Consumer complaints about airlines are up from last year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Travelers complain about everything from being stuck at the terminal due to flight delays, long security lines, misplaced baggage, insufficient leg room, and poor in-flight meals.
But don’t worry. You can take control of your airline comfort by following these simple tips.
1. Pick the best seat
You can generally pick your seat when you book your ticket online, with a travel agent, or through the airline ticket seller. Your best place on the plane, aside from the aisle or window, depends on what you want most from the flight.
Do prefer a smooth and stable ride because you’re prone to airsickness? Sit above the wing for the least turbulence. Need some quiet? A place toward the front keeps you as far away from jet-engine noise as possible.
Prefer uncrowded spaces? Airplanes tend to fill from front to back, so sitting in the rear increases your chance of finding yourself among empty seats. And once you’ve found your perfect seat, put in your ear plugs and tune into some meditative music — the sort you might find offered at Virtual Sheet Music.
2. Live off-peak
The crowds and confined spaces mean you’re probably going to have to wait a long time to get anything done. It may be as much as an hour after you smell cooked food before the attendant serves your meal. Then you’ll have to stand in line if you want to use the restroom.
To avoid these delays, do everything before everybody else by ordering a special meal when you book your ticket. Available on most international flights, a special meal can be prepared for health reasons, such as low fat, or for religious observances, such as kosher requirements.
Special meals are served before the general meal, so you get your food before everyone else. You also finish ahead of everyone, so you can visit the restroom without having to wait.
3. Dress for comfort
On a ten-hour, trans-oceanic flight, you don’t want to be trapped in your three-piece suit and stiff dress shoes. Put comfortable clothes in your carry-on, such as a pair of slippers, sweatpants or shorts, and T-shirt or sweatshirt.
After take-off and as soon as the seat-belt sign is off, slip into a restroom and change into your comfortable duds, which can relax you and make a long flight more bearable. Then, just before the airline lands, change back into your street clothes, so you return to being the well-dressed traveler who started your journey.
4. Remember the staff
A flight attendant can make or break your flight, but passengers sometimes forget that these airline employees are human beings and not mindless servers. Don’t you be one of them!
Bring a box of chocolates or other commercially-wrapped treat, or some current magazines and newspapers. Hand them out to the chief purser after you take off.
You’ll be giving the workers a break from the same airline food and old reading material they have to endure for days on end. They’ll respond to your thoughtfulness by with a big thank-you.
They may also reward you with perks that they don’t offer to other passengers, such as goodies from first class or airline souvenirs for your kids.