In 2016, commercial airlines successfully carried more than 3.8 billion passengers to their destinations of choice. But that doesn’t mean that every departure will go off without a hitch. From unexpected delays to unforeseen costs, even seasoned travelers can make any one of the following flight mistakes when booking cheap flights.
So the next time you get stuck in the middle seat on an eight-hour overseas flight, we hope this guide will help spare you from some stressful situations.
PROBLEM: Fares For Your Flight Have Gone Down — After You Already Bought Your Tickets
Whether flying for business or pleasure, budget travel is important for many Americans. While using a fare comparison site to find cheap flights may help you snag a great deal, some people are too nervous to wait around for a possible price drop. If you’ve purchased a ticket that experienced a drastic fare decrease the next day, you may be able to trade in your ticket for the cheaper price. Keep in mind that, depending on the airline, you may have to pay a fee. In some cases, the charge fee may actually be more than what you’d save by making the switch. To avoid this problem altogether, you may want to pick an airline that doesn’t charge a hefty change fee. You should also consider booking your cheap flights through a price comparison company, being choosy about when you book, and researching average fares along your route.
Problem: Long Wait Times At The Airport Caused You To Miss Your Flight
An important part of preparing for your flight is knowing how much time you realistically need to get to the airport, park, check in, go through security, and arrive at your gate. If you’re used to flying out of a smaller airport, you might be shocked to discover just how busy major hubs can be. Typically, you should arrive at the airport at least an hour to 90 minutes early for domestic flights, while you may need to arrive two to three hours in advance for international ones.
But even if you think you’ve given yourself plenty of time, you might end up missing your plane due to a ridiculously long line during peak travel hours. As a general rule, you should arrive with lots of extra time if you’re traveling through any unfamiliar airport — especially if it’s in a major city and/or there’s a language barrier involved. You may also want to check in online beforehand and forgo checking a bag to save time. The TSA also provides helpful wait time information for travelers that can give you a better idea of what you’ll be up against at various U.S. airports.
Problem: Your Plane Was Oversold And You Were Bumped
Overbooked planes are a common issue within the industry. In fact, JetBlue is the only airline that has a firm policy about overbooking; they’ve pledged to never do it, so if you want a guarantee, you might want to consider flying with them. However, JetBlue’s destinations are fairly limited in scope, so that may not be an option for many passengers.
The majority of airlines will oversell so that they can avoid empty seats. However, U.S. law states that as long as you’ve checked in within that airline’s minimum window of time (which is typically within a half hour of departure for domestic journeys) and the aircraft carries more than 60 passengers, the airline does owe you monetary compensation if you’re bumped. Different delays carry different maximum compensations, and some may offer you a round-trip ticket in lieu of compensation. But to avoid being bumped altogether, you should check in as early as you can. Late check-ins are usually more vulnerable to being bumped. You can also view over-sale records for specific airlines on the Department of Transportation’s website before you book your tickets.
From the parking lot to the baggage claim carousel, there’s always a potential for airport frustration. But if you do your homework and take steps to avoid the issues listed above, you’ll be much more likely to have a stress-free trip.