I’ve never missed a flight. I say this with a deep fear that, upon uttering such a bold statement, I’ll jinx myself and end up late for my next departure (which happens to be this afternoon). I’m fixated on arriving at the airport three hours or more before departure — whether for a domestic or international flight — and so far traffic jams, snaking security lines and ill-timed airport parking lot shuttles have been no match for me.
I think it’s inevitable that every avid flier will miss at least one flight at some point in his or her travel career, and I’m determined to thwart fate as long as possible. But I have to admit, I admire those dauntless travelers who stroll into the airport 45 minutes before departure and never run into any problems. How do they stay so calm? After all, arriving at the airport less than an hour before departure is not exactly the recommended check-in protocol.
In What to Expect at the Airport, we suggest the following: “For domestic flights, you should be at the airport at least two hours before your flight is scheduled to leave if you’re planning on checking luggage. If you’re bringing just a carry-on, allow at least 90 minutes. If you’re flying to Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands or an international destination, arrive at least two hours early. During peak travel times, allow even more time at the airport — perhaps an extra 30 to 60 minutes.”
What’s your take? Are these rules meant to be broken?
The next time you step up to the sink at an airport bathroom, your own face may not be all you see in the mirror. Two companies, Clear Channel Airports and Mirrus, have teamed up to design digital ads that are now being displayed on bathroom mirrors at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
The high-definition ads look like large posters until you step up to the mirror, at which point they shrink into one corner — allowing you to see both the ad and your own reflection while you wash your hands, adjust your combover or touch up your lip gloss. You can see how the ads work in the following video from Mirrus:
Relentless advertising is nothing new to air travelers, of course. In recent years, several airlines have experimented with putting ads on airplane tray tables, and the TSA has put them in some of its bins at security checkpoints. At least they’re not appearing inside the bathroom stalls — yet.
Every Wednesday, we’ll feature one practical travel tip here, on our blog. Get our clever weekly tips and other travel resources in your inbox by subscribing to our blog (top right) or signing up for our newsletter.
Earlier this week, I found myself at the airport more than four hours before my flight was scheduled to depart (thanks to an unexpected change in plans). Going through security and grabbing a meal killed only about 20 minutes. As I arrived at my empty gate, I found myself wondering, “Now what?”
If I’d been prepared, I could have spent that lengthy layover on something a little more productive than snacking, reading a novel and staring blankly at the CNN monitors. In Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Your Layover, Caroline Costello writes, “Want to get some cardio in during your layover? AirportGyms.com is a useful Web site where you can search for fitness centers in or around airports in the U.S. and Canada. If there’s no gym in your airport, stuff some sweats into your carry-on bag and go for a jog around the terminals. This is best to do at an airport that offers shower facilities — be considerate of the person who will have to sit inches away from your sweaty armpits on the next flight.”
According to AirportGyms.com, there are four different fitness facilities within 25 minutes of my airport (including two only five minutes away). For the cost of a day pass — between $7 and $10, depending on location — I could have spent 30 or 40 minutes lifting weights or running on a treadmill, taken a quick shower and gotten back to the airport with time to spare. And it would have been a heck of a lot better for my body than munching on that Cinnabon roll I just couldn’t resist.
With airlines charging hefty fees for overweight bags, the small difference between a 49-pound suitcase and a 51-pound one could add up to a big hit on your wallet. (Delta, for instance, charges $90 each way to check a bag weighing 51 to 70 pounds.) But what if your bag’s excess weight isn’t caused by what you’ve packed, but by a quirk of the luggage scale at your airport?
A reader wrote to us a few days ago on this very topic: “An airline recently tried to charge an enormous fee for [a suitcase that was] five pounds over [the weight limit]. We moved one very light fleece vest to another piece and ended up seven pounds under. That vest did not weigh 12 lbs; maybe it weighed 2. If they are going to charge such prices, shouldn’t they have to calibrate the scales?”
Unfortunately, a recent report from CBS Los Angeles shows that this sort of discrepancy is not unheard of. While most of the scales tested in the report passed inspection, one faulty scale at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) displayed a reading of 53 pounds for a 50-pound weight, and 109 pounds for a 100-pound weight. Although scales at airports are supposed to be calibrated on a regular basis, missed maintenance or normal wear and tear can sometimes lead to flawed readings.
So what’s a traveler to do? We recommend purchasing your own small luggage scale to use at home when packing; you can pick one up at a travel supply store for $10 – $20. These offer a quick way to make sure you’re not getting too close to your airline’s weight limit. Just be sure to allow for a little variation between your scale and the one at the airport. (Is your suitcase tipping the scale at 48 pounds? It’s time to lose that extra guidebook or pair of boots.)
Once at the airport, if you suspect that a scale is inaccurate, ask the airline employee to test your bag on another scale nearby.
Check out this footage from Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, where Air India passengers were apparently stranded for up to 15 hours earlier this week without any information about why their flights were delayed:
Gotta love the blank looks on the faces of the Air India employees as frustrated passengers repeatedly press them for information. “What — you think we know what’s going on?”
Over the past few days, Air India has faced some upheaval (including baggage disruptions and flight delays) in the process of moving its domestic flight operations at India Gandhi International from Terminal 1 to a new Terminal 3, reports New Delhi Television, an Indian news network. It’s not clear whether the preparations for the move may have contributed to the incident in the video above.
Air India is apparently untroubled by the reports; on its Web site is a press release celebrating its “smooth transition” to the new terminal.