Long gone are the days of simple air travel. Now it's a challenge just to get to your destination as planned. When things go wrong it can be a complete nightmare. Here are some tips to avoid getting screwed when flying.
Photo by Free Info Society
My friend Taylor worked as a flight attendant and I've heard all sorts of stories about all the dumb things that go on before, during and after a flight. I asked him to share his experiences and advice so we could learn to fly a little smarter and avoid getting screwed by the airlines. It turns out everybody is a little to blame for the various issues we face when flying, but there are also things we can do to make the best of the hand we're dealt.
If you're in a hurry, try to avoid regional aircrafts. At congested airports, larger planes take priority and the smaller planes wait significantly longer on the taxiway. It's not as simple as "take your turn". Air Traffic Control prioritises certain flights.
Try not to travel in an area with a bad storm. Airports turn into chaos during a storm, and the ratio of employees to passengers is not pretty. If your flight has been delayed multiple times, chances are that it will be cancelled. Make sure you book a hotel room before everyone else figures out they aren't going anywhere. If weather caused the problem, the airline is under no obligation to get you a hotel room or compensate you in any way. Airlines frequently try to hide the real cause of delays, so press for answers.
If you need help while you're in the airport, you will need to talk to the gate agent at the gate of your flight. Gate agents for other flights won't help you. If you just need help finding something in the airport, ask an airport employee. Flight crews in the airport aren't working and they may not know any more about the airport than you do.
Your Flight Crew Isn't Perfect
Everyone's heard about drunk pilots. The Civil Aviation Safety in Australia only requires pilots and flight attendants not to drink for eight hours prior to flights. Airline policies usually require 12 hours, but this rule is broken all the time, especially by flight attendants. Worse yet, the CAS only requires 12 hours of rest. Those 12 hours include time travelling to and from a hotel, which can take longer than you'd think. I've waited upwards of an hour just to get on a hotel van. If you take that 7am flight, your pilot's eyes might be more bloodshot than yours. So be nice to your flight attendants so they don't have to contact the pilot for anything. They're busy trying to stay awake while the autopilot flies the plane.
If you've ever heard a pilot reassure you that a plane can fly fine on one engine, it may be true, but it is also a breach of aviation regulations. At least two working engines are required for the duration of a flight. If you lose an engine, you need another one to get you the rest of the way to the nearest airport in one piece. Add the previously mentioned exhaustion and you're in a bad situation.
Don't Be an Idiot
If you travel with a child under the age of two and you decide to save money by flying with that child on your lap, think about it carefully before you do. The airlines allow this out of an admitted fear that more families will drive to their destination if they prohibit it. The highway is more dangerous and they think they are going to prevent highway fatalities. The reality is, if your plane hits some heavy turbulence that might otherwise be safe, your little baby will become a projectile. Think twice if you believe you'll be able to hold on to little Timmy in the midst of that.
The exit rows are sought after for their generous leg room. Well, that leg room wasn't put there for your stretching needs. It's space for passengers to use to exit the aircraft. The emergency door can weigh 20kg or more and is not hinged to the aircraft. You will need to unlatch it, pull it inside the aircraft, turn it on its side, and then throw it out of the plane. If you have to do this, you'll have to do it fast. Make sure you're comfortable with those requirements as you stretch out while your fellow passengers glare at you enviously.
Hey, flight crew, are you out there? If you've got any more good tips to contribute let's hear 'em in the comments.