How to Find the Cheapest Airfares, Upgrade Them, and Make Air Travel Easy

Nicholas Kralev was a diplomacy reporter for the Washington Times for several years, and flew all over the world on the newspaper’s dime — but newspapers haven’t been the most thriving businesses over the past several years, so he had to make the most of a modest travel budget. And like many readers of this blog, he doesn’t like flying coach. So he learned the ins and outs of airfares, frequent flyer programs, upgrades, bonuses, and began to think strategically and methodically as he planned out his travels.

His travels also earned him a regular column in that newspaper, “On the Fly,” which was both a personal journal of his frequent flyer experiences, and a platform for offering advice to the public on how to make travel more comfortable — which frequent flyer programs were more generous than others, who offered the most generous upgrade schemes.

The column was also a soapbox of sorts. Last year I ran into Kralev at the Fresno airport, and we chatted during our flight to Los Angeles and then in the Red Carpet Club about a topic I had recently blogged — frequent flyer programs and Haitian disaster relief. I had argued that Hilton HHonors was being exceptionally ungenerous in their scheme to allow members to donate points to charity. It was far better to redeem points for a paid stay, and then give the money from that stay to charity, than it was to donate points. I argued that redeeming your points for donations was actually cheaper for the HHonors program in many cases than redeeming your points for a room. We actually shared the same flight back to Washington-Dulles and he popped by my seat in the business cabin (he had planned his trip in advance and was in the mini-cabin of United’s 777 business class, I planned mine last minute and was in the main cabin). The next day he contacted HHonors, and the attention he was giving the issue was enough to get them to match all member contributions to Haitian relief. He had gotten them to come out of pocket with a quarter million dollars for charity, just on the basis of writing the piece.

Kralev has left the Times and has been offering paid seminars at which he teaches techniques for getting the most out of travel for the least amount of money. And having been teaching these seminars for a year, he’s now written a book, Decoding Air Travel. I should disclose that about three months ago he sent me a draft, and I offered extensive comments. I wasn’t paid for my review, but he does generously include me in his acknowledgments.

The book is broken down into three sections: booking tickets, the trip itself, and making the most of frequent flyer programs.

In section one, across six chapters, Kralev offers the best introduction to airfare construction and searching out the best airfares that I’ve ever read.

Now, that’s not for everyone. Most consumers will be happy going to Kayak, Bing, or Hipmunk and booking the least expensive trip that matches their general flight preferences. But this book takes you completely through looking up the cheapest airfares, understanding the rules of the fare, and finding flights that (1) match those rules and (2) have inventory available at the lowest price. He explains concepts like same-day confirmed changes, standby, coach airfares that offer confirmed upgrades to first class, and married segments.

In walking you through how to use this information to book the best flights for you — whether that means the cheapest flights, the flights with upgrade availability, or the flights that will earn you the most miles — he gives great examples but I do take exception to his naming the technique “The Kralev Method” 🙂 I’m not sure he invented it, after all, even if he’s providing the clearest written explanation of it that I’ve seen.

In the second section, the book takes you through buying your tickets, making changes to your reservation at the lowest cost, handling irregular operations (weather, mechanical, and other delays and cancellations), and obtaining compensation from an airline for your inconveniences.

The final five chapters are all about using frequent flyer programs: choosing the right program for you, making the most of airline alliances, obtaining elite status (by flying and by other means) and the benefits of status, the ins and outs of upgrades both domestic and international, finding airline award seats — and because the book is by the guy who brought so much mainstream attention to the issue of United’s “starnet blocking” (programming their computers to tell customers that partner flights are unavailable even when those partner airlines are offering award seats, because United didn’t want to pay for those seats) there’s even a section on that practice. We have to keep reminding ourselves just how bad it got, up until a year ago, because United has not publicly commented on the practice in the past twelve months. Even though award blocking has been an issue only for a couple of weeks in the past year, we have to keep the pressure on the combined United-Continental so that it doesn’t return next year.

Ultimately, I did know everything in the book, but it was still a good read — summarizing the debates between Expert Flyer and the KVS Tool for searching flight availability, reminders not to take ‘direct’ or ‘codeshare’ flights without meaningful cost savings, making changes to your return only after flying the first outbound segment and using schedule changes to get fee-free changes. Lots of great reminders about things I already know.

The most advanced mileage runners probably don’t need this book. But the frequent flyer that’s looking to learn to get the lowest airfares and get the most for their money will likely find it money well-spent. It’s not cheap at $40, but he’s offered promo code V9S696JF for 25% off at this site.

It’s not the book I would have written (and who knows, someday may write). It’s largely about airfares and I’ve always found miles and points much more interesting. His chapter on frequent flyer miles is a very good contribution. It’s less comprehensive but written at a somewhat higher level than Randy Petersen and Tim Winship’s 2005 Mileage Pro which I much liked (and which could use an update). A book about true luxury travel at the cheapest prices, not just airline upgrades but hotel status and the very best point redemptions, going ‘all-in’ on monster deals, and an overall way of approaching travel to succeed where most fails remains to be written. I’m probably not a lucid enough writer to pull it off and still make it accessible. And this is a book that Kralev is eminently qualified to write, and that will be helpful to many.

When an airplane is going down, what does the cockpit or flight attendants tell the passengers?

By Dan Pepper– US Airways Flight 1549 successfully ditched in the Hudson River in New York City on January 15, 2009 with no fatalities. US Airways crash investigation gives an account of what was said in the passenger cabin:

For Darren Beck, Flight 1549 was supposed to be yet another mundane return flight back to his home in Charlotte. Beck, 37, a senior vice president of marketing forLendingTree, had finished up a few days of meetings with advertising partners. With his frequent-flier miles, he was upgraded to first class, where he was thumbing through a copy of Fast Company magazine.
The ascent was smooth and steady, he said, until the explosion on the left side of the plane. He looked out his window and saw trouble with an engine.
“I could see the fan blades were still turning, but they were obviously damaged,” he said. “It sounded like something was off balance in a washing machine — every time they turned around something went thump, thump, thump.”
The pilot made a left turn and Beck figured they were headed back to LaGuardia. He could only see out the side of the plane — not the front — and he had no idea that the Airbus A320 would soon land in the icy Hudson River.
His only clue came a few moments before impact.
“The two stewardesses, who were strapped in the front of the plane, started chanting in unison, ‘Keep your head down, brace for impact. Keep your head down, brace for impact.’ They kept repeating it over and over. I don’t know if they ever stopped.
“That made me a little more nervous. I could see out the window the water getting closer and closer — and I soon realized we were going in.”

By Nuralia Mazlan – Not me, but am only retelling the tale of my colleague who was once involved in some sort of crash when the back landing gear failed.

The captain briefed the crews before hand and give them time and expectations what could go wrong once he try to attempt the landing.

As this is prepared crash and they had about half an hour before ATC clear them to land (ATC was informed of the technical problems on board and have cleared a runway along with providing airport/medic aids standby just in case things escalated), the crews asked the passengers to take a moment to read the safety leaflet thoroughly. They instruct the passengers on how to do brace position, and what to do once the signal to evacuate is given. Everyone on board were dead silent and you can see fear in their eyes (the back landing gear has failed and the front landing gear catches fire before that).

That was the first time my friend were really scared for her life. As soon as the captain comes on PA and alerted the crews by saying “attention attendants at station”, the crews started shouting their brace command (brace,brace, heads down, heads down). As the aircraft goes through the impact (it skidded off the runway), you can hear passengers screaming and shouting out of fear.

Finally it comes to a complete stop, and the crews open the door in armed mode and slide were deployed. They were all safe but the aircraft’s belly (fuselage) were scraped badly. You can smell the burn smell in the aircraft. As this is a boeing 737-800 where the slide deployed manually (you have to really push the door out to inflate the slide when the girt bar is hooked, unlike airbus where when the door is open in armed mode, pneumatic power will assist in door opening) passengers were pushing the crews to open the door immediately.

Suffice to say it was chaotic.

By Amar Rama –

As a flight attendant, we are trained to let passengers know if we know there will be an emergency landing.
This is how what we would do if the airplane were to “crash”:
Depending on how much time we have, we will then prepare the cabin to minimize stuff flying around and possibly injuring people or blocking potential exits and then passengers on how they can best protect themselves and on how they will be evacuating (if life vests are needed we’ll have you put them on to prepare but instruct you not to inflate it until you are out of the aircraft.) We try to then seat passengers with their children if they are separated and personally go over safety instructions with special needs passengers or children traveling alone. We also let them know what to do in the event we become incapacitated and unable to assist in the evacuation. Then we find able bodied passengers and ask for their assistance in pulling passengers off the slide once we evacuate and or assisting us. Finally as we prepare to land, as we are sitting in our jumpseat we do a mental review of all safety procedures.
Once we make contact with the ground we will start shouting commands for passengers to brace and protect their heads. This will go on until we see every head is down. Then it depends on the situation and if there is a need to evacuate.
Should we evacuate we will assess the exit to deem if it’s safe to exit from that door (we don’t want to open a door if there’s a blazing fire right outside of it). Then we will begin shouting evacuation commands. We try to keep an eye on the doors and if one exit is too congested we’ll redirect passengers to another more open exit. Also we watch for people trying to take anything off with them and we can snatch it out of their hands because at this point I don’t care if they’re carrying gold bricks in their luggage, that slide is our only way out and if it pops for any reason we are s**t out of luck.
During training we are taught that we are in charge of the evacuation and to be assertive. This is pretty crucial since sometimes people will try to do what they think is best but will end up making the situation worse for themselves or others.
For example the water landing on the Hudson River. Flight attendants know which doors can or cannot be used during what type of evacuation depending on the aircraft. A passenger panicked and went to the rear of the aircraft and opened the emergency door. This is a door that has auto assist meaning once he pulled the handle the door automatically opens in the armed mode and there’s no way of closing it back up. The flight attendants tried to stop him and close the door but it was too late. Water is now gushing into the cabin filling the aircraft even more quickly.
We know for that aircraft you never open the rear door if the aircraft lands in water (landing on land is okay, but never water because that particular aircraft lands at a slight angle in water).
After the evacuation, we scan our area to make sure no one is left behind and then we exit.
I’ve never had a “crash landing” but I have experienced an emergency landing. We were already at a very low altitude when we were made aware of an issue. There wasn’t a lot of time because we were already close to landing. Once my crew and I were notified that one of our aircraft doors was indicating that it was open. We immediately started moving and telling passengers to move away from the door, thankfully they were all very quiet and cooperative. A lot of passengers seemed confused but no one was asking “what’s going on? Or seemed in a frenzy saving us all precious minutes. They all followed instructions and we were able to safely move everyone quickly away from the door with moments to spare. Thankfully after we landed the door remained closed. Firetrucks were following our plane as we taxied to a jetbridge.
I’m not sure about every airline, but at my airline we are instructed to tell you what we know unless time constraints prevents us from doing so since there’s really no point spending time explaining exactly what’s wrong with the aircraft and why we have to do an emergency landing when that time could be spent on preparing everyone on what they can do during the emergency.

10 Things Short People Do to Make Business Travel More Comfortable (Tall People Are Out of Luck)

10-things-short-people-do-to-make-business-travel-more-comfortable-tall-people-are-out-of-luckLife is generally easier if you’re taller–in perhaps every respect but one, which we’ll get to in a second. First, some of the advantages:

However, when you’re traveling for business, it’s better to be smaller. I asked hundreds of people of all different sizes for their take on this. Here’s what the more diminutive of them said they do to make air travel suck less.

1. Don’t sweat the legroom.

This is the obvious one, and since it doesn’t require you to do anything, let’s put it first.

If you’re shorter than average–under 5 feet 10 inches tall for men; under five feet four inches for women–lack of legroom in coach doesn’t bother you as much as bigger people. (It’s still not enough legroom, mind you–but it’s not as big a deal as for taller people.)

“I’m short, so most seats are fine for me,” said Jeremy Pepper, a public relations and integrated communications professional who stands 5-feet-5. “But the reality is, if the person ahead of me decides to recline … There’s really no room.”

2. Stand your ground.

A couple of physically smaller travelers said they resent the idea that bigger passengers sometimes feel entitled to push them around. Their advice? Do whatever you can to stand up for yourself.

“Occasionally you’ll get someone who wants to trade your aisle for a middle seat. no matter your size,” says Sajel Shah, a public relations manager based on San Francisco who said she stands about 5 feet 5 inches tall. “If you booked your seat for a reason … You can hold your ground.”

(Related: Several smaller people said they make it a practice to stake out the armrests as a silent protest if larger travelers try to physically intimidate them.)

3. Seize the overhead storage.

Among the bigger problems for smaller people: Manipulating your carry-on baggage into the overhead bin space. One trick is to grab space toward the front of the plan, before you reach your seat. That way you avoid having to squeeze against traffic to retrieve your bag when everyone is trying to get off at your destination.

“It’s harder to reach the overhead bin,” said one business traveler based in New York who said she stands exactly five feet tall, and asked that her name not be used. “Pack light so you can lift your bag!”

(Also, she added, she has the opposite legroom problem of taller passengers in coach: “Seats [are] uncomfortable because [I’m] unable to reach the floor!”)

4. Pack a small carry-on.

Attention entrepreneurs: This is a customer need I kept hearing about–being vertically challenged so to speak, and not able to reach the overhead compartment easily. Find a solution to that and you might have a huge hit.

“By far, my biggest complaint is getting my carry-on situated on the top storage compartment. It’s virtually impossible to get a bag up there and be able to reach it during a long flight,” said Francesca Montillo, owner and founder of Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures, who said she clocks in at 5-feet-2-inches.

“Inevitably, I’ll remember something I need during the flight. … It means getting either a flight attendant or having to jump on the seat, which is not always an option.”

5. Take the window seat.

Personally, I’m a window seat guy, mostly because I like to get settled and not have to get up for other people.

However, Jenny Olson, a 5-foot-3-inch public relations director, said she takes the window seat whenever possible because otherwise, “tall and large passengers often choose to sit next to me because I’m small and take up less room.”

This way, she says, “only one side of your body is exposed to a larger, legroom hog instead of being sandwiched between two.”

6. Wear big shoes.

This one only works for women, because if shorter guys ever get caught wearing lifts or heels or the like, they never hear the end of it.

But Lisa Goller, a self-described “petite content marketing strategist” who says she’s five-foot-one (but “5-feet-2 if I poof my hair”), is all about high heels.

“To avoid the need to stand on a seat (or a fellow passenger) while storing luggage overhead, wear your heaviest, tallest shoes on the airplane,” she suggests. “This trick helps us take up less space in our carry-on, gain a height advantage and feel almost statuesque.”

7. Gate check your bag.

This one is related to carrying a small carry-on, but instead the idea is simply to plan to gate check your bag.

“It is hard for me to reach the overhead racks, especially if the bag is heavy,” says 5-foot-2-inch Jane Tabachnick. “Planning on gate checking … reduces stress.”

8. Fight for equality.

This one would tick me off and give me a Napoleon complex, no doubt. Apparently there are some employers that set how much they’ll pay for travel by employees’ height. It’s sort of like a sign that reads, “you must be THIS TALL to ride in comfort…”

“I used to work for a company that allowed employees over 5 feet 10 inches to book business class, or at least economy plus,” said Corey Kronengold, who is 5 feet 5 inches tall and is the CMO for Smart Adserver. “Total bullshit. It isn’t just about legroom. Just because I’m shorter than 5’10” doesn’t mean I don’t want to work on my laptop.”

9. Be flexible (literally).

“My size makes travel WAY better for me,” said Courtney Osgood, head of PR and communications at Paint Nite. “I’m like a compact car. I can fit into small spaces.”

Her advice is to dress in a way that maximizes that advantage: “Wear sneakers or something with tread on the bottom. If you want to curl up, it’s always nice to have tread on the bottom of your shoe so that your foot doesn’t slip (especially when you’re sleeping!). Waking up because of a foot slip is the worst!”

10. Bring your own pillow.

This one would never have occurred to me, but several shorter travelers said the built-in headrests on airline seats are too high for them to be of use.

“Bring your own pillow or neck support for long business travel,” advised Dr. Kat Cohen, the CEO and Founder of IvyWise.


Most Advanced Way to Find the Cheapest Airline Tickets

Searching for availability using the ITA Matrix (the publicly available airfare search site from ITA Software, owned by Google) the fare appeared to be available only for Saturday departures:

However searching metasearch site Momondo I was coming up with the fare most days during the months it’s available (and for a bit less money).

This seemed like an odd result, but The Flight Deal offered that it seemed to be an ITA glitch. ITA does a great job searching published inventory and constructing fares, but it isn’t perfect. They noted if youspecified the specific fare you’re looking for ITA would come up with it on other dates. And so it is:

I knew from my earlier post what the fare basis was: KLNC14NS

Here’s the instructions I gave to ITA:

See, I told ITA to look for flights across a full month where that specific fare was available. ITA is great, what it’s doing in this case is automating something that used to be a hard manual process for frequent flyers.

It begins by searching fares. I like Expert Flyer for that.

Here’s the cheapest United fares between Chicago and London:

Once you find the fare you want, what you’d do is read the fare rules.

  • What range of dates is the fare available, e.g. January – March
  • Are there certain days of the week that you can fly, e.g. Tuesday/Wednesday only
  • How many days advance purchase is required?
  • Are there specific flights the fare is valid for, or specific flights that aren’t permitted?

Then take note of the fare basis. The first letter will usually designate the ‘inventory’ you’re looking for. This is a K fare, so you need flights where there are K seats available.

I pull up February 1 and find that all 3 United non-stops have K seats available. Therefore I should be able to use any of these flights towards an itinerary at this fare (since the fare is also available in February without day of week restrictions).

Now, this all can get more complicated especially with international itineraries that involve more than one airline, such as when you’re flying to a destination that the airline whose fare it is doesn’t serve. You get into questions of which airlines you can fly for those other segments, and which you cannot, and then have to look for their corresponding inventory also.

That’s one of the things that makes ITA so good, although you do sometimes have to feed it information rather than asking it to do the fully automated job that I sometimes fall into the trap of.

ITA doesn’t sell you the tickets you find, you have to book them yourself, but one convenient little shortcut is this site that helps you book what you find there.

Oh, I should point out another hiccup. Sometimes all of these sites don’t play nicely or give you the results you want. When I pulled up that list of fares, there was an even cheaper one — $119 base fare versus the $182 that gave me $597 tickets. Remember I was finding cheaper fares on travel booking sites through Momondo as well.

I specified that fare basis into ITA Matrix and the fare came up, $59.50 each direction. But the tickets were pricing higher, because of $518 fuel surcharges versus $200 fuel surcharges with the other discount fare.

So… it’s back to Momondo. And back to consult my dog-eared 5 year old copy of Nicholas Kralev’sDecoding Air Travel which explained all of this.



Dramatic moments show importance of wearing seat belts in flight

Passengers not wearing seat belts expose themselves and fellow passengers to severe injury

Pic: Alan Cross

June, 2013 – At around 11.00 am pilot announced passengers travelling in Singapore Airlines flight SQ308 to wear their seat belts. The aircraft hit an air pocket, lost altitude, injuring 11 passengers and one crew member.


January, 2016 – Four passengers and 3 attendants were taken to hospital after an American Airlines plane from Miami to Milan made an emergency landing in Newfoundland after the jet briefly encountered severe turbulence.

The seat belt light was on when the Boeing 767 encountered turbulence.


April, 2016 – Five crew members and one passenger were injured after Thai Airways Boeing 777 experienced severe turbulence on a flight from Jakarta to Bangkok.

The injured passenger is said to have banged his head on the roof of the plane after he was thrown into the air since he was not wearing his seatbelt, Thai news site Khaosod reported.


May, 2016 – Thirty-one passengers and crew were injured, nine seriously, after an Etihad Airways flight experienced ‘severe and unexpected turbulence’ on its journey to Indonesia.

These are proof that when flight attendants announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign,” is no joke.

These few incidents are a reminder that fastening your seatbelt on an aircraft is a good idea even when you are sleeping.

Turbulence is not generally dangerous to the aircraft itself, airplanes are engineered to endure these forces but inside the cabin there is a substantial risk of unsecured objects and people being thrown around.

Emirates 24|7 spoke to a pilot from a commercial airlines (he spoke requesting anonymity) and said, “When passengers do not wear seat belts they along with fellow passengers are exposed to severe injury.

“When an aircraft encounters turbulence, passengers may be flung from their seat, they may be lifted briefly out of their seat and then return abruptly back down, possibly on an armrest, a galley cart or another passenger.

“Despite seeing the seat belt sign, if a passenger is walking about, the potential for injury from falling or landing awkwardly on hard objects during a turbulence is even greater. Therefore, observing and obeying the fasten seat belt sign is a key safety precaution.”

Flight attendants always urge passengers to fasten belt even when the seat belt sign is turned off, so as to prepare for sudden rocking of the aircraft. If passengers are using a blanket, seat belts should be secured over the blanket.

Flight attendant Nuralia Mazlan, from JetBlue Airways says on on Quora that several passengers remove seat belt and get up even as the aircraft is taxing after landing, the plane may move again after stopping, it is necessary to remain seated until the seat belt sign is turned off.

Mazlan says, “Everyone boards a plane to go somewhere and ultimately get off the plane, but the seat belt sign is on for some reason. It’s for safety of passengers.”

Mazlan clarifies, “I know you’re eager to exit the aircraft- me too. But if I to have an injured passenger on board their health would be in jeopardy now because this other passenger refuses to obey the regulations and instead chooses to be selfish.

“What if the captain brakes suddenly while taxing down the runway? You’ll be thrown forward. This is not ideal for me either, as it’s close to midnight and I need to go home, too. Pease be seated and we can all be on our way once the captain says so.”

During take-off and landing passengers should fasten the seat belt securely and low, and make sure it is not loose to protect your body from shocks in an emergency.

In case of sudden turbulence

During flight, aircraft may encounter unexpected turbulence without any time to turn on the seatbelt sign. In this case, you should quickly support your body to prevent yourself from falling or being thrown off balance.

First, sit in the nearest empty seat and fasten the seatbelt. If there are no empty seats nearby, squat down and grasp a secure object.

If you are in the aisle, hold on to an armrest. If you are near or inside the lavatory, grasp the handle.

In the aisle

Squat down and remain low. Grasp the nearest seat or armrest. Hold the armrest from below to prevent your body from lurching upward.

Near the lavatory

Hold on to a handle near the lavatory.

Inside the lavatory

Remain low and hold on to the handle.

The Real Reason You Should Wear Your Seat Belt on Airplanes

As anyone who has flown on a plane in the last 15 years or so can attest to, flying can be stressful. Between intrusive TSA pat-downs, delays, and the fact that if you’re in a window or an aisle seat, it’s practically inevitable that someone will beg you to switch with him and take his middle seat, by mid-flight, many passengers are not in the best of moods. When the airplane jumps or dips slightly, and the captain turns on the “fasten seat belt” sign, how many people actually obey? And even when the light gets turned on, is a quick trip to the bathroom really dangerous?

We’ve all heard that flying is much safer than driving in a car, and while most of us would never think to get in a car without buckling up, flying seat belt-less seems much safer—after all, if a plane crashes, a seat belt most likely is not going to save you.

Why we wear seat belts on planes. 

In 2012, as part of a ploy to sell standing seats on Ryanair, a European budget airline, CEO Michael O’Leary tried to downplay the importance of seat belts. O’Leary told the Daily Telegraph that handles should be sufficient for passengers and that seat belts “don’t matter.”

Yet most pilots tell another story. A redditor who identified as a pilot wrote last month that injuries do happen when passengers and flight attendants are up walking around during periods of turbulence:

At my own airline we have not injured any passengers (that I know of), but we’ve had many Flight Attendants hurt by turbulence. We’ve had fractured or broken necks, backs, legs, and feet. The feet get broken when that 200+ lb beverage cart gets lifted off the floor and lands on the poor FA’s foot.

I spoke to another pilot who works for a major commercial airlines (he asked to remain anonymous due to corporate policy on speaking with the media). This pilot echoed the warning of the pilot on reddit.

“Not wearing a seat belt exposes a passenger (and his or her neighbors) to the risk that a turbulence encounter will lift them briefly out of their seat and then return them abruptly back down, possibly on an armrest, a galley cart or another passenger,” said this pilot via email. “If the passenger is up walking about, the potential for injury from falling or landing awkwardly on hard objects during a turbulence encounter is even greater. Therefore, observing and obeying the fasten seat belt sign is a key safety precaution.”

So how do pilots know when to turn on the “fasten seat belt” sign?

“I try to keep the fasten seat belt sign off when we are assured of smooth air and on during periods of turbulence or turbulence risk so that there is ‘credibility’ to the sign,” the pilot said. “Unfortunately, due to the transitory nature of turbulence and the fact that it can be encountered suddenly and sometimes unexpectedly, the fasten seat belt sign often needs to stay on during periods that may appear to be smooth to passengers. This may desensitize passengers to the fasten seat belt sign and cause some passengers to be very casual about complying with the sign. One thing we highly recommend is that any time passengers are seated, they should keep their seat belt on even if the fasten seat belt sign is off.“

How pilots detect turbulence. 

According to the pilot I spoke with, pilots have many tools that enable them to detect and avoid turbulence.

“First of all, the dispatchers who prepare our flight plans consult with our meteorology department and plan our flight paths along routes and at altitudes designed to avoid or minimize exposure to turbulence,” this pilot said.

“The flight plan includes remarks from the dispatcher alerting us to areas of known or forecast turbulence. During our preflight duties, pilots have a number of maps provided by our meteorology department that show various types of weather issues such as thunderstorms, frontal activity, winds aloft and areas of turbulence. We review these maps and use them to plan changes to routing and altitude if we do encounter turbulence along our flight. We also use this information to brief our flight attendants about when and where we may expect turbulence, so that they can adjust their service activities and be prepared.”

In other words, you know that Diet Coke you decide you need so badly that you summon a flight attendant even when the fasten seat belt light is on? Maybe not such a good idea. More planning goes into the timing of your in-flight service than you might have previously imagined.

Once the plane is in flight, pilots use weather radar systems to analyze areas of moisture for turbulence.

“So turbulence associated with thunderstorms is usually easy to avoid as we can detect the thunderstorm cells on radar and steer around them,” said this pilot. “The technology is constantly advancing too, and soon we are hoping to have on-board radar which will have the ability to detect clear air turbulence. Finally, one of our best sources of information about turbulence are reports relayed by air traffic controllers from other pilots flying ahead of our flight.”

The stats on flying seat belt-less. 

I asked this pilot if he knew of injuries due to turbulence on flights, especially, as the reddit pilot noted, among flight attendants.

“Turbulence of some sort or another is common on flights, but thankfully the stronger versions of turbulence and injuries resulting from it are not nearly as common,” this pilot wrote. “I have been flying for a major airline for more than 20 years, and I can’t remember any flight I have been on where passengers were injured and only a few where crew members suffered any injuries from turbulence. The injuries were usually to flight attendants, who tend to be up and about more and were usually minor in nature like twisted or sprained ankles or bruises from hitting galley counters or carts.”

According to a 2013 article from Business Insider, the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs at the Federal Aviation Administration repeated that around 58 passengers are injured annually in the United States due to not wearing seat belts when planes hit turbulence.

As for the stressfulness of traveling, this pilot said, “Air travel has become more complicated for our passengers, especially since September 11, and they have to deal with a lot of hassles just getting to the plane. So I like to think that once they get on board we should try to make the airplane be a bit of a sanctuary where at least for that portion of their travel experience they can relax and be somewhat hassle-free.”

Airline Funny & Stupid Customer Stories – Not Always Right

airline-funny-stupid-customer-stories-not-always-right(As an airline employee, you are eligible for staff travel. The airline I work for has the rule that you can only travel if there is a seat available at the gate. We are in Spain, and we already know that the flight is pretty full. We also know that the aircraft is a Boeing 747, and on such a short flight (a little over two hours) there is the minimum required crew on board, so there are multiple jump seats (flight attendant seats) empty. The colleagues decide to take us home on a jump seat. We are moved to different jump seats during the flight, because we are in the way in the pantry and in the aisles during the dinner and beverage service. The passengers see us walking through the aisle with our belongings several times.)

Passenger: “Hey… what is going on? Are they moving you again?”

Me: *joking* “Yeah, they have just found out they don’t have a seat for us after all, so they are now taking us to the back to give us a parachute…”

Passenger: *shocked* “Oh, my God! Are you serious? That is terrible!”

(We sit down in the back pantry and have a good laugh with the colleagues.)

Me: “Did she think I was serious? If so, she is pretty gullible!”

(After landing, we see the concerned passenger at baggage reclaim. She comes up to me, all cheerful and happy.)

Passenger: “Oh, how wonderful! You made it to Amsterdam! They let you stay on board after all!”

(I work as a supervisor taking calls. In my center, I have the highest authority on the phones. My name is common in Spain, Greece, and India.)

Coworker: “I don’t know what this customer wants. She requested a supervisor, got me, and said I wasn’t good enough to handle the problem.”

Me: “Okay, send her through.” *transfers* “Hello, ma’am. My name is [My Name]. I’m the supervisor on duty, and would like to know how I can help.”

Customer: “I want to talk to your supervisor.”

Me: “I apologize. I’m unable to transfer you to anyone else. I am the top tier of support. How may I help you?”

Customer: “I don’t want to talk to you. I want to talk to someone in the United States.”

Me: “We only have call centers in the continental US. I’m located in Texas, and am waiting to know how I can assist with what you were calling about.”

Customer: “Don’t lie to me. I am from India. You sound like me. You’re from India and the law says if I ask to speak with someone in the US that you have to transfer me.”

Me: “Ma’am, I have never heard of such a law. I’m physically unable to transfer you to anyone else, and have been patiently waiting to know how to assist you. Please let me help you with the reason you called, or I will have to end this call.”

Customer: “Transfer me to who I was speaking with before.”

Me: “Ma’am, as I said before, I can not transfer you anywhere else. Now, either tell me what I can do to help, or you can call back if you no longer wish to speak with me, as I can’t transfer you. Fair warning, though. We currently have a 30 minute hold time.”

Customer: “I would like to know what time I leave tomorrow.”

Me: “You depart at 0430, and land at 0625. What is your next request?”

Customer: “That was all.” *click*

(Exhausted with dealing with the caller, I look over to the only other person who has the same level of authority that I do.)

Colleague: “Aren’t you the one who everyone always confuses with the recorded message because you have such a generic sounding accent?”

(My husband and I are flying on a late Friday evening flight on a major air carrier and have just pushed back from the gate when the plane stops. We sit for less than five minutes when the pilot comes on the intercom and announces that we would be delayed slightly.)

Pilot: “I thought I saw something odd with one of our engines as we started to pull out. It’s probably nothing, but we want to check it to make sure. It will be just a few minutes, folks.”

(At this point, the passenger behind us, who is dressed in a business suit, starts making comments.)

Passenger: “I hate this f****** airline! I’ve been late twice in the past few months, and they can’t ever get their act together. Now we’re going to be late again. They need to get this f****** show on the road!”

(Less than ten minutes go by, with the passenger behind us swearing and commenting loudly and rudely to the man next to him, as well as calling a couple of people on his cell phone and roundly abusing the airline in very foul-mouthed language. Then the pilot comes on the com again.)

Pilot: “Folks, we’re spraying gas from our number two engine, and I’ve called the mechanic to come look at it and see if it’s serious, or is something that can be fixed. I’m afraid there will be about a half hour delay while we determine what’s going on with the engine.”

(At this point, the obnoxious passenger behind us calls one of the flight attendants over and starts ranting.)

Passenger: “Your f****** airline is such a piece of s***! I’ve been working hard for two days and I need to get home to my wife, and now this f****** flight is delayed! My time is valuable, you know!”

Attendant: “I’m very sorry, sir. We prefer to be safe, and hopefully it will be something that is easy to fix.”

Passenger: “Yeah, always excuses! You people are such a bunch of f***-ups. My wife is going to be livid when she finds out we’re delayed! Get that f****** mechanic out there now, and get this plane moving! That f****** pilot is making me late! I’ve got places to be!”

Attendant: “Everyone on this plane has somewhere to be, sir. I daresay that the pilot would like nothing better than to be done with this flight and getting to bed. I and the rest of the crew would like to be getting through with this flight and going off to bed, as well. I’m going to be late going home to my own family.”

Passenger: “I’m an important businessman, and I need to get home! Your screw-up is what’s the problem, and I’m going to file a complaint against this f****** airline! Who cares about you, anyway? You’re just a bunch of pathetic losers who work for a f***-up airline. I’m never going to fly with your f****** airline again, because I won’t get in until after midnight at this rate! Thanks for screwing up the start of my weekend, a**hole! You can take your f****** airline and shove it!”

(My husband, at this point, has had enough, and stands up to glower down at the obnoxious businessman. I’ve rarely seen him angry, but when he finally reaches that point, he can be intimidating.)

Husband: “Look, this airplane has a mechanical problem, and the crew are doing everything they can to resolve it. Stop acting like an a-hole to the attendant, because he’s in the same boat we all are. And I’m SICK of listening to you whine and swear about how you’re going to be late. Fine, we’re all going to be late. I would rather be late landing in our destination than end up DEAD wherever we land when the PLANE FALLS OUT OF THE SKY when the ENGINE SELF-DESTRUCTS! GOT IT? Good!”

(The attendant smiled and a couple other passengers flashed a thumbs-up at my husband. The obnoxious passenger got very quiet from there on out. The engine turned out to have a serious problem. We exited the plane shortly after the mechanic took a look at the engine, and the airline found us another aircraft. We were several hours late, but we didn’t hear from the obnoxious guy again, because my husband was right. Better to arrive in the middle of the night than not arrive at all!)


How To Avoid Sneaky Airline Scams

ave you ever been a victim of sneaky airline scams? A lot of us learn the hard way that airlines aren’t always to be trusted! There’s a few tricks they play to squeeze out some extra pennies from their customers, and after booking countless flights, I’m very familiar with them all 😏 From unnecessary add-ons, sneaky increased prices, and online scams, this list will keep you up-to-date on all the airline scams out there, as well as protect your money (and sanity) next time you book a flight!

Online Booking Fees

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Booking sites like Expedia are great for racking up member points and getting exclusive deals, but when it comes to booking flights, their fees can really add up. The majority of the money you spend booking a flight goes to the airline, so in order to make a profit, these booking sites up-sell tickets, and may even add an extra fee for using their site to book it with.

To avoid these added costs, use a booking site like Skyscanner instead, which allows you to book directly with the airline or with the cheapest booking site available, minus the crazy fees. In the photo above, you’ll see the difference between Skyscanner vs. Expedia and how much money you could potentially save on your next flight.

Unnecessary Add-Ons

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This airline trick is super sneaky!! In order to make an extra dime, airline companies may sell add-ons like seat preferences and checked luggage costs, when in person at the airport, they come completely free-of-charge!

For example, in Asia, I was spending an extra $20 on checked luggage and an extra $10 on seat selection when booking online for every flight. I luckily forgot to purchase these one time and discovered it was completely free to check bags and choose your seat directly at the airport!

Fake Ticket Scams

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I’ve been lucky enough to never purchase a fake ticket online, but airlines report that they encounter fake tickets every week (sometimes every day!). There’s no sympathy if this happens either- you’ll be stuck in the airport having to buy another full-priced ticket!

In order to avoid these scams, never buy tickets off of sites like Craigslist and if going through a lesser-known booking site, make sure to read the reviews online before going through with the final transaction.

Increased Flight Prices on Recent Searches

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Yet another sly airline operation! I’m not even exactly sure how they pull this one off. Basically, booking sites will note the flights most frequently searched in your online history, and then increase the prices on their site accordingly. The idea is that you’ll most likely need to purchase a flight on the date you continually look up, and will be forced to buy one, regardless of the increased price. This means, the more you search a flight, the more likely the prices will raise!

Once i had to pay $100 more than my boyfriend on the same exact flight because of my recent searches, so always remember to clear your cache before booking a previously-searched flight!

These 10 Countries Have The World’s Coolest Passports Ever

We don’t know whether the idea of a world without boundaries will ever come true but as long as we’re separated by borders, passports are going to stay important. So, while issuing passports to its citizens, a few governments across the world decided to get creative. And it’s no exaggeration to say that their new passports are an impressive piece of art, apart from being the most important travel document.

While the designs are a part of the security measures to prevent the passport from being forged or faked, they indeed make it look beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. Here are 10 of the coolest passports that will definitely make you feel envious if you don’t hold one.

1. Finland

The Finnish government’s idea to make the passport secure is uniquely interesting. Their passport pretty much doubles up as a flip-book, which shows a walking moose if you quickly turn the pages.


2. Norway

The Norwegian passport is a piece of excellent artwork depicting the country’s natural landscapes in pastel shades. The pages, when exposed to ultraviolet light, show the magnificent view of the northern lights in the night sky. The northern lights are the bright dancing lights caused by collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. And Norway is one of the best places to see this phenomena.



3. Australia

The travel document of the Australian government features the world’s first colour floating image. When you tilt the document, you can see 10 holographic-styled kangaroos, appearing to float or sink. The passport pages also depict the natural beauty of the country and its major attractions.



4. Canada

The Canadian passport is also one of the coolest travel documents, which represent each of the country’s important features including the Niagara falls, the Bluenose, and the Parliament building. The artwork, when seen under black light, gets illuminated, making everything look like a festival.



5. China

Shifting from the standard passport design, the Chinese government re-worked on its travel document, and featured the popular Chinese icons such as the Great Wall Of China, which brightens up when seen under ultraviolet rays. Sheer beauty!

6. Indonesia

The Indonesian passport is also a creative genius with every unique feature and tourist attraction of the country being displayed on it. Some of the designs featured in it include Komodo-the largest lizard on earth, Rafflesia-the largest flower on earth, and Badak Jawa- a single-horned rhino.

7. Philippines

Upgrading its security features and adding a little beauty to their travel document, the Philippines government has rolled out a new design which carries beautiful drawings of popular national landmarks, including the wings of Philippine Cockatoo in national colors, metro Manila skyline, the Mayon volcano of Bicol, and the Ifugao rice terraces of the Cordillera region.

8. Austria

The Austrian passport features the coat of arms, a unique heraldic design consisting of shield, supporters, crest, and motto, which is unique to each of its province.


9. New Zealand

The passport of New Zealand is based on the concept of navigation and evolution of the country from a place of discovery to a destination. The artwork on the pages inside depict navigation tools used by explorers of New Zealand throughout the ages.



10. United Kingdom

Britain keeps updating the security features of its passport and launches a new design every five years. The beautiful designs on the inner pages represent the national landmarks such as Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Titanic Belfast, and Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.



Government of India, are you listening?