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Veteran Pilot Offers Summer Travel Tips


Summer is just around the corner and the thought of a relaxing vacation is on the minds of grounded jet-setters who are itching to get away. Many are already beginning to plan out their summer destinations and this popular travel season is sure to be a busy one yet again. Knowing this better than anyone, seasoned commercial airline pilot Captain Karen Kahn offers several tips to help restless travelers keep their cool at the airport this summer.

Before Arriving at the Airport:

•    Pack smartly. Place all your valuables (jewelry, electronics, etc.) in your carry-on luggage. Bags are subject to screening and hand-searches and many airlines are not responsible for lost or damaged items. In addition, place an identification tag on the outside of your laptop as they are the most forgotten item at screening checkpoints.

•    Know your limits. Don’t forget to place all of your liquids and gels in a quart-size Ziploc bag.  Many stores now offer miniature sized toiletries for this reason.  Additionally, many airlines tack extra fees onto bags that exceed their weight limit rules. Pack only what you need and check with your airline regarding their specific regulations.

•    Go online. With many airlines you can print boarding passes on their website to skip long waits at the airport.  Some companies also offer text, email or phone notifications regarding your flight so you stay updated on your flight’s status.

•    Dress: Less is better. Keep in mind all of the airport’s security screening procedures.  If possible avoid items such as belts, hard to remove shoes, hats, and any jewelry that contains metal as removing these items takes unnecessary time that could make the difference between making and missing your flight.

Tactics to Avoid Flight Delays:

•    Avoid peak travel times and book an early flight, if possible. With early flights, you will have more airport buffer time, and an opportunity to board another flight in case your original flight is delayed or cancelled. Flights later in the day are at higher risk for delays. Additionally, do your research when booking your flight. Airlines may charge more on peak travel days and airports will be more crowded, creating more unnecessary travel stress for you.

•    Book direct flights whenever possible. The more connecting flights there are, the more likely they will be delayed. If you have to make a connection, consider the airport’s size and location, and the time between connecting flights. Make sure you have enough time to make your connecting flight if the previous one is delayed.

•    Double-check before leaving for the airport. Airlines are known to inaccurately list flights as “on time” even if they are delayed. Try checking flight delay information at the Air Traffic Control System Command Center. You can also visit Flight Aware for live flight tracking.

•    Fly with carry-on luggage only. This will allow you to move more quickly, and will eliminate the risk of luggage getting lost between flight connections.

•    Prepare in advance for a delay or cancellation. If an on-time arrival at your destination is critical, such as a wedding or business meeting, give yourself an extra day, when possible.

Coping with Flight Delays and Cancellations:

•    Be friendly and cooperative with gate agents. Treat those who service you just as you would like to be treated. Put yourself in their shoes, these folks do not set the policies but are just trying to make an honest living and service their customer’s needs and expectations as efficiently as possible. What I always do in these situations is ask, “If you were in my position, what would you suggest?” If you are friendly and cooperative, they will do their best to help you.

•    Request a hotel voucher and do your research. Airlines may offer hotel vouchers if you’re stranded between flight connections. But do your research! You may get a discounted rate, but airlines typically have agreements with hotels further away from the airport. Find out how far this hotel is, how much it will cost, and whether there is a complimentary shuttle. You don’t want all the “savings” to be eaten by taxi fare!

•    Call your airline immediately to try to change or buy a new ticket while you stand in line. It’s better to play it safe and have them on the phone, because flights could be booked by the time you make it to the front of the long line.

•    Know your options. Have phone numbers of other airlines with flights to your destination saved on your cell phone.

•    Be ready to wait in the airport. Make sure you bring books, magazines, a laptop, a music player, a pillow, or other things to do to pass away the time.

While you can never have a completely full-proof plan when traveling, you will avoid headaches and do yourself a favor by planning ahead and thinking realistically. With a little luck and foresight, you will experience a smooth and effortless journey to your relaxing summer destination!

About Captain Karen Kahn
Having spent the last 30+ years at 30,000 feet with other people’s lives in her hands, Captain Karen Kahn certainly has mastered the art of confidence, determination, and professional and personal growth. Today, as speaker, author, career counselor and one of the few pioneering female pilots still flying, she inspires others on how to harness their own inner Captain and soar through life with confidence.