have minutes to sweep the plane, so they’re going for the high-priority stuff. Trash on the floor, etc. They do not even change the little cloths that are placed over the headrests and supposed to be switched for hygiene.
So, I strongly advise you keep that in mind and consider antibac wipes, sprays, or gel. If you want to avoid getting sick on your trip or on the way home … this can help. Also, an immunity booster the morning of your flight and when you get to your destination.