Holiday Air Travel: Let the Games Begin.

It’s that time of year again: let’s spend a gazillion bucks on air travel to spend an awkward holiday with people who make you crazy.


That’s the American way, squandering the mileage awards one  might want to blow on an exotic vacation for tickets to share regret with others who’ve also abandoned fun stuff for family stuff. That’s what holiday travel is all about, and even though you won’t feel better about the commitment later (sorry), the voyage itself will be memorable if only for the diminished expectations and unexpected turmoil. Ready to fly yet?


Granted, I’m just the guy in the cockpit. I don’t have to smile and make nice at your family gathering (trust me, I have my own challenge waiting) and once we land, I’m turning around and flying back home to my crew base. Meanwhile, for your sake, let me point out the obvious.

First, expect things at the airport to run slower than you planned. So, plan an extra 1.75 in your time factor for scheduling. Meaning, whatever time you allotted for say, security, multiply that by 1.75 and determine how much time you’ll really need. Allowing two hours for check-in and security? Allow three and a half. Worst case, you’re through early but even so, your blood pressure will be lower. Trust me, “those people” travel on the holidays, only on the holidays, and tend to slow the process down in ways you never dreamed.


Second, know your shiitake (I don’t want to write “shit,” but you need to know your shit) to include flight number and date. Then, just Google your flight to find out the latest gate and time info. You won’t need to line up at a service desk or call a toll free number–just move quickly to your next gate or to the proper baggage claim at your destination. You’ll be way ahead of the crowd.

Third, take care of yourself. Cough up the cash once you’re on the secure side of the airport for calories and water. Yes, they have some of the former and much of the latter, but neither on your schedule. If there’s a delay or, in flight, turbulence (not uncommon), there will be no food for sale or water poured–because I’ll have my crew seated until when and if ever the turbulence allows them to be up and about the cabin safely. So buy some type of carry-aboard food and beverage and forget the sticker shock: as Dear Abby said, “There’s what you spend, then there’s what you spend when you travel.” Do it. Take care of yourself and those in your travel party.


Finally, bring your patience and remember, this isn’t the dentist’s office–you’re not at the airport and flying here to there for a cocktail party horror story: you knew up front that the airports and airplanes would be crammed full, that winter weather would delay flights, and that flight crews are human and have limits, too.


Hey, shut up.

Stay cool, be patient; know your shiitake and be calorized and hydrated. The rest is just a matter of time: you’ll get to that crazy family holiday deal and if you take my advice, the trip will be both tolerable and memorable–for the right reasons.

See you at the airport.


7 Responses to “Holiday Air Travel: Let the Games Begin.”

  1. […] airports, flight crew, travel tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own […]

  2. […] via Holiday Air Travel: Let the Games Begin. — The JetHead Blog […]

  3. Paul Beiser Says:

    Love your blog, and these tips are RIGHT ON. Most people following this probably are familiar with some of these, and will adopt the others. Too bad you can’t reach the other folks 🙂

  4. Cedar Glen Says:

    As usual, a great post, Chris and you nailed it. Again. As for the details, I learned my lesson(s) some years ago while travelling for business. For personal travel during holiday periods, No! I do not need to and I refuse to put up with that ‘shiitake,’ from your company or any other. I don’t want to see any relatives during the over blown holidays and I’m old enough that I do not have to. (I do not like most of them to begin with. On my own territory and my own community, I can pick my friends. With relatives, I’m more-or-less stuck.) So, in the immortal words of Nancy Reagan (did not like her, either), “Just say ‘No.’ ” and stay home.
    If you must work during the horrible holiday periods, I hope you and your colleagues collect a generous share of those inflated holiday fares. I’ll remain at home, in the company of folks that I truly like.
    If there is a Silver Lining to any of this, it may be your artfully penned cartoons. I enjoy them immensely. Happy holidays to the pilots and FAs who must work. In addition sir, after many decades to working and teaching, I long ago learned the wisdom of ignoring the calendar and celebrating most holidays *when it was convenient for me and for those with whom I wanted to spend a holiday!* Who says I cannot celebrate Thanksgiving a week early or a week late? Happy Holiday, Captain! -C

  5. Killer post, as always. So glad I stumbled onto your blog!

  6. My policy is avoid traveling when everyone else is. Stay at home and relax. Travel and see people some other time of the year when its not nuts 🙂

    Last time I flew somewhere was for work, Seattle, Phily, and back, Phily airport was hell. Glad it didnt cost me anything, even then it was barely worth the stress of it all. Airports should be paying me to use them. On the plus side AA did find, locate me at the gate and return my phone that I left on the check-in counter, so bonus points for being awesome there.

  7. Dave Bartel Sr Says:

    Yet another outstanding post by The Jet Head, bravo to you Chris. You Sir have a talent of cutting through the scud and going direct!
    Oh, and by the way your book “Voodoo Rush” has earned a top shelf place right next to the 21 YRO single malt Irish whiskey, well done.

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