Airport Workers Share Travel Tips And Tricks You May Not Be Aware Of
Airport employees don’t have dark secrets, exactly. It’s just that they get so used to their work and the way things are they might forget they’ve got the inside scoop. Airline workers from pilots to baggage handlers and ticket agents have plenty of tips for travelers. If you’re nice (and yes, that’s one of the first techniques they recommend), they’ll tell you how to save money, get freebies and simply avoid a lot of hassle and waiting.
And if you’re always in too much of a rush to coax travel secrets from weary airport workers? No worries, they’ve shared a passel of them here. Before you buy luggage, your next plane ticket, or even airport lunch, read on.
35. The Adopt A Cart Program Costs Less
Avoid paying $4 for a luggage cart in baggage claim by going outside to the pickup area. There are usually a few outside on the curb that people abandon when they get picked up.
Bonus: SmarteCart gives a $.25 reward from the machine when you return a cart.
34. If You’re Out Past Their Curfew, Rental Car Employees Won’t Wait Up
If you’re flying into a smaller regional airport later in the evening and renting a car, put your flight number somewhere in the car rental reservation. Most of these smaller airports close after the last flight lands. And some rental agencies don’t require their employees to stay for late flights if they don’t have someone on the flight.
33. Many Ounces Of Water Can Be Yours For The Low Low Price Of Free
Bring an empty water bottle into the airport. Fill it up at a water fountain once you are past security. Now you don’t have to pay $3.00 for water. For Free
32. Learn The Delayed Connector Dance For Freebies And Upgrades
This is very situational, but remember that if you can’t make your connection and it was booked as one flight, the airline has to reschedule you. If you’re somewhere where flights aren’t usually full and know the flight schedule, this can be used to your advantage.
So I’d book a connection that’s impossible to make unless hell freezes over (31 minute connection on an evening flight into Newark, on a plane that’s been making short hops all day, I never saw it delayed by less than 1.5 hrs) out of the little regional airport I was flying out of, because it was 75% cheaper than the direct flight. Before I even left to go to the airport, I’d have been texted saying the plane was delayed.
Then I’d call up the gate agent, tell her that I can’t make my connection, she’d verify it, and I’d ask to be rescheduled for the direct flight I actually wanted. I did this for years, saved me thousands.
31. One Call May Not Do It All But Pretty Darn Close
If your flight is canceled or overbooked, don’t join the long line of people harassing the gate attendant. Call the airline’s 800 number and the operator can do just about anything the gate agent can. I have walked by more than 100 people waiting in line after calling the airline instead.
30. You Catch More Flights With Honey, Too
I swear, being nice makes all the difference. I was stuck in Chicago this past winter trying to get to LA with two friends, and we waited in line for about an hour, hearing the poor woman dealing with the yelling of people in front of us. We heard her repeat the same spiel to everyone in front of us. When we talked to her, we were calm and polite, and she put us on standby to a flight to Vegas, where would then be able to get on one to LA.
There were over 95 people on standby for the flights to Vegas, and we were certainly not the first people who got their names put on that list. However, my name was the first one called to get on the flight. I swear it is because we were polite and kind to her.
29. Web Crawlers Can Jump Right Over The Rental Car Line
I’m a private pilot, but the airport my Cessna is at still has a terminal.
If you need to rent a car DO NOT wait in the lines. Get your phone and visit the website or call the rental agency. Select the airport and your car and you just bypassed the line. Just go to the pickup window and give them your credit card for a deposit and get the keys.
28. The China Shop Is Not Going To Be Handling Your Luggage, Pack Accordingly
Don’t expect handlers to handle your baggage with great care. Most employees don’t throw it. But when in a belly of an airplane where you can’t work with a straight back and try to fit 200 pieces in a compartment. Think about what you will do with the last 50 pieces of baggage.. So don’t put stuff in glass bottles/laptops etc. Cause the handlers don’t know what’s in it and they only act on how heavy a piece of luggage is. (Loading supervisor here)
27. When You Leave The Layover And Never Look Back
Sometimes you can find cheaper airfare if you book a flight with layovers and simply get off at the layover point. for example, it may be cheaper to book a flight to Fargo with a layover in Minneapolis than to book a direct flight to Minneapolis. Airlines are looking to fill the flights to Fargo so they’ll make the fares lower. if you’re going to Minneapolis, just get off the plane. boom. done.
26. Too Much Stuff? Head For The Airport Gift Store (But Don’t Buy More)
If you overpacked or bought a bunch of stuff on vacation, go to any Hudson News Group airport gift shop, and ask any one of the friendly, knowledgeable staff to give you a big shopping bag. You can put all your stuff in there, and the airline can’t tell you it’s an additional carry on, because it’ll look like you bought it from the handsome, charming young man at the Hudson News Group airport gift shop.
25. Plan Your Emergency Exit At The Gate
If you get to the gate early and ask the attendants at the desk if there are any available emergency rows. They will usually switch you to a emergency exit row for free.
24. The One Time It’s Not Sad To Have Empty Pockets
When going through security put your personal belongings in your carryon/personal item (Watch, keys, cell phone, loose change). This not only keeps them out of view of other passengers, but speeds up the process of digging through your pockets trying to get everything into the bin.
23. You Can’t Get Hitched There, But Relaxation Is Another Good Use For Chapels
If you have time between connections and need a place to be calm and peaceful, most airports have a chapel. They are usually not very well marked so you are probably going to need to ask.
That being shared, do not ruin it by talking on your cellphone or listening to music without headphones. Most of the people in there are anxious fliers or people heading to or from a funeral.
These are free spaces taking up could-be-profitable square footage. People being stupid will just get the chapels converted to kiosks eventually. So please don’t screw this up by telling the loud-talkers in your family.
22. Airports Can Be A Great Place To Hook Up–Your Phone
Bring a three plug extension for when you’re sitting a the gate and want to use a power outlet. Even if you’re the only one using it, you’ll make new friends.
21. Dress Like It’s Friday At A Big Office Even If You Usually Work In Pajamas
Dress business casual when you fly. You’ll be surprised at how much better the flight crew and airport staff address you.
20. Private Pilots Don’t Have Baby Locks For The Windows But You Should Act Like They Do
If you hire a private pilot please don’t rush us during our preflight check. It could prevent some pretty nasty stuff just by walking around the plane and feeling the leading edges of the wings. Also, don’t mess with the windows. Most private pilots will let you know, but please don’t talk when they contact ATC. All the headsets are linked.
19. The Only People Who Hate That Delay More Than You Do
Most pilots and Flight Attendants don’t get paid for ground time, so while you’re complaining about your flight being delayed, they are working for free during the delay.
just something to consider next time your flight is delayed, and if you’re connecting through DFW, it will be delayed.
18. It Helps To Be Vague If You Want Your Phone Charged
If you lost your phone charger, just go to the Lost & Found. They’ve got hundreds of them. It helps to say something like “it’s a bit frayed near the top” or something to add believability. This also works at some hotels.
17. Want To Board With A Better Class? It’s Okay Every Once In A While
I worked as a summer passenger service agent for Lufthansa and my jobs included checking in passengers at the front desk, taking boarding cards at the gate and making announcements at the intercom. A secret that I learned is that there is only a perceived difference about the first class, business class or economy check in to passengers. We are literally so busy during a 400 person flight check-in that we will not deny you if you are an economy passenger waiting in the first class line, we just want to get everyone cycled through the queue. I would check in economy passengers in higher classes occasionally and not even bat an eye.
16. The 10-Foot Security Line In The Mile-High City
At Denver International Airport, there is a second, much smaller, security line. Don’t go downstairs to the huge one, stay on the level above, ask someone who works there and you’ll be able to find it.
15. Show Your Soft Side With Carry On Luggage
I worked for British Airways for a couple of years in two different, major airports. I also travel regularly. Just about all the travel advice I know is common sense stuff, much of which people already know but choose to ignore for some reason.
Use a soft-sided bag, like a backpack or small duffle bag, for carry-on. Do not use a wheeled bag for carry-on
Your typical wheeled bag has hard sides, which means that they can’t be squished into the overhead compartment. They also have more weight to them; some wheeled bags weigh a few pounds even when they’re empty.
Use a backpack or small duffle bag for your carry-on instead. You’ll be able to fit it into an overhead compartment easier. And you can worry less about your carry-on’s weight exceeding the limits of the especially strict airlines.
14. It’s Probably Okay To Drink The Water Though
Never get the pasta selection for lunch/dinner. Its greasy/oily and you’ll have A. Terrible gas or B. Diarrhea.
13. Remember Airport Workers Are Not Power Rangers
We will try to help you as best we can. Crying, getting angry, or complaining will probably never get you anywhere. We try to do what we can within our power. We have no power. What we could do will get us fired if we tried it and supervisors do watch. Our hands are tied so don’t treat us badly.
12. Your Grandma’s Aching Knee Has No Bearing On Whether Your Flight Can Take Off
Do not call Grandma and ask about the weather at her house when you are delayed for weather at your departure airport when headed to her house. The weather at the departure or arrival “gates” ( waypoints used by ATC to consolidate traffic into a terminal area) or enroute could be causing increased in-trail spacing, and even deteriorating weather that is good enough to see on the ground may still be bad enough to require additional spacing. This means the same amount of aircraft but more room required to operate = delays and cancellations to make that room. In other words, going from IAD to DEN with perfect weather at both airports but a solid north/south line of thunderstorms from HSV to CMH will totally mess your day up. Weather at Grandma’s house in Colorado Springs is irrelevant.
11. To Avoid Going Commando, Pack Your Carry On Like It’s Going To Camp
Always pack three or four days worth of underwear and anything else you really have to have in your carry on bag.
Checked in baggage can get lost or stuck in the system for days, your carry on baggage stays with you unless something really serious happens.
10. Your Bags Have No Legs And Hence Can’t Sprint To Catch A Connector
If you have to change planes during your trip, and your layover is an hour or less, there is a high risk that your bags won’t make it to your final destination the same time you do. Not only that, but 1 hour to get from gate to gate = a lot of stress from you that you could easily avoid by paying attention to your itinerary.
Solution: Always give yourself plenty of time for a lay-over. I recommend a minimum of 2.5 hours. You may not like waiting at airports, but I guarantee you’ll like cutting into vacation time to deal with lost baggage claim even less.
9. Stay Out Of The Mainstream For To Float Through Security
When choosing which line to get into for security, choose the one farthest away from the main airlines or the main doors. 1/2 the amount of wait.
8. People! We Probably Saved Your Life Just Now
Despite what you hear you CAN NOT land or takeoff in anything. Flights weather cancel because flying in bad weather is dangerous. A CRJ from a regional airport can not operate (legally) when a brand new 787 into London Heathrow with a CAT IIIc approach with properly certified aircraft, crew, and ground based installations can. So that cancelled flight probably saved your lives for the inconvenience of re booking to another flight or airport. You’d be surprised how little people understand this.
7. Get Over Yourself And Your ‘Right’ To The Whole Overhead Bin
Don’t be that guy that puts everything in the overhead bins. Your coat, your carry on, your small carry on, the other carry on that you “sneaked” past the overworked gate agent because you didn’t want to pay for a checked bag. One in the overhead, one under the seat. Need the legroom? Pack lighter. It’s not fair to everyone else (of which many will likely be as tall as, or taller than, you) who will be forced to gate check a bag and possibly collect it at baggage claim. It also delays a flight because all those gate checked bags need to be loaded and secured in cargo along with receipts for those bags given to their owners.
6. Best Of Both Worlds For World Travelers: Hard Shell Luggage With Fabric Covering
Former baggage handler of 8 years here. Here’s the downside to hard shelled luggage: if they’re smooth sided (vs. the kind that have hard shells covered in fabric) they slip out of the stack of bags in the cargo bin pretty easily.
And since I know the smooth sided bag is much more slick than fabric covered bags, I put it at the top of the stack. Which sounds good in theory (yay! no bags on top of my bag!), but what happens is your bag ends up falling off the stack and moving around a bunch while everyone else’s bags are snugly protected by the other bags around them. If I put your bag lower in the stack then all the bags on top of it will fall over.
In summation, hard shelled bags can be good, but if you’re going that route, get one that’s covered in fabric.
5. Nix The ‘Not Your Bag’ Tag–For One Thing, It’s a Lie
The less stuff hanging off of your baggage the better, straps and name tags get caught on conveyer belts which can cause jams which in turn ends up with your bag being crushed by any bags behind yours. Also, broken stuff in your bags are not always our fault. Belt systems have drops , slides and shutes that can potentially cause damage to your breakables.
Also, those tags that say “not your bag!” Are obnoxious and unoriginal. And 1 in 5 bags has them
4. You Might Have To Find Lost And Found More Than Once
Police officer at an international airport here.
If you lose something, make sure you check ALL the lost and founds. At my airport, the police have their own that they maintain, but each air carrier and the TSA also do. Just because we don’t have it doesn’t mean it won’t be at the others.
3. Gummies Can Help You Get A Good Deal Or Just Be A Good Deed
If you bring some sort of shareable consumable for the flight crew to share it will go a long way. My go to is hasboro airplane gummies! Even if they don’t give you an upgrade to an exit row or give you back consumables from the cart you might just make their work day just a little better.
2. Don’t Let Them Know Who’s Looking At Flights
If you’re checking prices for flights do so using incognito mode. Or wait and use it when you decide to purchase tickets. Websites track what flights you’re looking at and will up the ticket prices accordingly.
1. The Conveyor Belts Can’t Tell How Much Your Luggage Cost
Do not waste your money buying expensive luggage. The baggage handlers toss around your precious Louis Vuitton just the same as the next person’s Samsonite luggage from the 1970’s. Just because you are sitting in first class does not mean they treat your luggage any better.