More travel tips from the flight deck

IMG_0054Earlier this month my sister the airline pilot shared a list of iPad and iPod touch apps she uses at work, as well as several apps she recommends for travelers. Today she’s back with another post. This time is general tips for those traveling by plane. There’s some good stuff in here, so dig in.


Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned during my years of flying. I hope you’ll find something useful!

  • If an overhead bag fits perpendicular to the airplane and baggage overhead bin, place it with wheels out. It will fit in deeper. Throw your coat on top of that bag if you can, giving others room.
  • Prepare a small bag to be kept under the seat for things you may need during the flight. It might include electronic devices, chargers (most seats have outlets), any medicine, travel docs (passport, etc.), wallet (you may want to buy inboard food or order Direct TV), packed sandwich or snacks (bananas, apples, granola bars) and your own water bottle, purchased once inside security. Also consider bringing your own headset if you want to watch TV without using the painful coach headsets, a neck pillow and something light to throw over yourself in case it is chilly.
  • It seems easiest to pack your Zip Lock bag of liquids into the aforementioned small bag, so only one bag has to be opened at security. This also prevents those things from getting crushed in the larger bag.
  • Taking the first flight out is ideal since MOST airplanes have been at the airport overnight and there is LESS of a chance that delays related to late inbound aircraft for an outbound flight. You’ll also have LESS of a chance of other flights getting canceled and rebooked on a morning flight, smaller security lines, less amount of terminal crowds, and LESS weather effects as the weathers trend toward calm in the A.M.
  • While enroute, look at the airline magazine in the seat back pocket. They contain airport diagrams for major airports. This helps give you an idea where you’ll be when you get off the airplane. It helps you anticipate where to exit for pickup (arrivals is typically on the baggage claim level) and where to transfer to your next departure gate when connecting. Feel free to ring the overhead to call a flight attendant and ask for gate arrival number. The crew typically knows the gate assignment 30 minutes prior to landing.
  • Ear plugs and eye masks/sunglasses are great for sleeping.
  • Window seats good for sleeping.
  • Choose a seat near the wing if your body does not like to fly and you have tendency to air sickness.
  • Choose a seat near the front of coach, near an exit door or in economy plus/business/first class for quick exit on and off.
  • If on a 50-seat regional jet, choose the single first three seats to attempt personal space on a smaller aircraft.
  • Step into your seat and let passengers pass until you see a break in the boarding passengers to step out and find an overhead bag spot. Seating in the front of coach aids in getting first dibs on overhead space, so you never have to search. Some airlines board by zones…look for zone one first for the same bags reason.

A Cessna 150 picks up a banner

Each weekend, I post the cool things I found during the week. You can follow the Weekend List category here and the RSS feed here.

You may have seen those planes that haul advertising banners across the sky, often at the beach or other densely-populated tourist areas. The process that attaches the banner to the plane is interesting. The small planes they typically use lack the horsepower to take off while dragging a banner, and unfurling a banner in flight runs the very real risk of getting it tangled up in the plane itself. So, the banner is attached, unfurled, to an upright on the ground. The plane then sweeps in very low while dragging a hook that snatches the banner.

When my sister was a young pilot, fresh out of college, she was offered an opportunity to do this as a summer job. I’m glad she didn’t take it.