.

SmartMoney Blogs

Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

5 Ways To Avoid the Flightmare Before Thanksgiving

iStockphoto

Don’t fasten your seatbelts yet. It could be a long and bumpy wait for your flight this Thanksgiving. Los Angeles International, Chicago O’Hare and Orlando International airports will be the busiest around Thanksgiving, according to a survey by travel website Orbitz.com. However, JFK in New York rates only eighth out of the 10 busiest. JFK mainly caters to international travelers, consumer advocate Chris Elliott says, while LAX and other airports service more of the typical American Thanksgiving traveler fleeing the big city for home.

But there is good news for those traveling via Ronald Reagan Washington National and Atlanta’s Hartsfield International airports: They fell off the busiest Top-10 list this year. The survey covered the top 50 U.S. airports based on flight bookings between Nov. 23 and Nov. 27, 2011. And it’s no surprise that holiday/destination airports like Mineta San Jose International, Kahului/Hawaii and John Wayne in California are seeing less traffic, Elliott says, as most folk travel to see family around Thanksgiving.

Here are 5 tips to avoid the longest of all possible waits:

1. Set your alarm clock. Well, that goes without saying. But do something else before you set it. Book non-stop, direct flights as early as possible in the morning to avoid long delays and being hit by air traffic congestion, says Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org. Those with children in tow also have the option of paying a little more as a way to avoid lines at a second airport.

2. Check in with your app. “Siri: Where is the shortest security line?” Maybe the amusing iPhone 4S voice-activation service won’t have the answer, but the GateGuru app might help you find the shortest way through security. It has maps of airports, lists of retailers, and allows others to post reviews and photographs. As Pay Dirt reported, it can tell you where to find the restrooms in the Terminal 2 at O’Hare and where to find truly good clam chowder at Sea-Tac.

3. Assign yourself a seat. Not doing so online or by telephone might mean your seat is given away by the airline during your mad dash to the airport. “If you don’t have a seat assignment, you don’t have a seat,” Hanni says. Call the airline and ask them for a seat and, if not, ask them to change your flight or to assign you one. “It’s better to avoid a last minute disaster of being bumped on a congested travel day,” she says.

4. Curbside check-ins: If you forgot to print your boarding pass before you left the office on your way to the airport or your printer at home has a habit of frequently malfunctioning, fear not. Many airlines offer curbside check-in, a big benefit if you arrive by taxi and have no parking issues to deal with. George Hobica, founder and CEO of AifFareWatchDog.com, says it’s worth checking if your airline does this at your airport of choice.

5. Shorten your connections. For those with no checked bags, who’ve already gone through customs and have a boarding pass printed out for the connection flight, book your own connection flight. Taking the the risk (missing your flight due to the first one being extremely delayed) might be worth the reward (a faster, smoother journey if you only have an hour layover between flights). Many don’t always need two three-hour windows, Hanni says.

Finally, for those who get stuck, here are some fun activities to while away the hours – from practicing your golf to working out at the gym.

Comments

We welcome thoughtful comments from readers. Please comply with our guidelines. Our blogs do not require the use of your real name.

Comments (3 of 3)

View all Comments »
    • Incredibly! It is like you understand my mind! You seem to aogcnwledke very much over it, precisely like you showed the novel from it something like that. I do think you can perform with a few images to use this article residential home a lttle bit, though could, this is exactly informative short article. An outstanding understand. I’ll most certainly take another look at back again.

    • So long as he accepted the seat cagnhe and gave it to me so I could sit up there I’ll be happy. My co worker who gets to fly business met his wife in Europe for an impromptu vacation while he was on a business trip. When they flew back he gave her his business class seat and sat in coach. The airline stewardess was impressed so she gave him unlimited champagne and wine the entire flight.

    • as a former airline employee, here’s the best tip i can give for travelling at busy times – be at the gate (i.e. where the plane will be boarding) at least 20 minutes prior to the departure time – many people get to the airport early and check in, then go to the bar/restaurant or go shopping, and turn up at the gate with only 5-10 minutes before departure time – their seats will have been given away to standbys (a boarding pass is no guarantee of a seat if you’re not there when they board the aircraft)! don’t let that happen to you

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

.