Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Don't get mad, get organised!

Published:Sunday | August 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM

It's tough to be a flight attendant. That is apparent even more after Steven Slater's now-famous "peace out" move.

But a little sympathy, please: it is tough to be a passenger these days, too. There have surely been plenty of travellers, stuffed in coach with crying babies, rolling eyes and empty wallets, who have wanted to make a quick exit down the emergency slide.

So are rude fellow passengers, unyielding fees and stressful delays just part of the deal? Maybe. But there are ways to soften the blow of all three.

Here is a rundown of how to make your travel experience more Zen-like, from booking to landing (and how to complain if it isn't like that):


There are a few steps you can take before you even get off the ground to make your trip less expletive-worthy. For starters, choose a flight early in the morning, which are less prone to delays. (Plus, you might find that the other passengers are too tired to get rowdy.)

If you make a mistake, like making a reservation on the wrong day, most airlines will give you 24 hours to change your ticket without fees. Deal with problems quickly and don't worry.

Picking an airline

While you may pick an airline for its frequent-flier programme or variety of destinations, there are a few issues of comfort to keep in mind, too. There's a big difference between carriers in seat width and seat pitch - the space between you and the seat in front of you. If you are flying in coach, JetBlue Airways Corp offers the most space for your legs. And the airline's satellite TVs at every seat can ease stress during turbulence and keep children occupied.

If you are looking for the lowest fees, Southwest Airlines Company is the best choice: you will not pay for bags. For a full rundown of fees, they are shown in black-and-white on sites like Kayak.com.

The location of your seat also will make a big difference. Visit SeatGuru.com to examine the plane layouts for every major airline, detailing everything from foot space to proximity to the bathrooms.

Make sure you confirm your seat assignment 24 hours ahead of the flight to ensure you have the one you wanted. This is also when airlines release their spacious emergency exit rows, so try to snatch one of those if a frequent flier has not beat you to them.

Airport ease and avoiding fees

Although preparation is the most important consideration to comfortable air travel, there also are a few simple things everyone can do to avoid hassles and fees. Most important, use the Web as much as possible. From booking to checking your bags, the Internet makes it possible to avoid virtually all interactions with airline staff.

If you have luggage that is small enough to fit on the plane but big enough to steal a lot of space in the overhead compartment, consider checking it at the gate. You will avoid hoisting a large bag over a crowded plane of passengers - a time where most plane conflicts start. Plus, you won't pay a dime. Airlines generally don't charge you bag fees when you relinquish your luggage planeside.

The big picture

To modernise an old expression: "Only you can prevent air travel misery." As passengers, we have to be willing to be sympathetic to other people's feelings. Take into account that the flight attendant who is rolling her eyes is probably overworked, and the passenger who barks at you might be dealing with some other stress at home.

If it is a passenger who is irking you, ask to be reseated. If it is an airline employee who is troubling you, do not get hotheaded. It is best to take a couple of deep breaths and try to let the problem roll off your shoulders.

Ultimately, if you think a formal complaint is warranted, deal with it when your emotions are not running high. Instead of searching for customer service numbers, send an email complaint through the airline's website.

Airlines are required to respond to any complaints in writing.

There also is a 21st century way to complain: Facebook and Twitter. Whether you tweet or post a gripe to an airline's Facebook account, it is considered a formal written complaint and the company is required to respond.

- AP