Airports are extremely chaotic and busy places, and many things can go wrong -- especially during the holidays. Most issues are beyond your control, and there are ways to go about dealing with airport disasters in a calm and civilized manner.
Many people don't realize that, most of the time, when things go wrong at airports, the factors at fault aren't necessarily the staff, but are often issues like weather (that you can't control). Problems with organization, packing your bags and setting your alarm to get there on time, are also major issues people face while traveling -- but those you can control. (Read on for efficiency and organizational tips.)
The key, though, after you encounter a problem in the airport, is your attitude toward the situation.
Rick Seaney is the CEO of his own traveling website
and an online writer for ABC News. "A couple of years ago, when I'd rant about air travel, it usually had to do with customer service which of course, has pretty much long since disappeared," Seaney said. "Now I find myself ranting from time to time about passengers."
While a lot of things that go on in airports and on planes are not anyone's fault, there are things that can be prevented. Savanna Cowan, 22, had a friend miss a flight due to miscommunication and careless mistakes.
"She woke up around 9 a.m. thinking her flight was at 1 p.m.," Cowan said. "When she printed out her boarding pass, it said her flight had left at 8:35 a.m. She had to sit in the airport all day trying to fly standby only to drive home and come back for the earliest flight at 4 a.m. the next day."
Cowan's roommate could have easily avoided this mess. "The most common mistake people make is thinking that they are getting to the airport on time," said Linda Becker, a recently retired flight attendant, who worked at Continental Airlines for 40 years. The more aware you are about your schedules and the airports you're flying out of, the better off you will be. Things like accidently checking wrong flight departures and waiting all day in airports won't happen.
Crucial tips for effortless air travel:
• Print your itinerary the night before and know exactly when your flight will be; if you have a connecting flight, make sure you know the times of departure for them as well. If you approach traveling with the attitude that anything goes, you are less likely to be shocked by unplanned events. If something happens like a flight delay or you get bumped off a flight, just remain calm and remember that eventually you will get to your destination.
• Pack everything the night before you leave and pick what you will wear on the plane.
• Have someone to drop you off in front of the terminal instead of searching for a parking spot.
• When checking in at the airport and going through security, always have your boarding pass and driver's license ready for the attendants.
• Always bring something to occupy your time (books, magazines, iPod, etc.) because you never know if your flight will be delayed and how long the delay will be. Adele Adams, a flight attendant for 32 years, has flown for former airline Texas International that merged with Continental Airlines in the early 1980s, and Delta Airlines. "It's always good to keep busy while waiting for your flight," said Adams.
• Another thing to keep in mind when traveling and checking bags is how much your bags weigh. A new rule concerning heavy bags has been established within the past few years. Depending on the airport and airline policies, bags weighing over 40 or 50 pounds will cost an extra fee. Last year, airlines such as Delta began charging just for checking bags no matter what size. The first bag costs $15 and if you check a second, it's $25. "Don't over pack if you don't want the fee," said Becker.
Whether you are the passenger whose tired and having a bad day, or the flight attendant who hasn't slept in days and is trying to keep it together to do their job, the best thing to do is treat everyone around you with kindness and respect and to know that handling a crisis positively will make things much easier on you.
Tom Pedano has been a flight attendant for American Airlines since 1972. "Just do what you have to do and go with the flow," Pedano said. "Frustration is what gets people the most. There's too much out there to get everyone all riled up."
Adams said, "It's hard because some passengers must think the mission of flight attendants is not the passenger's safety or comfort, but that we just spit out a series of superfluous rules meant to annoy them." That's not the case.
This holiday season, if you are flying and going through airports and something goes wrong, remember to think in terms of a double standard. The passengers don't want the certain crisis to be occurring, but neither does the airline staff. Keeping these things in mind and maintaining a positive attitude only improves our chances of enjoying airports and flying the way we were intended to all along, as well as enjoying the real reason for being there -- to see our loved ones during the holiday season.
Photo: Erik Bruchez/Flickr