Archives February 2019

Miscellaneous flight websites

SeatGuru
This is now part of TripAdvisor; this website provides Seat advice with over 700 seat maps, along with over 25,000 flier reviews. When used in conjunction with online check-in or seat selection, you can find the best available seat for your class, and avoid seats that have restrictions or are in unfavourable locations.

SkyTrax
Reviews and over useful information on airlines and airports.

Airwise
A multi-role website that also provides detailed air travel news and information about airlines, airports, aviation and the air travel industry.

 

FlyerTalk
FlyerTalk features discussions and chat boards that cover the most up-to-date traveller information. The forums are open to everyone who travels. This is really useful for such questions as ‘what can I do at airport X while I wait Y hours for my connection?’

Professional Pilots Rumour Network
The PPRuNe Forums (The Professional Pilots Rumour Network). Ever behaved badly on a flight? Then you may get a mention here. It is a community of professional pilots and people who work in aviation, both experienced and inexperienced.

World Airport Codes
World Airport Codes is the place to find airport codes, abbreviations, runway lengths and other airport information for nearly every airport world-wide. Ensure that you fly to the right airport.


Flight price comparison websites

Yapta
Yapta says that it aims to help travellers with easy-to-use tools and information that assures that they get the best value from their travel spending.

Farecompare
FareCompare is an airline ticket comparison website. It allows you to quickly compare prices on thousands of airline flight options from multiple sources side-by-side.

Dohop
This is a price comparison search site and contains the flight schedules of more than 600 airlines and calculates all possible routes and connections for a given trip. It then checks airlines and travel agent websites for best fares for the trip and provides links to their site.

Momondo
Not an agent, this is a search site. It will check from a list of agents for the cheapest prices. It is financed through sponsored links and advertising. It collates the search results from over 700 other websites.

 

Kayak
This is a price comparison/search website which allows you to compare options, and when you find something that fits your budget and other requirements, you are given details on how to book. This may be direct with an airline, a travel agent or a tour operator. It can also be over the phone, or online.

Matrix from ITA Software
Matrix offers a comprehensive way to search for airfares for any itinerary in the world. It quickly and easily finds available flights with optimal fares. It is currently under development. One handy tool on this website is that you can search multiple destinations in one go, for example Heathrow to JFK, Las Vegas and LA by separating the destination airport codes by a ‘;’ You can then go through the pages of options without having to do a separate search for each route.

Travel Zoo
This is a slightly different comparison website. It also has a weekly newsletter in which companies pay to be included. This newsletter is very handy if you are very flexible in your trip. A pain as you have to use an email address to reach the site (I always make one up).

Amadeus
The site is owned and operated by Amadeus IT Group SA, which also provides GDS systems to airlines and other travel companies. They claim that you will find best fares, flight availability, flight timetables and flight status.

Travel Supermarket
This is the travel based search site for Moneysupermarket.com. It allows you to check departures from nearby airports as well as your preferred, and for up to three days either side of your chosen departure dates.


Will your flight be late?

Check the punctuality of flights

Is your destination airport prone to delays at certain times of the year? Does it snow a lot in the winter (its best to fly in the afternoon) or are there loads of thunderstorms during summer afternoons (best to fly in the morning)? You can check the punctuality of flights using these websites.

Flight on Time
This website provides detailed analysis of airline delays at 10 major UK airports.

Flight Stats
FlightStats provides an array of day-of-travel information to help keep travellers around the world in control of their travel experiences.


Flight Explorer
This is a global aircraft tracking, information technology and communications solutions provider. It claims to be the world’s leading provider of real-time global flight tracking information.

Flight Aware
This website currently provides private aviation flight tracking in over forty countries as well as global solutions for aircraft with satellite uplinks.

For USA airports only

Flight View
This is one of the first flights tracking websites. In 1996, this site brought real-time flight tracking to the Internet. This gave current flight information to the general public. It also has other tools and mobile Apps for most smart phones.

Flight Arrivals
This website offers independent and comprehensive real time airline information for airline flights operating to/from/within the United States and Canada. It offers flight information in a well-integrated and easy-to-use design, as well as 3D visualization of fleets, aircraft, seats and airport terminals in addition to extensive search options, airport statuses, and weather information.


Check out the airline

EU Blacklist
To improve air safety in Europe the European Commission decided to ban airlines found to be unsafe from operating in European airspace. The current list is online, although you probably won’t have heard of many of them. This is really for adventurous travellers who may book flights while already travelling.

The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA)
This program is an evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.

 

AirSafe
Do not visit if you are nervous about flying. Since 1998 AirSafe.com have been providing the aviation safety community and the general public with factual and timely information on events that involve the deaths of airline passengers. It also provides fatal event information by airline and aircraft model, as well as information about current aviation safety issues.


Who flies where?

Alternative Airlines
The company behind this website has a long track record in finding flights beyond the reach of major global airlines. This website is their consumer version. All reservations are confirmed immediately and the fares are quoted in your choice of Pounds Sterling, Euros or US Dollars. Prices are reported as being fully inclusive of pre payable taxes, airport/service fees and other obligatory charges, so, the fare you see is the fare you pay.

Fly Cheapo
This is a specialist guide to flying with low-cost airlines in Europe. They provide route and airline news and a flight search engine, which will show you which airline flies where.

Which Budget
This website is a budget airlines directory, and features dozens of airlines from around the World.

 

Jumble Fly
Due to its unique map search, this website allows you to select all airports you would consider flying from and to within a single search, rather than having to search each one separately. This might be useful if you live close to a number of airports, or are not tied to a particular destination airport.

Sky Scanner
This is probably one of the best known price comparison websites. They claim to be able to search over 670,000 routes flown by over 600 airlines. You are able to browse over a month or even a year in order to find a cheap price. If you are just after a cheap flight, you can even find the cheapest flight anywhere from your nearest airport.

OAG
This is a subscription website, but does have some free tools. Used by travel professionals and business travellers.


Fear of flying

Flying has given millions the chance to explore somewhere new, get away from the bad weather at home, to see a major sporting event and countless other experiences.

But what do you do if you are scared of flying? I know what it is like to spend the whole flight worrying about every noise and movement. In fact, it was a major event to get me to board the aircraft. In the end my GP prescribed me valium, and even when flying a few days after 9/11 I was fine. In the end, island hoping in the Caribbean cured me of my problem, but what methods are there to ensure that you get on that plane?

There are self-help books on practically anything, so there is plenty of choice in bookshops and Amazon.com. They take commitment to work, so if you’re the sort of person to let things slide, or you have a massive fear, then you will need to see someone to help coach you through it.

 
 

Hypnotism

It is said to work for smoking, so does hypnotism help you to overcome your aviaphobia (fear of flying)? Well, as in smoking this only works for some people. Hypnotists can be found in the Yellow Pages, but a recommendation from a friend will help in the success of the process. If you’re too sceptical, then it won’t work.

Airlines can help

For a start, being told how much safer flying is when compared to everyday travel doesn’t help, but you could try a course. In these there are classroom lessons in how safe flying is, with examples of how long a plane can glide without engines; that the plane is meant to make creaking noises, and basic aerodynamics. There will also be a short flight. Check out the course run by Virgin Atlantic.


Lost luggage

The fun and games of the first week of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 shows how easy it is for luggage to get misplaced. So how do you reduce the chances of having a lonely wait at the luggage reclaim waiting in vain for your case?

First of all, ensure that your name and contact details (phone number, not your address) are on the outside and on the inside of your luggage, so when it is found it will be easy for the airline to contact you. Also try to make your luggage stand out so there is less chance of somebody picking it up by mistake. Do not go for odd shapes as these may get caught in the maze of machinery that transports your bag around the airport.

Keep the luggage receipts given to you at check-in safe – no receipt means no claim.

If possible don’t go for tight connections, give the airline the chance to get the luggage to the right place.
So what should you do if it happens to you?

The Montréal Convention also requires that airlines pay up to £800 for lost or damaged luggage. This claim must be declared within 21 days of the problem occurring.

 

Delayed luggage is not covered, although many airlines voluntarily offer some form of compensation. If you arrive at your destination and your luggage doesn’t, register this immediately with the airline by completing a Property Irregularity Report. You need to be as detailed as possible to help the airline to find it. Keep a copy of this report for your own records and ensure that you have the correct contact telephone number to chase the airline if necessary.

If you need to purchase clothes and other essential items, make sure that you keep all receipts to assist you in any claim.

Insurance may help

If it is late on your arrival then you may be able to claim on your insurance, and the airline should deliver it to your hotel. If it is late on your return journey, then you will not be able to claim, but the airline should ensure that the case is delivered to your home address.

If it is still missing after 21 days then it is officially lost. You will need your Property Irregularity Report to make your claim with your travel insurance.

It may be easier to use your travel insurance if your luggage is lost or delayed, but beware of excess levels and the maximum level of payment set by your policy.


While on-board

There are one or two things that you could try while on-board to have a better flight

The first thing is to ask for seconds. If you having a meat dish there may be some left over. If you are unhappy with your neighbour (smelly, disruptive child, etc.) you can ask to be moved. If you have a very tight connection let the cabin crew know and they may be able to move you closer to the door so that you can get off quicker. Finally for all you coffee drinkers, ask for decaf as this is usually freshly made.

Yuck

Never use the seat pocket to store any of your personal stuff. Aircraft only get a light cleaning between flights, with a deep clean only happening once a month. So things like old sweets, leftover food and even used nappies can find their way into these pockets. Also blankets may only be folded and reused. How many people have wiped their nose on it before you got to use it? Only take a blanket if it’s been unwrapped in front of you.

 
 

Stop the person in front reclining

One problem with the seating in a plane is the person in front reclining. If this causes a problem, either ask the person to sit up as you’re working or ask the flight attendant to ask them.

I once read on the internet that one way is to start sneezing. Then after a while ask for some water, then sneeze and sprinkle some water onto the head of the person in front. Although I don’t condone this.


How to get an upgrade

We all want to fly first class – what’s the nest best thing?

First of all, do you actually need one? If you have gone through the last section you might already have a great seat.

If you have a heavily discounted ticket, then you stand no chance of getting to sit closer to the pilot. To increase your chances join the airlines’ frequent flyer club and fly frequently. These types of passengers are very important to the airlines.

There may be a last minute upgrade available for a cash buyer at the check-in. Even though you’re paying it may still be a bargain.

Do not board early and sit in your allocated seat. Hang back until the aircraft is nearly full. You’ll then be able to see if any ‘decent’ seats are free. This may mean a couple of empty seats next to each other, thereby giving you extra room.

Economy may be over booked and any upgrades will go to passengers suitable for an upgrade (SFUs). You could risk a late check-in as hopefully all the economy seats will now be occupied. However this may mean sitting away from your travel partner if two seats are still left. Dress smartly, but this is not a guarantee!!

 

Remember to join the airline’s frequent flyer club. Be polite when requesting an upgrade. A special meal request will probably prevent you from getting an upgrade, as there may not be a suitable meal available.

Honeymooners have a good chance in getting upgraded, and experienced staff can easily spot fakers. The likelihood of a honeymoon upgrade is reduced when flying to popular honeymoon destinations.

Despite what they say, check-in and gate staff do have the power to upgrade, so be polite, but don’t just blurt out ‘any chance of an upgrade?’ They hear it all the time. Instead say something like ‘I’m worried about turbulence, can I have a seat as close to the front as possible?’

Also

  • Travel alone, one seat is a lot easier to find
  • Leave the kids at home

If you’ve still had no luck, then it might be worth haggling for an upgrade at the ticket desk as the price can drop the closer to take off.

A high risk strategy

If you are feeling really brave (and I don’t recommend trying this), you could try a massive bluff which I found in an article written by Stuart White in Business Destinations magazine.

Only get to the gate just before it closes. Then say that you were promised an upgrade. If the gate staff doesn’t give you the upgrade, tell them that you are not flying. This will cause delays as your luggage will have to be removed from the plane. The plane may miss its slot and this will cost the airline in time and money. The gate staff will know that they will get the blame so may cave in under the pressure.

However, there is a chance that there may be a delay in loading the passengers’ luggage, which the gate will know, and you may be banned from that airline if you don’t fly.


How to get the best seat on a plane

You could be sat down for hours, so try to get the most comfortable seat possible

In this post, I talk about getting a ‘good seat’. If you want to travel first class then book first class, as the industry saying goes, but if you know how, you can get a great seat in your travel class and save on paying for an upgrade.

Before you book check the seat pitch of the airlines that fly on your route.

Seat pitch and seat width

Seat pitch is the measurement from one point of a seat to the same point of the seat behind. This can be checked at Airline Quality.

Seat width probably has more to do with how comfortable your flight is going to be than legroom, so ensure that you check that as well. So before booking compare both prices and your personal space. The difference in prices between airlines may be cheaper than paying for an upgrade on the cheaper flight.

‘Frequent Flyer’ schemes may allow for a free upgrade, so sign up to as many as you can and make those miles work for you.

 

The Best Available Seat in Your Class

Now that you can pre-book your seats online, you no longer have to take part in the check-in lottery when it comes to your seat. The first thing to decide is the section on the plane that you would prefer to sit in (in your class!). Front, middle or back?

The back may have extra room due to the shape of the aircraft as the narrowing of the plane means that less seats can fit in the space, so a bank of three becomes a bank of two on a 747 for example. Another possible bonus is that the plane’s seats are usually filled from front to back at check-in, so if the flight isn’t full you may be lucky enough to have a row to yourself.

However there is also a major drawback to sitting at the back – toilets. This is handy if you need to use one, but the area may get busy. Also the seats may not recline, and you may be the last to get fed. It has been reported that the rear of some types of aircraft sway at the back, but not everyone notices. Of course being first on means that you get first go at the overhead storage.

If you are nervous about flying, then sitting near the wings may be the solution as there will be less turbulence. The front is also good for nervous fliers as there is less noise, and you will be first off and at the front of the Immigration queue. You’ll probably be served first at meal times as well.

Being last on and sitting at the front may mean that you won’t be able to use an overhead storage bin. If the crew can’t find space for your stuff then you will have to check it. If this happens remove all your travel documentation and valuables and ask for it to be stored with the pushchairs then it’ll be waiting for you when you get off. Also a luggage tag will have to be completed. Make sure that the correct destination airport code is used.

Legroom seats

If you are tall, then you will need seats with extra legroom. These can be found at the exits, emergency exits and behind the bulkhead. The seats behind the bulkhead may be free and could be bookable when checking in online. On long haul flights these seats are given to passengers with babies, so it could be a noisy and smelly flight.

Only people who are physically capable of assisting in an emergency should be given the exit seat, so these cannot be booked until checking in at the airport and may also incur extra charges.

There are several websites which can assist you on deciding on the best available seats, such as Seatguru and Seat Expert and may be more useful than the plans offered by the airline.

The information that these sites provide include information on where the power pack for in-flight entertainment is fitted (reducing leg room), where the gallery is (smell of food) or where the toilets are (frequent gathering of people that may disturb your sleep).

Due to online check-in and websites such as SeatGuru, you need to check-in as soon as possible (normally opens 24 hours before departure) or if you can’t check-in online, then get to the check-in as early as possible to give yourself the best chance to get the seat you want. However, if you’re flying on a ‘no frills’ flight, then just lose your manners and push yourself through the hordes of other passengers to get that dream seat.

Fancy a gamble?

If you know that the flight will not be full and you are travelling alone, book the centre seat of a row of three. Couples won’t want to be split, so are unlikely to book the seats either side of you. With a bit of luck you could end up with three seats to yourself.