With travel season well and truly upon us and new madness about gadgets and security being thrown into the mix, I thought I might share a few insider tips to help smooth out any upcoming travel you may have planned!
Speaking at and hosting major events all over the world, I probably fly over 75 times a year which, although not as much as others, has allowed me to pick up several smart (and sometimes sneaky) approaches that make for a much easier flying experience. This is by no means a comprehensive list – but a decent start….
Never Check a Bag
I have not checked a bag for any duration of trip, whether vacation or business in the last five years! It’s not just the risk of the bag getting lost or being denied its own existence by a huge LHR terminal 5 screw up – but it’s the ordeal of having to stand and wait for a rusting carousel to churn out your collection of clothes hours after you land. Not only that, but if you arrive early enough at your departure airport, you can often hop aboard an earlier flight… Far more complicated if you have a checked bag as part of your setup. So it’s carry-on or “hand luggage” only.
Free upgrade? Don’t bother asking. Sorry 🙁
“Hi, Is it possible to be upgraded, we just got married/divorced/had a kid/had breakfast….” The excuse or reason is irrelevant. The only reason they upgrade anyone nowadays is when one class of the aircraft is overbooked and they need to move a few people up. The only people they consider moving “up” are those with ‘higher value’ loyalty cards. The “Gold” (or equivalent) get first dibs and it goes down from there. The upgrade decision is often made the night before the flight departs anyway. Be loyal to your airline and the rewards will come!!
Using a great Travel Advisor – (I use SMARTFLYER part of The Virtuoso Network) can also help you in the “potential for an upgrade” stakes.
If you are intent on trying everything you can – this is a good read:
Liquids – yeah we know – but cables?
Life as a security agent cannot be easy, your job is to protect the flying public and so whenever you see anything that might look suspicious, theoretically, you will flag it for further inspection. If you like to carry plenty of technology with you and have all of the associated cables for recharging and powering that technology, you might like to try this approach at the x-ray machine, to avoid raising unfounded suspicions. Have a small bag that contains all of your cables, adapters and plugs in one place and take that bag out and place it on the tray next to your liquids. Trust me, it makes everyone’s life that much easier! (And on the subject of Gadgets – make sure they are all charged up and ready to “switch-on” to follow the latest fun rules).
Never pack your suit jacket
Gentlemen, when it comes to business travel, go ahead and pack* your suit trousers or “pants” however, always carry your suit jackets. Packing those jackets or blazers is basically… Ruinous! Without some serious pressing, at your destination, you won’t be able to wear that jacket without looking like a street hobo. The flight crew seem to have no problem hanging up your jackets if you are in the premium cabin and if you are not “up front”, you can gently fold them into the overhead locker. It frees up space in your main bag and it preserves the good looks of your jacket.
*Pants folded around T-shirts and other soft clothing to eliminate creases!
Look ‘small’ at the gate
As you lineup at the boarding gate, you want to look small and innocuous. The dispatch team at the gate is looking (not very hard) for bags that they can claim are too big for the overhead locker. So, rather than piling your small bag on top of your big bag and then your jackets and coats on top of that – try to split it up so that nothing “looks” too big! The less of a visual impact or “fuss” that you make when boarding the aircraft the easier life will be.
To avoid the nightmare of your flight running out of overhead space, before you have boarded the plane, make sure you position yourself at the gate close enough to get on, the second your zone is called but not too close to start a huge fistfight with your fellow passengers. We airline passengers become like feral cats at boarding time and guard our territory ferociously. There is also no need to sit down at the boarding gate as you will be ‘sat’ on your flight for several hours so, instead, embrace the standing that is necessary to position yourself for an early boarding strategy.
Bonus Gate advice: As you scan your ticket, make sure your wheely-bag/roller-board is on the opposite side of you to where the airline staff-member is, that way, it’s just a little bit harder for them to visually check out your bag size and decide to make an “asset-grab”. (Thanks to KG for this one)
Just after the gate
Many flights, especially international, have a secondary security check between the gate and the door of the aircraft. Make sure you do everything you can not to make eye contact with these people as, often, that is all the excuse they need to drag you over and start pawing all of your personal possessions.
This will make you look mad
Many of you will likely have seen the recent findings, from a variety of studies, concluding that the most filthy, germ infested place you can spend some time is an airline seat.(http://www.businessinsider.com/airplane-seats-carry-dangerous-bacteria-2014-5) This is a reality as only half an hour before you sit down, some sweaty giant was occupying your exact seat, his skin secreting whatever it secreted onto the arm rests upon which your lovely arms are now resting. To avoid collecting their “Cooties”, wipe down the armrests and the seat tray table along with all the other different bits and pieces with an antibacterial wipe. People will look at you as if you are a freak but at least you’ll avoid contracting MRSA.
Do a ‘Lloyds of London’
The longer your flight and the more comfortable you have been, the more likely it is that you may leave behind one of your valuables like an iPad (I have done this!) Phone, laptop or child!
To avoid this very real risk of loss, always do a final visual check of your seat area. I used to work with a film crew in the UK whose sound engineer would always announce that we had to do a “Lloyd’s of London”. This was a final visual check to ensure, much like Lloyd’s “insures” many of the great risks of the world, that we hadn’t left anything behind. Think you’ll never leave something behind? http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303459004577362194012634000
You have arrived
Now you can happily stride out of the airport leaving behind all of your fellow passengers who are staring at a lifeless carousel and wondering whether they should step through those flaps and see where “the bloody luggage” is.