Pro Travel Tips

This afternoon I flew back from Traverse City to Portland. I almost didn’t make it. My outbound flight was delayed, and because of this I wouldn’t make my connection in Chicago. But thanks to doing a lot of air travel over the past few years, I had a few tricks up my sleeve to make it home, and even get an entire row to myself. When travel chaos descends upon your trip, here are two pro tips that can help you get where you need to be, and get there more comfortably.

Fly Other Airlines

Most of the time these days I fly United because I have Premier status with them. I get free checked bags, occasional upgrades, preferred access at check-in and bag drop, and a host of other perks.  But last night I was scheduled to be on the last flight out of Traverse City, and that meant that the only option was to rebook on an early flight the next morning. Well, by last flight out I mean last United flight.  Often times when there are travel delays that require you to rebook a flight, airlines can rebook you with a totally different airline. Yep, that’s right, United will book you a flight on American Airlines.  And that’s exactly what happened for me.

There were about a half dozen other folks working with ticketing agents when I stepped up to the counter to check my bag.  They were all rebooking flights for the next day. By this time I knew that I’d have to rebook, and I just before stepping up to the counter I did a Google Flights search for all flights from Traverse City to Portland.  An American flight popped up, and it was scheduled to leave TVC about the same time as my originally scheduled United flight.  I asked the ticketing agent, very politely, if she thought it’d be possible for her to rebook me on American.  She said she’d check, and a few minutes and a few key clacks later she handed me a receipt with a new confirmation number for my American Airlines flight back to Portland.  I would arrive only about a half hour later than my originally planned United flight.  Boom.

I would have to pay for a checked bag with American, and wouldn’t be get all the perks I had with United, but I’d make it to Portland that night.

Be Nice

This one should go without saying.  We can often times get frustrated and angry when we travel and delays and cancellations occur.  I get it. But sprinkle a little kindness in and you may be surprised with the results.

Last night I was traveling with my daughter as a lap infant.  She travelled free, as is the case for kids under 24 months old on most domestic flights, but she didn’t have a seat, and had to sit on my lap (duh) for the flight.  It can be a bit of a pain to have a nearly two year old squirming around on your lap for upwards of four or five hours, but saving hundreds of dollars by not purchasing a ticket for her is worth it.

When we arrived at Chicago O’Hare for our connecting flight to Portland I realized that I had a window seat.  When I’m flying solo I love the window seat.  I can lean against the window to take a nap and I love watching the scenery outside the window.  When I’m traveling solo with my daughter, however, an aisle seat is the only way to go.

I approached the podium where an American Airlines gate agent was working on one of the computers.  She didn’t look up at first, and I patiently waited, standing a little bit back from the counter as to not seem too pushy. When she looked up, I employed a few tactics I learned from Dale Carnegie and Chris Voss.

I said to her, “It seems like you’re really busy with all your pre-flight preparations, and I’m probably going to add more work to your plate by asking this, but would there possibly be an aisle seat available on this flight that I could switch to? As you can see I’m flying with my daughter here (I was holding my daughter in my arms) and those window seats can sometimes be so cramped.”  She said she had to finish her pre flight work but that she could check later.  I said no problem, thanked her, and asked her if I should check back in with her later, and she said no.  I hadn’t even given her my name after all. She said no, and I nodded and walked away.

As the plane began to board, and moved along from group 1 to group 2, I thought I was pretty much stuck in that window seat. But then the gate agent called over in my direction, “Sir,” and waved me over.  She handed me a new boarding pass and pointed out that the seat was an aisle seat.  I thanked her several times and hopped back in line to await my boarding group.

I was happy that’s we’d have an aisle seat for the four and a half hour flight, and that was enough to make the flight bearable. I boarded and found my seat in 21C. The seats A and B next to me were empty, but there were still a lot of people yet to board. A few minutes later, however, a flight attendant came over the PA system and said, ” ladies and gentlemen, boarding for this flight is now complete.”

No way.

I looked around and only saw one other empty seat about ten rows up. Not only had that gate agent given me a window seat, she gave me (us) a whole row!

Now, of course I have no way of knowing that she gave us those seats all to ourselves, of if some passengers just didn’t show up, but I’m leaning toward the former.

When you show a little bit of kindness, and throw in a bit of tactical empathy and labeling, you can achieve a lot.