By Peter Stewart | 9 Feb 2014
Now I won’t pretend to be an official frequent flyer, someone who practically lives in and out of airports and business class lounges. I’m more of a bargain basement kind of traveller, usually operating with lower cost carriers and occasionally finding myself at strange airports that were likely once a cargo terminal till Air Asia came along.
That being said, I have flown quite a significant amount in the past 3 years doing this travel photography thing, and being an aviation enthusiast (aka plane nerd), I've learnt all the little secrets like how to read the codes on a boarding pass, how to cheat and get free wi-fi, how to choose the best seats on a plane, how to unlocked a 'occupied' aircraft toilet, and why an Airbus A320 makes that strange ratcheting noise just before takeoff.
How to score free business class upgrades however, well thats something that still eludes me.
Here are a few hopefully comical observations and tidbits of useless information I've kept a note of over the years.
- None ever seems to travel with a pen to fill out those landing cards. Why wait in a long line at arrivals when you can fill it out before hand and be the first one through.
- Frequent Flyer and Hotel points are easier than you think to accumulate, and seriously do rack up. Never buy an airline ticket without giving over your FF number. Similarly, try and use sites like Agoda or Hotels.com who reward bookings with points or free nights.
- Sometimes the cheapest way to get from A to B is not to book a direct flight, but to make 2 separate bookings. Sometimes even with the same airline. A flight like Tokyo to Singapore direct might cost say $700 , but with separate bookings, e.g. Tokyo to Hong Kong and then Hong Kong to Singapore might only be $200 each leg.
- Searching for flights using your browsers "incognito" mode can sometimes save you a few dollars.
- Got leftover notes from that trip to China 4 years ago? Well bring them with you, you might just be able to pay for coffee at Starbucks in a foreign airport with them. Many shops and restaurants at airports will accept foreign currency for payment.
- The reason you can’t use your electronics during takeoff and landing is actually pretty simple. Statistically, these are the most likely times for something to go wrong with an aircraft, so to avoid being killed by a projectile iPad from the man in 37B during a sudden crash landing, they just ban all devices.
- Asian and Middle Eastern travellers always seem to travel with strange food items, or massive suitcases, or flatscreen TV’s. That's one smart way to save on shipping costs!
- You can always spot an Aussie tourist as they wear boardies (swimming shorts) and flip-flops regardless of wherever in the world they are. Southern Cross tattoos are also a dead giveaway.
- You can always spot a Canadian tourist as they have a Canadian flag sown onto their suitcase or backpack to distinguish themselves from their southern cousins.
- Chinese and Korean tourists generally travel in huge groups of no less than 20. Usually each wearing an item of matching clothing and accompanied by a shouty man with a megaphone.
- The United States is both one of the best and worst countries in the world to domestically fly. Best because of stiff airline competition for low fares and awesome ff programmes. Worst because the US is one of the few countries in the world where you can routinely expect to be bumped from a flight or lose out on valuable overhead luggage space.
- If an airport has paid Wi-Fi, sometimes you can score fee Wi-Fi by trying your luck near the entrance to an airline lounge. They often have unsecured networks with no passwords required. Alternatively, there are also offline Wi-Fi database apps you can download that list airport Wi-Fi passwords.
- Need to charge your phone at the airport but all the sockets/charging stations are taken up? No problem, just find the nearest TV and plug it into the USB if you can access it.
- There is no easy way to score a free seat upgrade, but there is no harm in politely asking when checking in. It also helps if you dress nicely and turn up early.
- Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest and least busiest days to fly.
- Choosing an emergency exit row seat, will often mean you are wedged in-between a family with screaming infants.
- And on that note, on larger wide body planes, the airlines will often place parents with kids on the row directly behind the galley, due to the bassinet’s. Avoid this area, or invest in noise cancelling headphones.
- If you're flying economy on an A380, try and book for an upper deck seat. It's much smaller and quieter up there. Seatguru.com is a great site for helping choose the best seats before making your booking.
- Uber is an awesome alternative for getting out of airports where rip-off taxi drivers operate.
- If you;re flying on a Boeing 777, avoid row 65 on the right hand side of the aircraft (65G). There is NO overhead storage bin. Instead, this secret compartment is an emergency exit for the crew rest cabin.
- Generally, the last few rows at the rear of the plane are the ones most likely to have empty seats if the flight isn’t full. The trade off is the rear of the aircraft is generally the last to be served food, suffers the worst of any in air turbulence, and is the last to de-plane when landing.
- There is no row 13 on a commercial aircraft.
- The instant a plane lands you will hear the sound of 163 text messages coming through at once, because the girl in 15D just couldn’t wait another 10 minutes to turn her phone on.
- Lots of people can’t seem to grasp the main rule of sitting in a middle seat, the rule being that the armrests to either side of me, belong to ME.
- You will always encounter an isle clogger when boarding an aircraft. This moron will be oblivious to you and the line of people behind you that he or she is blocking whilst fidgeting through the overhead looking for their iPod headphones.
- People honestly tend not to say please or thank you to flight attendants. I can understand the frustration at sitting in a metal tube for hours and hours, but basic manners should still apply.
- Occasionally you may experience the sudden seat recliner, an inconsiderate douchebag who does a full seat recline within a microsecond. Robbing you of your precious 20 inches of personal space.
- Always carry a pen on you and keep a photograph of your passport stored on your phone. It saves a lot of hassle when to comes to filling out those landing cards.
- Invest a few bucks into a 3.5mm Audio splitter. You can then use your own headphones with the in-flight entertainment system rather than use the rubbish ones that airline hands out. Just search for "3.5mm Stereo Aux 2 male to 1 female splitter" on Amazon/eBay.
- Loads of people goto the bathroom on an aircraft in bare feet or just in socks. Eww
- As soon as your flight has taken off, you should set your watch/phone to your destinations time. It makes it a lot easier mentally to adjust to the change in timezones.
- The only time you should run in an airport is after getting off the plane. First one to the immigration desks suckers!
- You might as well not even bother attaching a lock to your suitcase as 99% of them can be opened easily and undetectably with nothing more than a ballpoint pen. See here if you don't believe me.
- Last but not least, never EVER fly Ryanair. Just.Don't.Fucking.Do.It!
My current flight log. 147 flights and counting
Anyway, thats just a few of my little observations and annoyances from travelling. Let me know if you have any tips or observations in the comments below.