Galley Gossip: 10 Ways To Handle A Tight Connection

1. Book wisely. If you need to be somewhere really important, it’s probably not a good idea to book your flights with less than an hour between them. Even an hour is pushing it. An hour and a half is good. Two hours, even better. Whatever you do, don’t take the last flight out! Delays happen. So do cancelations.

2. Pay the extra fee. If you’re the anxious type and travel is stressful, pay the extra fee to sit closer to the front of the airplane and be done with it. Why start your trip out on the wrong foot and the risk a snowball effect. Because once something goes wrong, everything seems to follow suit. Better to be out a few bucks than to miss a flight! It’s worth it just to relax.

3. Check your boarding pass. Many airlines print the boarding time, not the departure time, on the boarding pass. Depending on the equipment type (smaller vs. larger aircraft), you can usually tag on another 30 to 40 minutes to your connection time. Read the fine print.

4. Switch seats. Ask a flight attendant if you can move closer to the front of the cabin on landing. Unfortunately, most flights are full these days and just because there’s an open seat up front doesn’t mean you’ll find a spot in the overhead bin for your bag too. If you’ve booked a tight connection, you might want to make sure your carry-on luggage fits under the seat in front of you.

5. Relax: I know, I know, easier said than done. Just know that while it might feel like it takes forever to disembark, the truth is almost everyone is able to deplane in less than 15 minutes. So take a deep breath and … exhale. Put in your earphones and play the most relaxing music you have. Then get ready to run. Here’s to hoping you wore appropriate shoes to sprint across the airport terminal.6. Call the airline. Don’t wait in a long line of passengers to talk to an agent. By the time it’s your turn to approach the counter, chances are the flight will have already departed. Get on the phone ASAP and call the airline’s reservation desk. Or try tweeting for an even faster response. Most airlines offer immediate feedback.

7. Hold the flight! Airlines don’t hold flights for passengers. On time departures are way too important. That said an airline might hold a flight if it’s the last flight of the day or for a large group of passengers traveling to the same destination. If it is the last flight out, rest assured the airline knows where you are and you’ll probably be booked on another flight before you even land.

8. Go, go, go! Don’t stop to talk to the agent meeting your flight. Run straight to your connecting gate and talk to the agent there, even if it’s past the departure time. Time is precious. Every second counts. Plus you never know if that flight might be delayed.

9. The thing about bad weather. If you’re delayed because you’re flying into an airport experiencing bad weather, chances are your connecting flight may also be delayed. And remember just because your departing aircraft is at the gate, doesn’t mean the outbound crew is on the ground and ready to go. They could still be in the air too. Sounds strange, I know, but we don’t stick with one aircraft all day long.

10. It’s not over until the airplane pushes away from the gate. I can’t tell you how many flights I’ve just missed only to have the airplane return back to the gate to remove a sick passenger or to fix a mechanical. I’ve actually gotten on flights airlines have brought passengers off of due to weight and balance issues that were later lifted after a creeping delay. Miracles do happen.

[Photo Credit: NewbieRunner]

Turn your Utah-bound boarding pass into a ski lift ticket

Your Utah boarding pass can score you some free ski lift tickets!Spring may have officially arrived, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in a few more days on the slopes before the ski season ends for another year. To help facilitate that, three Utah ski resorts are offering a deal that will let you exchange your boarding pass for a lift ticket instead.

Beginning this Sunday, March 27th and running through the end of the season, any out-of-state visitor who brings their boarding pass from Salt Lake City International Airport to one of the participating Park City resorts will receive a free lift ticket for that day. This gives visitors the option to ski or snowboard at The Canyons or Park City Mountain, or ski at Deer Valley. (Sorry snowboarders, you’re still not welcome there!)

As with all good things in life, there are a few caveats to keep in mind. For example, you must register for the free passes in advance of your arrival, and the date of redemption must match the date on the boarding pass. That means you better catch an early flight to take true advantage of this deal. An ID is required to redeem the pass as well and Utah residents are not eligible. To see all the rules and regulations check out the website for the promotion here.

This isn’t a bad deal for someone looking to get a little last minute skiing or snowboarding in before they put their gear back in the closet for the summer. You’ll want to hurry to take advantage of the promotion however, as both Park City Mountain and Deer Valley close for the season on April 10 and The Canyons follow suit on April 17.

Mobile boarding passes: Fancy trick but not worth your time

By now you’ve probably heard of mobile boarding passes, the digital version of that slip of paper that identifies you, your flight, your seat and your pertinent itinerary information when flying around the planet. In concept they’re pretty slick: when checking in for a flight online, one can elect to have the boarding pass sent to a phone – what’s downloaded is a barcode (it’s actually closer to a QR code) that can be scanned at the security checkpoint and at the gate to allow boarding. Or that’s how it’s supposed to work.

These days, running Gadling and working on a dozen other small projects I find myself in the airport a lot, whether it’s in bouncing in between O’Hare and LaGuardia for work or sneaking up to Anchorage to visit a few friends for a long, creative weekend.

All of this time on the road has given me plenty of opportunity to road test mobile boarding, both when I was living in Detroit, a Delta hub and now that I’m living in Chicago, a hub for both United and American Airlines. I like the concept; it’s both environmentally friendly and more efficient.

My experience, however, is to the contrary. More often than not, when I download a mobile boarding pass something goes wrong in the process, whether it’s at the gate, security or with my phone. As a result, I end up actually losing time and wasting energy at the airport.The majority of flaws in the process come at the security checkpoint. Either the barcode scanner isn’t working, isn’t interpreting the data properly or the TSA agent isn’t familiar with the process. Right now, their only solution is to send the passenger back to get a hard-copy boarding pass. Sometimes they’ll let you cut in line when you return. Sometimes not.

It’s not often, but a small portion of the faults come from malfunctioning scanners at the gate.

Another part of the problem can be traced to hardware. Turning an iPhone sideways to scan the barcode almost always turns the image sideways as well. If the resulting, resized barcode is too big, the scanner won’t read it. Pick up the phone to look at the barcode and everything flips back over. Frustration goes up, people behind start to cough and things start to get awkward.

None of this is that big of a deal for a travel hardy person like myself, mind you, I don’t mind taking the time to work with a green cause. My problem comes with the delays incurred with going to back to get a paper boarding pass. The thing is, if I’m at the airport I’m always either 5 minutes away from boarding or walking out of the place – I don’t have time to wait in a giant security line only to be turned around to reprint my boarding pass – the risk is just too high.

That’s why Monday morning on the way in from LaGuardia I picked up an extra paper boarding pass on the way over to the C/D gates. Sure enough, when I got to gate C8 the scanner wouldn’t read my phone and 14 elite passengers nearly revolted behind me. Their frustration well reflects the current state of the art in mobile boarding technology: while cute, the concept needs far better implementation to ever become useful in a mainstream commercial travel.

[flickr photo via kalleboo]

Designing the ideal boarding pass

Underwhelmed by your boarding pass? You’re not the only one. That clustermess of bar codes, letters and numbers has enough discombobulating components to make your head spin, usually in the critical four seconds when you’re putting your belt back on after security and NEED to know where your gate is.

Tyler Thompson over at Squarespace realized this, and in a brief bout of creative design genius proffered a few alternatives to the everyday, sad boarding pass of today’s airlines.

You can check them all out at passfail.squarespace.com, where commenters have taken on the initiative to post a wide spectrum of redesigned passes on their own.

How hard would this be to implement in real life? As Virgin America has shown it’s not too difficult to inject a little bit of punch into your card stock, but Thompson’s designs may be a reach. Color isn’t easy or cost effective to print (for the negative details) and legacy airlines have a hard time making “drastic decisions” like changing their boarding passes.

Still, it’s an effective way to pointing out the lazy, boring design in the current state-of-the-art and the designs are magnificent. Perhaps when Gadling Air takes off we’ll borrow a few.

An inside look at off-the-books elite airline programs

Imagine an airline experience free of middle seats, standing in line or dealing with nut-job flight attendants who withhold orange juice, water and any other service not related to “safety.” Tom Stuker, it seems, doesn’t have to close his eyes and pretend: he lives the dream. He’s spent 700,000 in non-middle seats this year alone, with complimentary cocktails, a hidden check-in process and a taste of luxury not present even in first class having become the norm for him.

Now, with 8.8 million miles racked up on United over his travel-intensive career, Stuker has been admitted to an elite frequent flier program, of the sort we covered here at Gadling not to long ago. This is the type of secret society noted in George Clooney‘s new flick, “Up in the Air.” Airlines don’t like to talk about it, but they actually do treat people well on occasion. You just have to spend a fortune to matter enough to them.

United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski Janikowski likens the airlines super-duper-premium offer, Global Services, to Yale’s Skull and Bones society. Like the elite underworld of the Ivy League, its members include CEOs, senators and other people envied by the rest of us.

So, how does this work?

1. You get a special check-in area. Avoid the great unwashed, and get greeted by name, as a concierge, of sorts, dispatches with your bags quickly. Your boarding passes will be waiting for you. At some airports, you’ll be able to pass through a hidden door to the front of the security checkpoint.

2. You’ll be watched. When? Well, when you move to the front of anything. We are all aware of those guys who occasionally are allowed to board before the elderly – before any announcements are made.

3. You’ll choose first. For everything, all the time. The meal will come to you before anyone else even knows there’s food on the plane.

4. Your lost luggage is scouted. If the airline loses your luggage, they actually try to find your luggage. Actively. A special team takes care of this.

None of this is truly life-changing, though, except the security piece. The real value of being a member of this type of secret society becomes apparent when something goes wrong … not unusual when airline employees are involved.

If you have a connection that’s too tight, the airline will rebook you on the next available flight – while you are still in the sky. A special agent will meet you at the gate with your new boarding pass, and a set of wheels will be furnished to take you to the next gate. If you need to go through security again, you’ll be escorted personally. In rare cases, a car will be waiting for you to dart you across the tarmac to your next plane. Terminals are for prolie scum.

Thinking back to Stuker, he’s got insane props with several airlines, but his favorite is United, because, “I am treated like a king.” Simply, he notes, “If I was in coach, I would shoot myself.”