Preparing to Travel

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Part 2 of Buying Your Plane Ticket series

In my previous post, I went through the process of buying a plane ticket. I took you through a strategy that maximized your day of travel. I used my knowledge as a flight attendant to help construct a day of travel that kept in mind possible irregular airline operations, like delays or cancellations. I also took into consideration the benefit of a Non-Stop flight versus connecting through a city (plus taking advantage of amenities offered at a connecting city). It was a whole lot of information. Overwhelming, perhaps. And I didn’t get through everything I think is important for airline travel, which is why I am making Buying a Plane Ticket into separate posts.

Now that you have your ticket and the weeks turn into days as you wait to check-in for your flight, I am going to prepare you for your day-of travel.

Days leading up to your flight

I’m sure you believe that once you buy your ticket all you have to do now is wait to check in 24hours before your flight. No no no! There are certain things you have to do before you get to the airport.

Airline Mobile Apps

Probably the most important weapon in your arsenal of preparation is downloading your airline’s Mobile App. Most airlines have a mobile app that comes with a cornucopia of advantages. The mobile app of your airline can track your flight, give you mobile boarding passes so you don’t have to worry about losing your paper pass, rebook your flight during irregular operations, and plenty of other flight-related tools.

I download the Delta app. As you can see in the picture below there is tons of information at my fingertips. Everything from booking a flight to learning what to expect on my flight, the app is a wealth of information.

Your Access to Free Streaming Entertainment Using Your OWN Device

The American Airlines and United Airlines mobile app is also your ticket for inflight entertainment. You have to download the American Airline’s or United Airline’s app to your tablet or cell-phone to watch free streaming entertainment. The advantage of this is that you get to use your own headphones, which I sincerely hope you have.

Here comes a rant! It’s 2019, people. Almost every phone comes with a pair of headphones. If you come on the plane asking me, “May I get a pair of headphones,” and I say, “We don’t have any,” you better not give me that stupid “why-not” look, or even dare ask me (which a passenger has before) “Why don’t you provide headphones for us when you have in-seat entertainment,” because I’m going to retort, “Where are yours?” Don’t blame me for your stupidity. Rant over.

For those of you with wireless headphones, be sure to check out Zach’s article on how to get your wireless Bluetooth headphones to connect to in-seat entertainment.

Delta’s inflight streaming entertainment needs another app. I will have to download the Gogo Entertainment app to be able to watch movies on my iPad.

Mobile App to Track Your Checked Bags

Another powerful reason why I need to download the Delta app is to Track my Bags. You see, when you check your bags at the ticket counter or forced to check your bag at the gate because airplane space has filled up, agents assign your bag a code. You hand over your bags and the gate agent gives you a Bag Tag with this tracking code. That code is attached to the PNR, or Record Locator, that you used to check in. This is very important. I can track my bags using this app so I know where my checked bags are at all times.

Mobile App to Track Flight Status

Another important feature of the mobile app is knowing my Flight Status. When I click on the link “Where’s My Plane” Delta shows me where my plane is coming from. It is the day before my flight and I see that my plane is coming from Atlanta tonight, arriving in Miami at 10pm. Later on today, around 10pm, I’m going to check this again to see if my plane actually arrived into Miami on time.

Why is this important? Well, for passengers, this is the difference between staying informed and ahead of delays. If my inbound flight arrives late, that gives me, traveling passenger, the chance to make some good decisions. For instance, getting food, using the restroom, or making necessary phone calls to hotels, rental car agencies or relatives who are picking me up at the airport telling them that I’m going to be late. Don’t you think this information is priceless?

Definitely Download the App

So yeah, make sure you download your Airline’s app before you start flying. It is a wealth of information that will definitely help you have a stress free flight. And even when the stress starts building up after that 4hour delay, you have all the necessary information you need to start making a plan within that Mobile App.

Checking In For Your Flight

When you download your airline’s app or, at the time of booking, gave an email or contact number, the airline reminds you to check in for your flight. Or, if you didn’t give permission for the airline to contact you with notifications, make sure you definitely set an alarm for that Check-In. After you check in at the appropriate time (usually 24hours before your flight), the airlines doubles down on preparing you for your flight. They will send an email telling you to download the app, how to access free entertainment, some airlines start asking your meal preference for certain routes, while others ask you to preorder meals so that you get your first choice.

Preordering food

The airline will send a few emails preparing you for your flight. Delta emailed me with information on how to figure out my flight’s status, how to access the free messaging system inflight, and which movies will be available on my flight and where to go to access them.

Delta Airlines then sent me an email asking what I would like for breakfast on my flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles. I clicked on the email link. It sent me to the menu of what is being offered on the flight. They will be serving breakfast on my flight, a choice between Oatmeal with peaches and berries or Bacon and Cheese Omelette. After I chose my preference, I received a confirmation email.

American Airlines, on the other hand, offers both first-class and main cabin passengers a chance to PreOrder food starting 30days before your flight and up to 24hours in advance. 

These preorders are amazing. I mean, literally, you get your choice of food on flights that have food. When I work the meal cart on a 6hour flight from Miami to Los Angeles and reach the last half of the main cabin with nothing left on the cart except chips and cookies to sell, and you start yelling at me “what am I supposed to eat for the rest of this 6hour flight?” I’m going to laugh at you and say “well, you should have followed the directions of your email or done some research into your flight. We offer you a chance to order your food on the website up to 24hours in advance.” “Well, I didn’t know that.” Well, maybe you shoulda looked.” “Well can I have these chips for free then since I don’t get to have real food?” “Well nope, that’s $4 for those chips. Credit or Debit?” Then you glare at me, and I saunter away smiling happily and content, unperturbed by your angry eyes.

American’s Inflight Food availability:

Delta’s Inflight food availability. Make sure you look further into Delta’s website about food offerings. It was actually kind of difficult to find what’s offered on flights.

United’s Inflight Food availability:

Seat Assignment

If you bought your ticket from either a Third-Party website or a Basic Economy ticket from the airline website, you don’t get to choose your seat. Your seat is assigned either at check-in or at the airport. Now if you don’t have a seat preference and just want to get on the airplane and opt for these cheaper airline tickets, by all means, enjoy that last-minute seat arrangement.

However, these cheap websites and cheap seats come with disadvantages. Your party most likely will not sit together. For those of you traveling with disabled or children, this is frustrating. And I get it, money is tight and you needed to get somewhere and that cheap price was all that you could afford. But, remember, you agreed to the stipulations of these cheap tickets. The American Airline’s website states that seat assignments are by a computer. The computer will try to sit children and at least one parent together if seating is available to sit two of the same party together. Yet, as a flight attendant, I feel like this isn’t the case.

As a flight attendant, I have to deal with your frustration of not being able to sit next to your disabled mom or your 4year old son. Unfortunately, you agreed that your party won’t sit together and, quite frankly, I am NOT going to move the person who DID pay the extra money for a seat assignment. Sure, I’m going to ask for people to switch. But if they say no, I am not going to force a passenger to move because you expected someone else to be kind-hearted enough to change their great window seat for a last-row-next-to-the-lavatory middle seat. That’s abusing someone else’s kindheartedness and using the system. You bought your cheap ticket with the understanding that you won’t be seated together. Do not glare at me because you thought you could circumvent this. It is NOT the airline’s fault nor is it the Flight Attendant’s fault NOR is it the passenger’s fault for not changing seats to accommodate you. IT IS YOUR FAULT.

What to do if you don’t get the seat you want

The picture above is from the American Airline’s website. When you find out your seat assignment and its an aisle seat next to the lavatory or that nasty middle seat you can call the reservations system to upgrade to a choose-your-seat rate, which of course will come with a fee.

Definitely search out those details about your flight: like seat pitch (the recline of the seat), entertainment, food options. They definitely make a difference in how comfortable and stressfree your flight becomes. Plus, you’re spending a hell of a lot of money. Don’t you want to know everything about what you spent that money on?

Backup Entertainment

On the night before you travel, make sure you have at least a few forms of entertainment: like movies, games or books. Not all aircraft are the same. Some airlines, like American Airlines, have the same categorized aircraft, for example, the Boeing 737, with 3 different different interior configurations. There are 737s with in-seat entertainment, which is great because the airline usually has new releases that aren’t out of the theater yet. There are 737s that don’t have in-seat entertainment, but instead have overhead monitors throughout the cabin. You plug your headphones into the armrest and look up at the ceiling to watch the plane’s movie, which isn’t ideal if you’re far away or the monitor is super small and you can’t see crap. Then there are even some 737 aircraft don’t have movies or entertainment at all in flight and require you to be your own form of entertainment, like American Airline’s US Airways aircraft.

These planes belonged to US Airways before they merged with American. They have absolutely nothing in them except a seat, a bathroom, and air. I happily refer to it as the misery machine. So yeah, I behoove you to get some entertainment for yourself.

There are also other reasons why you should be prepared with books, music, movies, your own headphones. Perhaps the in-seat entertainment is broken, or the internet with the free streaming is broken, or the aircraft’s entertainment system is broken. Planes are constantly on the go and are kicked and beat-up by previous travelers. Things break. Always prepare yourself with your own form of entertainment.

Charge Charge Charge!

On the night before you travel, make sure you charge all your devices. Currently, as I am writing this blog post, I am traveling on a plane that has NO outlets. None. Zilch. Nada. A few people around me have asked the flight attendants, “Where are the power outlets?” “Sorry, there are none on this airplane.” “How am I going to charge my device?” “No clue.” But, yeah, I get it, I’m used to flying on planes with some form of charging outlets. Welp, this plane isn’t one of them, as I wearily watch my laptop drop from 27% to 26%. Whoops. And when this laptop dies, I don’t have a way to continue writing this post. See how important it is to charge your devices the night before? Again, these planes are abused by disrespectful passengers and maybe JUST YOUR seat’s power port is broken. Sucks that you aren’t prepared with an extra battery, huh? Invest in a good portable charger. Zach and I have found a few that we like. We will definitely be sharing our electronic hacks in future posts.

Definitely Get this App

Probably one of the best apps we have discovered is this new app called Grab. Get 20% off with this code: A59B9509. If you don’t have the app, here is the link.

Airports are now starting to jump on the Mobile Order bandwagon. You place your order through the app. Then you pay through the app or at the counter. Some airports require you to pick up at the counter, or if you’re in certain airports, your food will be delivered to your gate, which is pretty damn amazing. It’s fast and convenient for when you’re rushing to the next gate and want to get food but don’t have time to spare.

Final advice of significant importance

I am an American Express Platinum Cardmember. I love this card so much that’s why I keep bragging about it.

Zach discovered recently because we bought our airline tickets through the AMEX travel website, we get the add-on bonus of this website called FreeBird.

This is a website specifically designed for Flight Disruptions. As an AMEX cardholder, I get this as a perk with my card. For other people, there is a charge.

If my flight cancels or delays more than a few hours, I can utilize this website to find me a reroute. The website looks throughout multiple airlines to find the best way to get my flight schedule back on track. Then they rebook me with that airline.

I don’t know how to tell you how absurdly useful and significant this website is.

Conclusion

Well, dear reader, that’s all I have for now. I hope these tips and tricks help get the planning-juices flowing for your day of travel, unless you’re one of those people who just wing it, you crazy weirdos you.

Be on the lookout for my next post about our First Class Experience traveling with Delta. Yeah, I fly everyday, but I am super excited to fly Delta. It’s like I’m flying for the first time all over again! 

Until next time, Dear reader, see yah!