This past summer I was given a unique opportunity of working at the world's busiest airport—Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. I worked in passenger assistance. I helped people get around the airport and made sure they were getting where they need to go. Through this experience, I've learned some useful tips to ensure an overall relaxed and stress-free flying experience when going back home for the holidays.
1. Be On Time.
This sounds like a no brainer, yet often people miss their flights because they do not give themselves enough time to get to their connections or to go through TSA. When booking make sure you know exactly where your connection is and give yourself plenty of time. Atlanta is a HUGE airport with 7 terminals and it takes 35-45 minutes to get from one side to another. So, I always say, give yourself an hour to an hour and a half of layover.
2. The World Won't End if You Miss Your Flight.
260,000 people come through Atlanta on a daily basis. The main issue is that people do not understand that sometimes it's ok to miss your flight. There will most likely be another within 2 hours. Don't worry thanksgiving will not be spent without you. I will advise however, that you do not to go on the last flight of the night if you have something important to do the next morning. It will limit the mishaps of you not getting to your destination on time.
3. Handling Your Mishap.
If you want to make it home in time for your mothers' delicious Christmas roast-beef, don't EVER try to force yourself onto the plane. It is a 1,000 dollar federal fine, a possible no flying blacklist from the airline, and even possible jail time. Talk the Gate agent. Many will be able to tell you what your options are for the next flight, even though you may be on standby. It is case by case. If you miss the last flight of the night, go to the help desk and you may be able to get a hotel voucher along with a meal voucher, which, once again, is dependent on your case.
4. Don't Make Assumptions on People.
The most I've ever made on tips came from an ordinary Air Force soldier going to San Antonio. Don't stereotype passengers or employees. Be kind and generous, don't make assumptions and you just might find yourself being bumped up to first class. And let me tell you, after an 8-hour flight, you'll be glad to have been said generous words to the the employee taking care of your seating.
McCarran International Airport Las Vegas, Nevada
5. In Flight Service.
Most flight attendants will be very open. The services will vary however. Southwest, Frontier, and Spirit are "no frills" airlines so don't expect much in regards to amenities when flying. Southwest does allow two bags, a drink complimentary drink, and TV if your device such as a laptop or iPhone will connect to its in flight website. Amenities Airlines, such as Delta, American/US Airways, and United, will give you more options depending on how long the flight is. On a same coast flight less than I suggest looking for the best value (not the best price) for the trip.
6. Flying Over Borders.
Whether it's a flight to spend Christmas down south of flying across the pond to see distant cousins for the holidays, flying international is tricky. Be careful when booking these flights because the variables increase when leaving the country. Arrive at the airport at least an hour earlier than you would for a domestic flight, yes even for the Canadian flights. Many of the airlines may change due to the Airline alliances. Flying a “Delta Flight” may be operated by other airlines due to codesharing. You may be on a KLM flight (Europe’s best airline in my opinion) instead of a pure Delta flight. The three alliances are the Skyteam (Delta and Friends), OneWorld (American Airlines and Friends) and the Star Alliance (United and Friends). Make sure to see who is operating your flight during your booking process—it can make a big difference.
7. The Layover effect.
Everyone hates layovers. Though you may be in an interesting city, it is highly recommended to not leave the airport for your travels. The best way to deal with these (apart from dreaming about that mouthwatering cranberry sauce grandma makes every thanksgiving) is to keep calm and look for a restaurant or an interesting place to kill time. Try to stay away from the usual Chipotle or McDonalds for food and try something new you’ve never had. If in Charlotte, try the Carolina BBQ or in Atlanta try the Varsity (it's a stable there). Maybe try people watching, it may turn out to be your thing.
Follow these tips, be patient and watch your dreadful trips turn into eventful times.
Lead Image Credit: International Airport Guide
Secondary Image Credit: Courtesy of CBS Las Vegas