"Hassle Free" Flying?

A friend of mine just got back from a business trip and had a terrible experience flying. Specifically, each leg of her flight to and from was either delayed or cancelled. This lead me to wonder what others do for "hassle free" flying. I typically prefer to fly from larger city airports and try to have the fewest connections possible. Direct is usually a good bet, but I realize flying is always a gamble. Do you have any tips on what usually works for you?

Posted by Alyson
Chicago, IL, USA
425 posts

Fly Lufthansa whenever possible. Avoid transferring at Heathrow.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
4235 posts

Take the first flight of the day; if there's a cancellation, you may get on another flight that same day. Of course, this works much better if you have no connections...And start dialing your airline's phone number as soon as your flight is cancelled - unless you're the first in line at the ticket counter, you're not going to fill one of those empty seats on flights later in the day :-( And try not to fly when you must be there THAT night, or THE NEXT MORNING, 'cause you may miss that wedding/party/red-carpet gala/cruise ship launch, etc. Fly in a day early, if possible. And don't whine and/or scream at the counter agents, ala those awful airline shows on TV (Southwest, EasyJet). Apparently, the gate agents really don't like that :^( Of course, try not to check any luggage when it's really important that it get there with you (as in, items not easily and quickly replaceable - wedding clothing, cruise ship info, meds, your flute for tonight's concert).

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
3410 posts

For the most part, delays and cancellations are completely outside of one's control. One bad storm can have a huge domino effect. You can do a few things that make a delay "less bad" if you happen to encounter one. Here are some things I do: 1) I choose a non-stop flight if one is available. 2) If I have to connect, I choose my connecting airport wisely. I not only consider the ease of connecting at that airport, I also think about the consequences if my flight were delayed. For example, on my last flight I chose a one hour connection in Zurich over a longer connection in Newark. I knew Zurich was a very user-friendly airport and I figured if I got stuck somewhere, I'd rather it be in Zurich than Newark. 3) When I am flying to Europe and have to connect, I always try to connect in Europe. I've been delayed a couple of times flying to Europe and although I have missed connections, I have always been able to get to my final destination on a later flight the same day. 4) I know my options (e.g. what other airlines / flights fly to my destination).

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1598 posts

Flying is often a pretty miserable experience these days. It is what it is. Fly up front if you can manage it (I haven't been able to pull that off for a long time, but I think after my recent 10.5 hours of utter misery on Lufthansa, I think I'm going to).

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
14118 posts

I agree with David. Hassle free flying died completely on 9/11. Lufthansa has always been my favorite airline. But the last trip back with them was about as unbearable as it gets. Not sure exactly why but the service and seating reminded me of a United plane. I am willing to give them another try but....

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
1118 posts

Good advice above. In addition, think about delayed or cancelled flights and the consequences of same. Are there additional flights within reasonable times with the same airline? A great airfare is not always a bargain when bad things happen.

Posted by melissa
848 posts

Place the major hotel chains phone numbers in your cell phone in case the airlines can't or won't help you; I'm assuming you already have the airline numbers. Also, be sure to get trip alerts delivered to your cell phone, as some carriers automatically rebook you and you might only need a service center kiosk. Of my last three trips: All 4 flights of a United trip to Boston in April had issues. Two on an April United trip to NYC did. Two of four on a trip on Delta to London in May had issues. Delta tried to fix the problem.... ahem....they saved the trip, though they lost the seats on the return. Otherwise, book early in the day, find out where the plane is coming from before it gets to your city, and book through a hub whenever possible.

Posted by Robert
897 posts

"Hassle free flying" has become an oxymoron. I generally just look for the lowest fare, taking into consideration the number of stops but not the identity of the airline, and hope for the best.

Posted by Kira
Seattle, WA, USA
1020 posts

These are all great suggestions! Lately I have been relying on Orbitz for booking, because I really like their alerts. I get notified on my phone about delays, gate changes, etc. VERY convenient. This is a bit of a tangent, but related: I always pack lightweight dry snacks like nuts and energy bars so if I am delayed I have something to eat that isn't airport drek (yes, it's better these days, mostly... but still EXPENSIVE and hit-or-miss), a really good book (you may prefer e-tertainment like an iPod or Nook, and yes, I patented that), and - drum roll - Really Good Drugs. No, not illegal. But we have a prescription for what my husband calls "airplane pills." He takes them to calm down on the plane because he is a nervous flyer, and I take them to calm down when at the airport navigating a hassle, because I have the temper of Yosemite Sam and tend to freak out at counter people, etc. :-) Believe me, that helps immensely. Otherwise, follow the lead of the wise travelers who commented before me!

Posted by Angela
Sammamish, WA
403 posts

Great thread! We fly European carriers whenever possible, in fact avoid US carriers pretty much whenever we can. Int'l carriers seem to have better service, nicer flight crews and better problem solving skills. And the food is usually better too. US carriers have just gone down the drain as far as I'm concerned-ugh! Hawaiian is the only one I like, but of course they do have a limited repertoire!
I'll never forget the night we were stranded on the tarmac at DFW, in a tiny regional jet at 1 am. After hours of delays, the plane was not allowed to unload due to extreme lightning danger. Of course, my 5 year old REALLY had to go, and the toilet had stopped functioning. The front door was open for fresh air, so the seasoned business travelers on board, in far better humor than I, told him to just "point it out the door." Oh lordy!

Posted by Joel
Tempe, AZ, USA
1046 posts

Jessica - Like you I try to fly direct whenever possible. If I can't go direct, I try to make only 1 connection. I also try to get the first flight of the day in the general direction of where I'm going.

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2790 posts

Fly direct. Bring or upload a good book or two, crossword puzzles and games, some soothing music on the iPod, and xanax. Hope for the best.

Posted by Tom
Suffolk, UK; formerly St. Louis, MO, USA
186 posts

Hassle free flying is essentially a thing of the past. Anymore, there are a couple of things you can do to make it a little more bearable. 1) Be ready for security at the airport. If you know where your bits and pieces are, and are ready with them as you go through the scans, it makes life much easier. 2) If you can fly direct, do it. Not always possible, though. 3) Don't book the last flight of the day if possible - that way, if there is a delay, you still stand a chance of getting out. 4) Be flexible. Things happen. Always remember that the pilots, flight crews, baggage handlers, and folks manning the counters are working for a living. They cannot control the weather, or where spare parts are for a mechanical. That flight attendant that you arent happy with in all likelihood has a connection (for WORK) that she has missed as well. Ditto for the pilots. What those facts mean are that other planes are now delayed because expected flight crews arent where they need to be. Delays also put the aircraft itself out of position to keep flight schedules. Also - those gate agents trying to reschedule you? They are dealing with 100 or more people in your exact situation. Have a little patience. A little kindness goes a long way.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
1118 posts

Ahhh, I fondly recall Ward Air and direct flights from Vancouver to London.

Posted by Lesley
Sidney, BC, Canada
439 posts

ahhh - Wardair - Royal Doulton China, each course served separately, the dessert trolly,.......and that was in economy!