Booking Flights

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Here are the efficient tips you need when booking your airline flights.

Choosing the flight. Cost, Convenience, and Count.These are the 3 factors that the Efficient Traveler keeps in mind when choosing the appropriate flight.

  • Cost. The best day to book a flight is on Tuesday; this seems to be when the marketers drop prices of their flights. Ticket cost is important, but also frustrating. One minute, you can get a price on a ticket and get a totally different one the next…generally closer to departure date since fewer seats become available. I sometimes hate the fact that the guy sitting next to you paid less than you for the same level of service. One airline can cost $1000 to the same destination but from an airport 60 miles away, so its important to check different airlines and departure/arrival cities. While cost is important, I’m willing to spend a few extra dollars for the convenience and the count factors…
  • Convenience. First consider your necessary departure and arrival times; if you are flexible, Cost and Count may be more important. The Efficient Traveler tries to fly in the morning to keep as many options open for missed connections. Taking the last flight of the day is asking for trouble! Non-stop flights are always the best option, but sometimes less frequent and more costly. So-called “direct” flights should not be confused with non-stop. Direct flights are marketed as a ‘one-stop’ flight; however, many times you have to change aircraft. If you have to make a connection, know the airport you are flying through to determine the optimal connection time. Memphis is  a relatively small airport that will take you 10 minutes to get between the farthest gates, whereas Delta seems to require you take the underground train between virtually all flights in Atlanta, adding 10-15 minutes. If you are flying on a regional jet in Houston on Continental, you never have to change terminals (they all go through B terminal). And choose flights on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday, which are generally the lightest travel days of the week to assure you a good seat (and possible upgrade!)
  • Count. The Efficient Traveler remains loyal to one or 2 airlines (or codesharing airlines) in order to maintain elite status. Once I have to book a trip, I’ll check options on my elite airlines (Continental/United or Delta) first, and then check others if I think the cost and convenience factors can outweigh the benefit of elite miles.

Choosing your seat. One of the best websites I use for choosing the best seat is www.SeatGuru.com. It helps tell me which seats are the best (and worst) on every commercial flight! The Efficient Traveler always tries to book seats with an open seat next to theirs, and opts for exit rows with the extra leg room. Luckily, some airlines like Continental and Delta offer elite members above gold to get exit row seat assignments at the time of booking.

  • While I can’t verify this, I think that airlines fill the left side (port) seats first; so I tend to book seats on the starboard (right side). However, the left side is often served first, so if you really want to be sure they have enough Diet Coke for you before they run out, book on the left side. I like aisle seats because it gives me a little more room; but you have to get up if someone goes to the lavatory; at the same time, you don’t have to bother people to go to the lav.  Window seats are great for the view, and are good for those who can sleep on a plane (I can’t), but if the middle seat is taken, there’s less wiggle room. Some airplanes have removed the seat in front of the window seat in exit rows: the extra leg room trumps aisle room any day.
  • On long flights in planes with a 3-aisle configuration, I always choose the middle section aisle seat, and always sit on the right side. First of all, the middle section aisle allows people who have to go to the lav the option of the left or right aisle versus the side sections. I also find that the overhead bins on the starboard (right) side of the plane dont fill up as fast, and less people travel down that aisle compared to the left port side aisle.
  • Note: I recently found out that seat assignments are not guaranteed; they are a ‘convenience’ offered by the airlines. A seat assignment means you have a seat number, whereas booking a  ‘seat’ means you have purchased a seat, but haven’t been assigned one yet.  It’s always important to be sure you understand the airline industry lingo when you have a problem!

Plan for the upgrade. If you’re elite, obviously the higher status the more likely  you’ll get an upgrade. But the more first class seats that are available, the more likely you will be upgraded as well! So, when looking at flight choices, look for the specific equipment (plane) that they will use, and look for available seats up front while you book your coach-class seats.

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