Thursday, July 14, 2011

My 7 Tips for Making Airline Travel an Adventure

I stopped by A Moose Walked Into a Bar yesterday--the fun blog of Barbara Silkstone, L.C. Evans and Karen Cantwell--and they invited me to post. I decided to share some travel tips that I've developed over the past ten years while working for an airline. These tips went over so well, that (as a public service) I'm reposting them here.

Warning: These tips aren't for everyone. Follow my suggestions only if you want to elevate your next airline experience and make it an adventure.

Please feel free to contribute your own in the comments.

                  Seven Tips for Making Airline Travel an Adventure

            I live in a small tourist town, and I work for an airline. Durango, Colorado, is a popular destination, and people from all over the world come through our small airport. But travelling in the Rocky Mountains isn’t easy; things frequently go wrong—blizzards in the winter, summer thunderstorms, the plane hits a coyote on the runway—events like these are common. In many ways, it’s still the Wild West out here. Plus, Durango is hundreds of miles from any city, and, when things go wrong, there aren’t a lot of options. So travelling can be a challenge.  

            Plenty of articles have been written about how to make traveling easier: arrive before your flight leaves, know where you’re going, pack liquids separately, and travel light. But some people want more out of travel. Some people want a challenge. With insights accumulated over ten years as an airline industry insider, I have developed a list of travel tips guaranteed to elevate your airline experience into a challenging adventure.

1)  Arrival: Get to the airport as close to flight time as possible. This may enable you to miss your flight altogether, which immediately intensifies the travel experience. If you’re unlucky, the airline will book you on the next flight—kind of an easy fix. Or they may charge you additional money to fly standby. Days of sold-out flights provide the ultimate adventure, allowing you to be stranded for longer lengths of time.

2) Entertainment: If you are lucky enough to miss your flight, because you arrived too late, be sure to blame the ticket counter agent. Causing a scene not only entertains fellow passengers and airline personnel, it will ensure prompt service. When you yell, or even curse, the agent will be motivated to get you to your destination as quickly as possible—preferably in a middle seat between a fat guy and a screaming child. Or you might even get a tour to the local jail.

3) Checking baggage: Make sure your bag weighs over 50 pounds. This will give you the option to pay an exorbitant fee or experience the joys of repacking your luggage in front of everyone. Repacking is especially fun if you’re carrying personal toys. For added excitement, make sure your toys go off in security; that buzzing sound is sure to cause an alarm—a “code pink” in industry parlance. 

4) Free Accommodations: If you’re carrying a firearm, don’t declare it. Attempt to take your (preferably loaded) weapon with you through security. This will win you free accommodation and three squares per day—plus your own personal, uniformed, driver. 

5) Fun with the TSA: Going through security is an opportunity for fun and games. Here are some real-life examples: If you haven’t made it through security, and you’re about to miss your flight, remove your shoe—spike heels are recommended—and hurl it at the TSA agent. And, if an agent asks you to remove your jacket, lift up your shirt as you go through the screening, and show everyone your brassiere. This is highly recommended for women over fifty. Where else can you get this kind of thrill without being thrown out or arrested?

6) Express Yourself: What should you do if you checked in on time, you have your boarding pass, but you still miss the flight? Okay, you were in the bar, but is that your fault? Of course not! Flying can be stressful. Relax. This is a good time to let it all hang out. Let go and enjoy yourself. Maybe it’s the last flight of the day and you can’t get to your intended destination. Take a tip from a traveler I met: fall down on the floor in the middle of the terminal and kick your arms and legs like a three-year-old. Make a lot of noise. Get in touch with your inner child. Expressing your emotions will make you feel much better. People pay a lot of money for this kind of therapy.  

7) Delays and Cancelled Flights: Things go wrong. Weather, mechanicals, the crew gets sick. At least that’s what the airline employees tell you. But, of course, they’re liars. They enjoy making your life difficult—and that’s what you want. Isn’t it? A challenge? So when things go wrong, demand more. Yell. Be insulting—those dummies can take it. They’re getting paid big-bucks (less than McDonald’s, true, but plenty), so make those agents earn their money. For the best results, stride up to the counter, look down your nose and shout: “Do you know who I am?” Use your most intimidating voice and stance. Then wait for the results. Don’t be surprised if the agent picks up the intercom and says, “Does anyone recognize this person? He seems to have amnesia.” It’s all in good fun.

I hope these tips help you to get more out of your summer travel. They have been tested by many passengers and the results are tried-and-true. Remember: travel is an adventure.

If you’re passing through the airport in Durango, Colorado, be sure to say hi. But remember, you could end up in one of my books. Several of the stories in my new collection, Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales, were inspired by my job. Check it out—just .99 cents in all eformats.        

Airport Road, Durango



Ruth Harris said...

Fun post. I would add that going through the airport in Athens in the 80's and 90's was always a thrill. There would inevitably be screaming battles between passengers and counter agents and I once saw a passenger hurl his large suitcase over the counter at the unfortunate agent.

I would always turn to DH at some point and remind him: "Don't forget, chaos is a Greek word."

Suzanne Tyrpak said...

LOL. Love that about Chaos. A passenger threw his bike across the terminal in Durango--luckily he didn't hit an agent or another passenger.

Airports are great for people watching.

I once saw a very well dressed woman in the Maui airport kicking her bags across the terminal, while she muttered, "Men. Lifting bags is all they're good for."

mark williams international said...

Great post, Suzanne. though West African airports are a thousand times worse!

For those with masochistic tendencies Suzanne is over at MWi revealing all -

Shéa MacLeod said...

Goodness. I've been doing this travel thing ALL WRONG!

Must immediately change tactic...