By Scott Mayerowitz - As part of our lifestyles content, our airlines reporter offers these tips for the millions of people braving the friendly skies this month.
Editor’s note: These tips were adapted from an article included in our lifestyles coverage, which invites audiences to celebrate family and friends with food recipes, travel destinations and more.
- Have the airline “protect” you on the next flight out. Simply call the airline, which will look up your flight. If it’s at risk of cancellation because of mechanical issues, the airline will confirm you on a new flight.
- Get in line to speak to a customer service representative while calling the airline directly. If phone lines are jammed, try the airline’s overseas numbers. You’ll pay long-distance rates, but might not have to wait. Finally, consider sending a tweet to the airline on Twitter.
- Consider buying a one-day pass to the airline lounge. For one thing, there are usually free drinks and light snacks. But the real secret to the lounges is that the airline staffs them with some of its best and friendliest ticket agents. The lines are shorter and these agents are magically able to find empty seats.
- Weigh it at home first. Anything over 50 pounds (40 pounds on some airlines like Spirit) will generate a hefty overweight surcharge, in addition to the checked bag fee.
- Place a copy of your flight itinerary inside your suitcase with your cell phone number and the name of your hotel in case the tag is ripped off.
- Prepare your carry-on bag as if it will be checked. You might not have planned to check your bag, but given today’s crowded overhead bins, many fliers don’t have a choice. Pack a small canvas bag inside your carry-on so if you are forced to check it, you can at least keep your valuables with you.
- Set up alerts for seat openings. ExpertFlyer.com offers free notifications for when a window or aisle seat becomes vacant. The service is available for Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines and Virgin America but not for Delta Air Lines and some smaller carriers.
- Check the airline’s website five days before the trip. That’s when some elite fliers are upgraded to first class, freeing up their coach seats. Another wave of upgrades occurs every 24 to 48 hours.
- Check in 24 hours in advance, when airlines start releasing more seats.
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Scott MayerowitzScott is an airlines writer for The Associated Press based in New York, covering everything from lost luggage to airline bankruptcies, with a little travel advice in between.