1) Expect to be delayed. When it doesn’t happen, imagine how surprised you’ll be. Like an early visit from Santa Claus.
2) Accomplish every conceivable transaction with an airline online or at a kiosk. Buy your ticket online and check in online (via your computer or handheld device) at the first possible moment you can (24 hours prior to departure).
3) Pack a bottle of water and some kind of semi-preservable snack in your carry-on just in case. Buy food at the airport to take onboard if you want a meal inflight. Do not expect any meals onboard unless you are seated in a premium cabin, and don’t bet the farm that you’ll get one even then.
4) Once at the airport, check your bag at the kiosk, or better yet, learn how to pack and carry on ONE piece of luggage and a personal item. The famous “Deltalina” has a few tips on Delta’s blog. Here’s a link. If you do overpack or bring more luggage than normal, be prepared to pay whatever the airline charges for excess luggage. Review airline policies online prior to going to the airport. And remember to put those toiletries in a 1 quart clear plastic “zip lock” bag.
5) Once you get on the plane, stow your ONE carry on in the overhead and your personal item underneath the seat in front of you. Get out of the aisle so others may pass by. If you have some form of early boarding privilege through airline elite status, take advantage of it and acquire some overhead space near your seat.
6) If things go wrong, remain calm. If you are standing in a long line waiting to be rebooked, call the airline’s 800 number from your cell phone. You could possibly be rebooked by the time you get to talk to an agent. And if you must speak to an airline employee, remember that a little kindness goes a long way. Be pleasant even if they are not. If you are at odds about something with no possible solution in sight, ask for a supervisor or manager. Try not to get to that point.
Press reports indicate that travel will be down this holiday season. Don’t be fooled. Most of these reports focus on total numbers of travelers, and there will be fewer. But airlines have reduced the number of flights accordingly, meaning that your flight is just as likely to have a high load factor as it has in the past which translates into fewer available seats on all flights for reaccomodating passengers from problem flights. Be patient, try to fly early in the day and have a backup plan. I’d be willing to bet that you’ll have a teriffic holiday no matter what happens.