Let’s Fly: Booking your ticket


I have always been amazed by the one-line slogans crafted by the different advertisement departments of the airline carriers.  Some are rather catchy, others serious, and others make air travel sound like it’s going to be the best part of your trip.  We all know how not true that is!  Delta Airlines says, “we love to fly, and it shows” or Spirits Airlines’ more direct slogan “less money more go.”  We can’t forget American Airlines’ “let good take flight” or United Airlines’ “good leads the way” and finally Southwest’s slogan, “low fares, nothing to hide”.  As good as these slogans might sound, those of us who fly know air travel is just overall stressful.  No one ever remembers any of these slogans, but we all remember the words “delayed,” “mechanical,” “canceled,” or “stranded” when flying.  I guess the airlines can’t really come up with slogans like “we might be able to get you where you’re going” or “we have your money and you’re at our mercy.”  I’d love to see one of those slogans, but I gather it’s not very good for business!

I’m here to give you a little help!  I’m hoping some of the knowledge I’ve gained from my many years of being a flight attendant for a major airline might come in handy.  I’ve been flying for a very long time.  I know what you want to ask me… I can hear the question… who do you fly for?  Ahh…  I shall keep my airline under wraps because it truly doesn’t matter!  This is about my experiences and trying to help you!  The airline industry has changed so much and if I can give you a few tips and tricks to navigate this ever-changing industry perhaps flying will be a tad more relaxing for you and whoever joins you in the “friendly skies.”

I will tell you, my crews call me a “senior mama” because of my seniority, although I don’t much feel like a senior.  In the airline industry, seniority is the most important thing if you want to get a good work schedule.  The more seniority you have, the better trips and more days off you can hold.  I enjoy holding nice schedules like London, Madrid, Amsterdam, San Francisco, or Maui.  However, with seniority comes age and I’m flying with young “kiddos” who were born the year I started to fly.  That’s as far as I’ll go with my aging process, just know I’m rounding a quarter-century flying around on everything from the good old MD80, Boeing 727, and one of my favorites, the McDonnell Douglas DC10.  I started my career with a pager.  For those of you who don’t know what a pager is, go to Google and take a look!  I used to have to run to a pay phone to check in with my scheduling department because cell phones were not common back then!  Times have changed!

I’m truly hoping you find my articles interesting, entertaining, and informative!  Let’s see if I can be of some help!  

I’m going to start right off the bat with booking your ticket!  It is so easy to book tickets nowadays.  You have access to tons of websites making it super easy to shop, compare, and book tickets from the comfort of your own home.  Some people still use a travel agent and that’s great, but travel agents are kind of like CDs and pagers: they are out of date.  The availability and accessibility to a ton of websites is all you need to begin your search for a good ticket price and travel plan.

First, mileage credit cards do have some advantages.  Many times, flight attendants have the applications for cards on the flight with a special code adding thousands of bonus miles once you’ve been approved and made some purchases.  Sometimes these bonus points are enough to purchase one round-trip ticket.  Now there are “conditions,” but booking way in advance helps!  Most of the mileage cards offer at least one free pass to an airport lounge with a guest where you can dive into free food and have a quiet space to put your feet up and wait for your flight.  Other mileage-card perks include a free checked bag, special lines at the airports to save you wait times, as well as discounts on in-flight food and alcoholic beverages.  So, if you are flying out of the same airport each year and normally fly the same airline, give a mileage card a go and save some money!

Second, Wednesday is the best day to buy a ticket and mid-week is the best time to travel.  The night after people come home from visiting family or friends is always the time people start shopping for tickets.  So, after returning home from Thanksgiving people are looking to book Christmas or February vacation from school or spring break.  Nope don’t do it!  Wait until Wednesday, you’ll tend to see cheaper ticket prices.  Now, there are times when this doesn’t hold true and that’s when you book within a month of traveling when airlines lock in prices.  Wednesday should definitely be your go-to air travel ticket shopping day!  You’ll also find flights that depart mid-week, like on a Tuesday or Wednesday, will have cheaper prices than on a weekend.  So, pull those kids out of school a few days early and save money by leaving mid-week!

Third, when looking for tickets on Wednesday, watch out for connection time!  Never book a connection with less than 2 hours between flights!  I know you want to…  I truly hear you… but save yourself hassle, stress, and a heart attack by giving yourself extra time.  I’ve seen more passengers stressed because they’ve booked a 30-minute connection time while flying through Atlanta, GA, or Chicago, IL.  You’ll never make it!  If you do, you’ll be running, panicked, sweating, and dropping things along the way.  I’ve had parents leave baby strollers because they couldn’t wait for the rampers to run it up from the tarmac.  I’ve also seen a law enforcement officer drop their weapon while running through the airport!  Yup, it happened, so give yourself time!

Fourth, choosing your seats.  The airlines have found a way to get extra money out of you by “seating preference” costs.  Years ago, we never had this additional cost of sitting in coach and paying more for a window or aisle seat!  Outrageous!  The airlines make it almost painful by adding on these additional costs.  Most of the time, there is no way around this but, if you truly want a window seat, buy a window seat.  If you really want to sit together with your family spend the extra cost and take out the stress!  I will tell you one trick though.  If you want to book an early-morning flight and you see seats together, but the price is too high just buy the tickets for a later flight.  Why, you ask? Because most airlines you can call and switch flights with a zero-fee for an earlier flight!  So, you’ll be flying when you want and at the time you want, and although you had to spend money to sit together you are saving money by not buying the tickets on the earlier flight by just switching!  Again, every airline is different but it’s definitely worth a try and the worst case you’re stuck on your originally planned flight.

Finally, booking way ahead of time has some perks.  Most airlines let you pay monthly once purchasing your tickets so the cost of taking a family on vacation is much more affordable.  Spanning out the cost of tickets over a six-month period is definitely easier on a budget and it takes the stress out of having to pay a lump sum!

Flying should be as stress-free as possible, and I hope that some of my suggestions make your travel experience a tad bit better!  I will say again, every airline is different, and airlines make changes every day, but one thing is certain, they need you to survive!  Without you and your money they’ll be calling it a day like TWA (Trans World Airlines).  So, remember to get that milage card with its perks, book early on a Wednesday for a mid-week flight, watch those connection times, choose your seats, and span out those ticket costs!  

Signing off from this “senior mama” see you next week when I go over “planning and packing” and talk about fish tanks, lamps, and baggage!  Remember to fly safe and always bring the crew chocolate… we love chocolate!  Fly on!

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