Our Best Airline Hacks – Opt Out

Our Best Airline Hacks

5 months ago · 4 minute read

I wonder what it would feel like to run 500 miles per hour. Or to jump 30,000 feet into the air.

It’s funny.  Because we all know what it feels like to sit in a chair at 30 thousand feet, hurling forward at near supersonic speed.  

It feels like nothing.

It’s the same as sitting in a chair at home. Complete with a screen to watch, and a beverage to enjoy.

The marvel of modern flight isn’t much of a marvel.

But to be able to run that fast? Or jump that high? That would be something to celebrate.

Our love for travel – our need to explore – will always begin and end with a chair, on a plane, sitting snugly upright. Waiting to arrive in a better place.

So we book flights.

Booking flights is actually a hard task for many of us. It’s intimidating.

We wonder, “Where should I book? Is this price a good price? Will I be stuck next to a person who smells bad?”

The questions go on.

“Are there good nonstop options? Are there any deals running? Can you use points, or hack some miles together to get it cheap?”

After decades of our own travels, and several podcast interviews with guests who are near-professional travelers (Adam Dailey, Brian Kidwell, Gabe Douek) . . . here are some Opt Out hacks to the airlines.

Don’t limit your search to the simple roundtrip.
If you are going to Europe, you don’t need to fly from the city you live in direct to your destination and back again. Cheaper fares can be had by doing the extra work to search for alternative departure and arrival cities. So make it a practice from now on.

For example, if you live in Sacramento and your destination is Stuttgart, look for flights from San Francisco, Oakland, and Las Vegas to cities like Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Paris.  Sacramento and Stuttgart are great places, but they aren’t big airline hubs. The other cities are. There are more flight options.

And you can easily (and cheaply) get from Sacramento to the alternatives. Same goes for Stuttgart. If you don’t look, you might miss out on a $400 deal from SFO to Paris. Those deals can be combined with cheap domestic flights that save you money.

Take off and landing times matter, a lot.
If you take off at 10am for a twelve hour flight, you waste your “waking hours” on a plane. If you arrive in a city at 8am and you’re exhausted, you can’t enjoy the day.

It’s also going to be hard for you to rest somewhere if your Airbnb check-in time isn’t til 4pm in the afternoon.

So be mindful of take off and landing times when you book. They are nearly as important as the price you pay for your flight. Your goal should be to maximize the time you have at your destination, and to arrive with energy.

On connecting flights, sit near an exit.
If you book a tight connection, be strategic about which seat you choose. A lot of flights get delayed. You can increase your chances of making a connecting flight if you carry on your bags, and sit near an exit. Sit near the front of the plane, or the back of the plane (if you can verify they unload out of the back also).

On short legs, sit in seats where in-flight service begins.
Let’s say you are going to Vegas on a 1 hour flight. You’d love to fit in a cocktail on the inbound. The best strategy is to find out in which rows your airline begins its food and beverage service. Many airlines start at the front of the plane. But for Southwest Airlines, for example, they often start service around rows 9 and 23. If you sit in row 9, you’ll have more time (and a better chance, in general) at getting a drink.

To use miles, call.
Many smart travelers take advantage of airline miles programs to save on flight costs. When it comes time to use those miles, don’t book via the airline’s website. Call the 800 number. Yes, this will take more time. But you can get more bang for your miles by talking to a representative.

Reps can easily search partner airlines for you, and have a better feel for what is available. Your chances of getting the flight you want, at the time you want, are increased by calling in.

Be a rewards member.
Every airline you fly, join their rewards or miles program. There are often bonuses upon signing up, so you can quickly get enough accumulated points to book a trip. That aside, there’s no reason to avoid these programs (other than the 2 minute hassle of filling out a form to obtain a member number). Join the programs.

Choose your credit cards like you choose your friends.
Credit cards are the holy grail for hacking airline miles and rewards programs. If you’re a traveler, every card in your wallet should be tied to an airline rewards program. Take advantage of bonuses on new card sign ups, as well as ongoing bonuses.

Cards offered by Alaska Airlines come with a yearly companion ticket that’s just $121. You can use it to fly to any destination, including Mexico and Hawaii. Airline credit cards are also essential to accessing priority boarding, booking and re-booking, and lounges.

The point is, if you have a credit card that is not earning you some airline rewards, you’re missing out.

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