During the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period, 25.1 million people are projected to fly, according to Airlines for America. Airports will be packed and planes will have few empty seats. The busiest travel day will be Sunday, December 1st with an estimated 2.56 million passengers followed by Wednesday November 27th with an estimated 2.42 million passengers. The slowest travel day is Thanksgiving itself with 1.44 million people expected to fly.
There are some things you can do to make your trip more pleasant or least to anticipate the damage if something goes wrong.
Don’t like the flight you’re re-booked on? Get in line to speak to a customer service representative. But also, call the airline directly. If the phone lines are jammed, try the airline’s overseas numbers. You’ll pay long-distance rates, but might not have to wait. Finally, consider sending a Tweet.
Consider buying a one-day pass to the airline lounge. For one thing, there are usually free drinks and light snacks. But the real secret to the lounges is that the airline staffs them with some of its best and friendliest ticket agents. The lines are shorter and these agents are magically able to find empty seats. One-day passes typically cost $50.
Set up alerts for seat openings. ExpertFlyer.com offers free notifications when a window or aisle seat becomes vacant. For 99 cents, it sends an email if adjacent seats become available.
Check the airline’s website five days before the trip. That’s when some elite fliers are upgraded to first class, freeing up their coach seats. Another wave of upgrades occurs every 24 to 48 hours.
Check in 24 hours in advance, when airlines start releasing more seats. If connecting, check for open seats 24 hours before the second flight departs.
Keep looking. Even after checking in, seats can be changed at airport kiosks and on some airlines’ mobile applications.
Weigh a bag at home first. Anything over 50 pounds will generate a hefty overweight surcharge typically $100 in addition to the typical $25 checked bag fee.
Before your bag disappears behind the ticket counter make sure the airline’s tag has your name, flight number and final destination. As a precaution, place a copy of your flight itinerary inside your suitcase with your cellphone number and the name of your hotel.
If you can’t live without it, don’t check it. A lost bag can take days to recover. Don’t pack medication or outfits for tomorrow’s meeting or wedding in the bag you’re checking. The same with jewelry or electronics.
You could be asked to check your carry-on bag, given today’s crowded overhead bins. Pack a small canvas bag inside the carry-on. Use that to hold onto your valuables if you have to check the carry-on.