Category Archives: Airports

10 mistakes you’re making at the airport

By Deb Hopewell

From the baggage drop to the security line to the boarding gate, just getting through the airport these days can throw pitfalls at you that you never saw coming. Even if you sail through the lines, there are other things you can do to make the wisest use of your time — and money — at the airport. Here are 10 typical airport mistakes you may be making, as well as my expert tips on making it out of the airport, and onto your plane, with as little hassle as possible.

1. Not downloading your airline/airport app

Using your carrier’s app is important not just at the airport, but before you get there, too. Most carriers have apps you can download on your smartphone that will alert you if your flight is delayed or canceled, even before you leave for the airport. Once there, the information on the app is often more up-to-date than the arrival/departure screens in the terminal. More and more airports have developed apps that help travelers navigate the terminals with maps, lists of services, etc. One particularly useful app is GateGuru, which covers more than 200 airports and, among other features, allows users to rate shops and restaurants as well as offer insider tips — a Yelp for airports.

2. Not checking in online

I was flabbergasted recently at the line snaking up to the ticket counter — just to check in. (And there were even check-in kiosks!) Unless you have some kind of problem that can’t be resolved ahead of time, there’s no good reason for not checking in online. Just have the ticket sent to your phone (via text or email link), and if you don’t have any luggage to check, you can skip the counter and head straight to the security line. (If you have luggage you’ll need to drop it off, but if you’ve checked in beforehand, this goes quickly.) Also, some airlines only let you choose a seat when you check in; if you’re flying one of these, you’ll want to check in and choose your seat as soon as possible within the check-in time (usually 24 hours).

 3. Not having TSA PreCheck

If you fly more than just a few times a year, you’ll want to apply for TSA PreCheck. It’s very rare that the PreCheck lines are anywhere as long as the regular lines.  And because you don’t remove your shoes, laptop and liquids, the lines move much quicker AND you’re not likely to leave something behind in the bin as you scramble to get things back into your carryon. You’ll need to fill out the application and pay a $85 non-refundable fee, then schedule an appointment at one of the more than 380 enrollment centers. That may sound like a lot of work (not to mention the money), but it’s good for five years and worth its price in saved time and aggravation.

4. Not bringing food with you

It’s no secret that airport food, whether from a grab-and-go vendor or a sit-down restaurant, comes with a hefty price tag — and the only value-add is convenience, usually not quality. And that’s not the only reason to pack a snack in your carry-on luggage: If you get held up in the TSA line and get squeezed for time, a sandwich, chips, cookies and fruit in your carry-on can save the day. Most food is allowed, except for liquids like salad dressings, soups, yogurt, etc. If in doubt, check the TSA’s website for prohibited food items.

5. Wearing the wrong clothing

I don’t just dress for comfort on the plane, I strategically dress to get through the line faster too. Even if you have TSA PreCheck, there will be times when those lines are closed and you end up in the regular lines, unpacking your laptop, taking off your shoes and belt, and digging out the liquids. It pays to play it safe if at all possible. That means eliminating anything that could set off alarms when going through the body scanner, like chunky jewelry or a belt. Keep your footwear simple, too, with shoes that are quick and easy to get on and off (and don’t forget socks!).

6. Not taking advantage of courtesy checked bag at the gate

If you’re a travel warrior who never checks a bag, this isn’t for you. But if you have to check a bag (i.e. you’ll need to go to baggage claim anyway), you can often check your carry-on at the gate for no extra charge. I’ve run across this numerous times, especially on domestic flights that are full and when overhead space is at a premium.  Usually the gate agent will make an announcement asking for volunteers to check their carry-ons, but I’ve asked and been given the OK. I just make sure the things I need on the plane can fit in a bag under my seat, and I have one less bag to carry around — particularly helpful if you have a connecting flight and don’t want to lug it around the airport.

7. Not playing nice

It’s not a matter of if, only when: You’re going to need someone’s help. It could be a problem of your own making, or the airline’s, or a force majeure, but it almost never pays to be angry, indignant or whiny. Patience and a smile go a long way when it comes to increasingly harried gate and flight attendants, TSA agents and even your fellow travelers. I’ve seen overweight bags given a pass (no punitive fee), seats changed and special favors accommodated clearly because someone asked nicely. And even if you don’t end up getting what you want (or need), you know you went about it the best way possible.

8. Not buying a pass to the airport lounge

If you’re not an elite flyer, or aren’t enrolled in a credit card that offers this perk, the world of airport lounges can seem like a pricey, exotic indulgence. But there are occasions — most notably if you have a long international layover — that it’s worth buying a day pass to your carrier’s airport lounge. Not long ago I had a seven-hour layover in San Salvador, and I happily coughed up the $25 fee just to have a quiet place to rest. It also included free Wi-Fi, surprisingly good food and a generous array of beverages, including liquor. Most U.S. airlines charge $50-$60 for a day pass, which is a good chunk of change. But not paying food and drinks offsets a good part of that.

9. Sending personal information over the airport Wi-Fi

Thankfully, more airports are acknowledging that free Wi-Fi isn’t just a convenience for travelers, it’s a necessity. And that’s a good thing! But never forget that “free” doesn’t mean “safe”: Public Wi-Fi networks aren’t secure, so whatever you do, don’t type in personal information — passwords, IDs, etc. — or you could return from your trip only to find your Facebook has been hacked and your bank account drained.

10. Not marking your luggage

You’ve been there, done that, and now you’re almost home. All that’s left is to grab your luggage from baggage claim. And one by one here they come, an endless stream of suitcases that look more or less the same. Save yourself the hassle of looking at each bag as is it goes by marking yours with a brightly colored tag (mine’s bright orange). Not only will it have your contact info  — gasp — your luggage go missing, but if all goes as planned you’ll be able to spot yours in a quick second and on your way you’ll go.

You Should Never Post Online or Throw Away Your Airport Boarding Pass. Here’s Why

uring our flight, we need to take good care of our passports and boarding pass as these are among the most important things that we will need upon boarding. And while we consider a boarding pass an important component of our sojourn, we treat this piece of paper differently. Some people are so excited about the travel that they take pictures of their boarding pass and post in online. There are also some people who throw the boarding pass away while others leave it on their seats.

A boarding pass is just a piece of card that contains the name of the passenger, flight number, destination, seat number, and gate number so after the flight, most people think that throwing it anywhere, misplacing it, or even taking pictures of it is harmless.

But did you know that a boarding pass must be taken care of even after boarding? Winston Krone, a forensic expert, explained that a boarding pass has a bar code that contains the passenger’s personal information such as the name, home address, email address, and contact number. As such, a hacker can easily gain access to your personal information as well as financial details.

You might be wondering how your personal information can be seen in a boarding pass. This is how it happens. Once the bar code in the boarding pass is placed in a bar code reader, all the passenger’s information contained in that bar code is revealed; and this precious information is can be used by hackers or thieves.

Make sure that you keep your boarding pass safe before, during, and after the flight, and that you tear it down to pieces before throwing it away so nobody can gain access to the bar code.

It’s also safer not to take pictures and post online photos of your boarding pass. With the advanced technology that we have today, you can never be too sure. Who knows, your personal information may be acquired with a few swipes and a few clicks. For more detailed information, please watch the video.

Watch the following videos:

Annoying Mistakes People Make at the Airport

it’s no secret that air travel has lost some of its glamour over the years. We might be able to attribute these changes to increased security procedures, more people traveling, or simply lack of common sense, but one thing is certain: people seem to do the darnedest things when they step into an airport. Study this list and don’t get caught being one of these travelers.

1. Oops, my passport is about to expire.
Traveling abroad comes with a few additional considerations to remember. Almost all countries require that there be at least six months of remaining validity on the passport, and some (like South Africa) tack on stipulations that there need to be at least two consecutive blank pages. Airlines also have to verify information before boarding for countries that require visas. Many a passenger has been left stranded and crying at the gate because they overlooked these rules. Airlines are held accountable and fined heavily if they let a passenger travel without proper documentation, so save your sob stories—they will not sway even the kindest of gate agents.

2. Losing track of time
It’s easy to be distracted by dazzling duty-free shopping, the lengthy bar menu, or airline lounges with comfy seats and buffet spreads. But don’t forget that when traveling across time zones, you need to be sure to keep track of local time (your watch may not always be right). Keep in mind that airlines close the door 15-20 minutes before the actual departure time to properly prepare the needed paperwork and weight and balance information. Gate agents do have a term for late-arriving passengers from connecting flights—”runners”—and they watch for them when the clock starts ticking. It’s never fun to be that last sweaty person to board after running through the terminal.

3. Not planning for baggage fees
Unless you are flying Southwest Airlines or are headed abroad, chances are you will have to pay for checked luggage. Despite this surcharge being around for more than a decade, many travelers still arrive dazed and confused when asked to pay for a bag. Study your airline’s baggage policy (not all are created equally), and beware weight and size limitations. There are ways around the extra fees: get a credit card that offers free checked bags or earn status with a frequent flier program. Often, free bags are extended to those traveling with an elite member, too. Of course, you can always fly first class, but even then, some airlines have adjusted checked bag policies (American recently reduced the checked bag limits from three to two for most first-class passengers).

Handle lost luggage like a pro. +

4. Thinking that an airline will never lose your luggage
Let’s hope it doesn’t happen—but there’s always a chance it will, and if it does, you will be glad you planned ahead. Place your phone number and address inside the bag for an airline to easily contact you. Also, place a colorful ribbon or identifiable tag on your bag to prevent it from being mistakenly snatched by someone else in a hurry. I have seen several passengers rush back to the gate embarrassed after grabbing the wrong bag. Carry a change of clothing in hand baggage, and always keep valuables and needed medication with you.

5. Thinking TSA Pre-Check is always faster
Pre-Check is one of the best things to happen to frequent travelers recently. But, experienced fliers are used to seeing novices using the line (mostly because of managed inclusion programs that randomly send passengers to the expedited line). You don’t need to remove shoes and electronics if in the expedited line (yet some people still do). And for heaven’s sake, sign up for Pre-Check so you, too, can usually have faster screening.

6. Being in your own little world
We’ve all seen them: travelers aimlessly walking through the airport with headphones on or texting with heads down. You are not the only person in the airport, so be courteous to those around you; it’s not possible to hear a beeping airport cart or someone trying to pass by with headphones on at full blast. Your fellow travelers will also thank you for not standing in the middle of the moving walkway or escalator when people are trying to pass. Don’t be that guy!

7. Rushing—even if you’re in a rush
You’re standing there, barefoot, with your belt off and personal toiletries exposed. But, don’t let security people or other passengers make you feel rushed. It’s so easy to forget something in the mad dash, like say a laptop or wallet. Tape a business card to electronic devices as a backup. I once left my laptop at security because a screening agent was barking at people to move along. When I realized my mistake later, TSA would not return it until I gave specific details of what was on my computer. It’s a good thing I had plenty of time.

8. Not booking a connecting flights on the same ticket
Savvy travelers can sometimes skirt higher fares by buying two separate tickets between cities or connecting from one airline to another. While it’s a great idea in theory, it can lead to mishap if checking bags or not allowing enough time to change planes. If you’re not traveling on the same itinerary throughout your trip, airlines are not liable for missed connections or delayed travel. And don’t forget: sometimes you have to clear security a second time between flights.

Don't let the line get you down. +

9. Wasting time in line
These days, airline social media teams are an excellent resource when it comes to travel interruptions. Connect with them online while waiting in line or calling the 1-800 number. You are likely to get a faster solution and friendlier service than the exhausted airline employee dealing with grumpy fliers at the airport. If you have access to an airline lounge, don’t forget agents can assist you there, and lines are much shorter. It may even be worth paying for a day pass for expedited service and a cocktail or two while you wait.

10. Not checking and double checking
A hard and fast rule I have learned over the years is to double check everything. Just because the gate agent said your connecting gate is B6 does not mean it has not changed. Just because an airline ticket agent says the flight is full and no room to standby, does not mean that other passengers might be late, opening up seats. Just because someone says you cannot get a free hotel room due to an overnight flight delay does not mean that said person was misinformed or unclear on the rules. Never pester and always be polite, but just because someone says something is so, does not always mean it is so. At airports, it seems people are more eager to tell you something to move you along rather than to genuinely be right.