Things to NOT ever do at the airport.

People don’t like to be told what to do. So, here are some things you really ought NOT do at the airport:

1. You don’t necessarily have to pay to check your bag. Seriously.

Skip this--and the fees.

Just pack a normal-sized bag:

All of these will work.

If your bag weighs over 50 pounds, every airline’s going to charge you and extra $75 to $100 (yes, despite the legend, even Southwest is going to charge you for a bag over 50 pounds). But not if you carry it aboard. So you just take your bag through security instead–you think he cares how much it weighs or how large it is?

It just has to fit through the opening in the screening machine. Take your bag through security and to the gate. Ask the agent at your gate, “You want to gate check this?” They probably will, gladly, to avoid the usual last-minute baggage hassles on board. In fact, they’ll usually make an announcement before boarding to the effect that “if there’s any question as to whether your bag will fit on board, please bring it forward for gate checking.” FREE. This is especially important if you know it weighs more than 50 pounds–which it probably will after you buy more junk wherever you’re going. You like free stuff, right? Here, you just saved at least $50, plus whatever overweight fees you were going to pay.

2. NEVER do this:

Are you nuts?

Why would you put your wallet and watch into an open container and send it off on a conveyor belt to a point where you can neither see it nor reach it? Are you out of your mind?

Let’s talk. First, there’s nothing in your wallet that needs to be x-rayed and even if it did, it wouldn’t set off the screening arch if you walked through with it in your pocket WHERE IT BELONGS (note from your Mom: “Why do I have to tell you these things? Do you not have one lick of common sense?”).

Bag it, so you can find it easily after screening, stash it--and lock it!

Put anything valuable–like your watch, any jewelry, cell phone or if you insist (remember what Mom said) your wallet into a hand-carried bag WITH A SMALL COMBINATION LOCK ON IT.

There. Now when all your stuff goes through the screening arch

but you’re pulled aside to do the “scarecrow” pose while a stranger wandles (“wandle” = the combination of “wand” and “fondle” and you’re likely getting both) you, your valuables are not available for the quick swipe by anyone already through security. And the lock is a MUST: when the security screener asks, “Is this your bag?” he will not be able to open it until you are there to watch, because you don’t have to give him the combo. They can–and will–wait.

3. Don’t depend on anyone to tell you what time or what gate your flight leaves from. Ever. Why?

Because this is 2010, amigo! Pre-program your phone with the phone numbers for:

A. Gate/schedule information.

B. Designated flight rebooking number.

C. Destination hotel/transportation numbers.

Get these numbers from the appropriate website and note: the “rebooking” number is not the same as the reservations number. It’s on your airline’s website–or simply call them before your trip and ask for it.

Of course, this all is dependent upon you knowing your flight number. Not your destination–your specific FLIGHT NUMBER. There may be more than one flight to your destination, so it’s vital you know the number in order to get the correct gate and time info. “Where’s the flight to Omaha?” won’t get you the answers you really need. And in my opinion, even these screens

are less than useful because first, you have to find one, second, they’re often mobbed by what Herbert Nash Dillard termed “the great, heaving, vomiting, unwashed masses”–especially on Southwest–and third, they change often and besides, they only cover an hour or so from the present time.

But look at you all smug and cool because you speed-dialed for the most current gate and schedule information on your cell phone and you already know the latest.

Plus no one stole all your valuables while they lay out in the open on the far side of the screening arch. Right? And you can make the all-important phone call for connecting flight information while you taxi to the gate. Your information will be more current than even what was announced in flight because it’s more recent. And rebooking?

You won’t be in the endless line–which is often outside of security–because you rebooked on your cellphone as soon as a cancellation was discovered. Probably only by you because you shrewdly called. Shhhhhh; quietly proceed to the new gate and get your seat before Herbert Nash Dillard’s group discovers the change.

4. Finally–and this is just for me and every crewmember you might see–don’t ask where the bathroom is. I mean it.

Think about it for a moment (you don’t want Mom chewing your butt again, do you?). The airport, like any public building, has restrooms. If you don’t see one right away, you choose a direction, left or right, and walk till you see one.  Do you have to go so bad that you feel the “right or left” choice is life or death? If so–poor planning. Consider a diaper–if the shuttle astronauts wear them, you can too.

Mostly though, I really don’t want to be aware that you have to go to the bathroom. Although like most crewmembers, with difficult people I keep the “stray dog” maxim at all time: “don’t make eye contact,” but it’s not foolproof. If someone still insists on asking me where the restroom is, I usually ask them, “number one or number two?” People actually stop and consider and are about to tell me when they eventually catch up with the basic norms of decorum and adult personal responsibility. “That way,” I tell them, pointing either right or left, because sooner or later they’ll find a restroom.

I could go on–and likely will in a future blog post–but these four tips will put you way ahead of the traveling masses and make your trip both cheaper and less frustrating.

I know–no one likes to be told what to do. So here’s what not to do and please, listen to me, or you’ll probably have to deal with Mom when things go haywire–and . . .

". . . it's your own fault because you didn't listen, did you smarty pants?"

Besides, when it comes to Item #4, “yes, you should have gone before you left the house.” Thanks, Mom.


The oriental salmon salad! What’s not to like?

13 Responses to “Things to NOT ever do at the airport.”

  1. Couldn’t agree more! NOT making eye contact in the terminal does cut the strays at least in half. Wearing a uniform does not mean that I know where everything is any more than you do!

    • Especially the whole bathroom thing; I never understand that. But also, what could be so difficult about writing down the flight numbers and times on note pad, at least? And the cellphone thing–so easy, quick, efficient. Okay, I’ll shut up now.

  2. The bathroom thing has always amazed me. It’s simply a big building. Every big building (terminal, mall, arena…) has bathrooms every certain amount of feet (or whatever…). Just keep walking & open your eyes! As for flight numbers & times, if they pay a nice chunk to fly you’d think knowing the correct info would be crucial!

  3. Wandle…I love it. I laughed out loud when I got to that part. The locking part is so true. In fact, on my recent flight last week, the agent didn’t even realize it WAS locked until I pointed it out.

    Me: “Do you need me to unlock that?”
    TSA: “Oh..uhh…yeah.”

    Brilliant. Anyway…I also think the bit about gate-checking your bags is genius. I’ve never had to do it, but have always wondered if it was free. The only time this method wouldn’t work is if you were checking more than one bag. But then I suppose you could at least get one free bag.

    And your salad actually looks pretty decent. Not the typical airport fare.

    • Yeah, it was a salad from First Class with some more stuff added. Love the salmon on the plane.

      They haven’t figured out how to bill for gate checked bags because it’s usually last minute and sometimes, if there are too many bags on board and not enough space to stow them, they’ll take the bags from you. Can’t bill you for that, so it’s really not fair to bill those who actually comply earlier.

      What they really want is to get the airplane off the gate–can’t imagine them fumbling through credit card approvals, etc.

  4. unexpectedtraveller Says:

    Dude – I just love the “lock your valuables” tip. I recommend that people stuff them into their hand luggage (which works too) but I prefer yours. I’ve documented some of these tips too:

    One thing though – in Europe, they will weigh your hand luggage when you’re checking in and will insist you check it in if it’s over the limit. So your tip to take it in with you up till boarding may not work here.

    The Unexpected Traveller

    • Good point–sounds like the process is fine-tuned in some European airports to gather more fees. In the U.S., it’s still a mad scramble at boarding time to get everyone seated on board and with their luggage stowed (FAA hot-button issue). It’s the one bit of revenue collection yet to plague the U.S. air travel market.

  5. Theresa Harper Says:

    Looks good to me..

  6. Good tips and true about gate checking bags. I do have to disagree on your point “the great, heaving, vomiting, unwashed masses”–especially on Southwest. Not so much! I fly every airline out there and with competing fares I’ve seen these masses on every carrier so it’s not quite fair to say they are prevalent on one airline.

  7. American Airlines flight 1971 is my flight #

  8. Randi Danger Says:

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