I still remember my first flight experience. I flew to India back in 2006 to represent my college at a Science competition. I wasnt prepared well hence flight experience wasnt a very great one. Since then I made sure to prepare ahead. Is it a big deal not being prepared? Yes, atleast for me because I’ve had several unpleasant incidents which could have been avoided. Since then I’ve got opportunities to fly around the world through various carriers. Most of my experiences explained are based on flying economy class which I think most of you can relate to.
This blog post I will be breaking down into 3 parts.
* [Part 1] Things you should do before your flight
* [Part 2] Flight reviews
* [Part 3] Best Airports I have visited and why I rank them as the best?
Things you should do before your flight
Often times we forget to do these simple things which may cause us to regret on a foreign soil while roaming isnt available with no wifi (disappointed emoji goes here) So here we go.
1.Apply for Visa : “Visa Free / Visa On Arrival / Visa Required” are different
Before your trip, check to which category your destination belongs to and plan out accordingly. Visa Free and Visa On Arrival are not the same. Visa Free means you wouldnt need to prior apply / apply on arrival to enter and exit to a particular country but should have a valid travel document (passport). Example : A Sri Lankan passport holder does not need a visa to enter Singapore, Indonesia or Maldives. (Source)Visa on Arrival is when the traveller need visa to enter a particular country but it can be obtained upon arrival. This category can be a little ambiguous because difference sources would mix this up with Visa required. You dont want to end up not going on your trip because of this misunderstanding so I highly recommend you check the authoritative sources way ahead as visa processing is a time consuming affair. Visa Required is pretty straightforward and it says you need to have a prior visa approval before entering the country.
2.Cheapflights.com to the rescue [Not a sponsored Advertisement]
Save Money! Cheapflights.com, aggregate cheap flight ticket info through different ticket seller sources. It can be from the airline website itself or can be 3rd party reliable sources. Sometimes you would find tickets which are way cheaper than from the airline itself but make sure to check those ticket sellers refund policy, terms and conditions. Cheap tickets comes with various caveats which most of the time arent greater concerns for regular traveller. Example, cheaper the ticket price lower the milage points earned or cheaper the ticket cannot upgrade to a different tier or cheaper the price no refunds…etc. I prefer cheapflights.com over other aggregators because they populate realtime price changes in a very user friendly way. Bloomberg wrote an article on “The best time to find the cheapest plane tickets for every season” which I think you should check out too.
3. Sign up for flight loyalty programs There are plenty of benefits signing up to a loyal program. Such as lounge access, excess baggage, quicker check in process and more. Most of the airlines either manage their own loyalty program or become a part of an alliance (Eg : One World) so passengers can earn/ burn miles at any of their partner airlines. Loyalty program sign ups can be either free (Krisflyer, Skywards) or you have to pay a joining fee (Marco Polo). As soon as you sign up you will be at a basic tier and as much as fly, you can collect miles. Usually higher the spend higher miles earned. Basic tier wouldnt provide many benefits I mentioned earlier so let me tell how to spice things up with a BIG CAUTION in the next point.
4. Get a credit card meant for travellers (Use with caution)[Warning] Im not a strong advocate of credits cards. Credit cards are the money you dont own but you owe one day with a price tag and thats annual fee, late payment fee or an interest. So if you are not good at managing your finances, skip this point! If you are good at managing your finances, you will only pay for flight tickets and not to buy cloths or you have a paycheck / reimbursement from the company to pay back for what you bought, then this is for you.
There are handful of credit cards meant for travellers. As they make purchases, every dollar spent will be converted to miles! This is super cool if you are a frequent traveller. Some of these cards come with complementary priority pass membership (Priority pass is an airport lounge access program). How can this point spice up flight loyal program point? Simple, aviation specific credit cards are usually tied up to a loyal program where credit card points can be converted to miles. If you are in Singapore, DBS Altitude is one such example. Or if you only need access to lounges, consider joining Priority Pass. Why lounges matter? Free food, drinks, wifi, comfortable seating and sometimes free foot massages too. (and for some ofcourse to brag about it too)
5. Where you sit really mattersOnce I took a 14 hour long flight and I forgot to select my seat. The seat I got was closer to a section divider (yes the washrooms). Usually the row after section dividers are been reserved by parents who carry toddlers so they can place the little one in a mounted basket of sorts. What’s wrong with seated after few rows where the toddlers are? They cry if they aren’t put into sleep! Some little ones they sense the change in pressure and it can be uncomfortable for them. I was in a 3-4-3 seat configuration airplane and praying lets not have any kiddo on board. Guess what? God neglected my prayers and 3 little ones came onboard. They took turns in crying 🙏. I can write a whole blog post about “Where you sit really matters” (let me know in the comment section) but for now, Seatguru can be a good source for you to see some reviews on the seats you select in different airlines. This can be a saviour specially when you are taking a long hour flight.
If you are a person who want to take some beautiful sunset / sunrise / cloud / city lights photographs and dont want to use bathroom quite often select a window seat. If you want to use bathroom quite often select an aisle seat. If you want to slumber, good idea to select a middle column (if the plane has one. usually long distance flight seats are of this config) middle seats or window seats.
6. Pre book your mealThis is a very good move if you have dietary restrictions. I have seen folks quarrel with flight attendants when their requested menu isn’t available, often times passenger hasn’t requested prior to boarding and sometimes, airline staff have made a mistake. I usually request for Halal/Muslim meal despite the airline to be sure. These pre booked meals are served first, as you might have seen some folks get their meals earlier before rest of the passengers in economy. If your parents are old or if they have to take their pills early, you can request the food to be served earlier as well. But make sure to do it before flight depart.
7. Dont forget to pack up the essentials
A small water bottle, powerbank, power cables, a vanity kit (Most airlines used to distribute for economy passengers years back but now mostly confined to business class / first class passengers), flights can get cold so maybe its a good idea to have a sweater / a hoodie and I usually pack a cap because I have less hair, keeping my head exposed to aircon might be discomforting. Most importantly, do take your passport, printout of the ticket (nowadays airlines accept the e ticket shown in your phone), a print out of your e visa (if any) and a pen. Why a pen? There can be documents to fill and you dont want to waste your time asking around. Consider putting the pen inside a plastic cover or something because sometimes ink starts to leak due to cabin pressure. Check aviation restrictions on what you can put inside check in baggages and hand luggage.
These are few things I think will be useful for you before the flight you take next time. These are some of the common things and may vary from one person to another. Since Covid 19 has disrupted many offline processes to go digital, hopefully e-visa will become more popular, passengers might need to arrive at airports earlier than before, there can be additional health check ups and more. I think we will have to wait and see how countries lift travel bans and aviation adapt to new normal.
What are the other things would you consider before taking your flight? Let me know in the comments section below.
In part 2 of this blog post, I will review few flights I have flown based on factors useful for all the future passengers. Until then, answer which picture has more leg space?