It’s no surprise that air travel is full of surprises. Often these are happy surprises — a flight departs early, an airport employee is handing out free cookies, or you get the last open seat on an earlier flight. But sometimes the surprises are not so lovely. In fact, some travel concerns haunt even the most seasoned passengers.
So, just in time for Halloween, we’ve compiled a list of five things that haunt air travelers, and what you can do to solve (or avoid!) these ghoulish, if not exactly “paranormal,” problems.
1. Losing your driver’s license or passport before a flight
Murphy’s Law dictates that anything that can go wrong most certainly will, and for some people, this law is most strictly enforced right before an upcoming flight. In this case the first thing you should do is panic relax. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), just because your ID is missing, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be allowed to fly. In fact, if you’re able to provide some additional information to the TSA, they may be able to verify your identity in another way (like through publicly available databases). If this is your life right now, take a look at the TSA website for more info on acceptable identification.
2. Caught in traffic before a flight
“Hi, I’m calling because I’m on I-26 and I’m stuck in traffic. My plane leaves in 20 minutes, but I’ll be there in 15. Please tell them to hold the plane!”
Amazingly, we’ve heard this plea more times than we can count, and unfortunately the response must always be, “I’m sorry, but the airline won’t hold the plane. When you get here, you’ll need to try to get on the next available flight.”
While we don’t have any tips for extricating yourself from a traffic jam, this is a great time to emphasize the airlines’ rules for catching a plane, and the very first one is that you must be checked in no later than 30 minutes before the flight time (and for some airlines, it’s even earlier). Checking in online whenever possible is one way to help prevent a last minute hang-up. Additionally, airplane boarding usually closes about a quarter of an hour before the flight time, so it’s important to be at your gate and ready to board with ample time to spare.
A common misconception is that because Asheville Regional Airport is a small airport, and it generally doesn’t take long to get through the TSA screening checkpoint, it’s not necessary to arrive more than 20 or 30 minutes before the flight. The truth is, it is always a good idea to give yourself plenty (and we do mean plenty) of extra time. Plus, it makes travel a lot less stressful when you don’t have to rush to catch your flight.
3. Setting off the TSA metal detector
Believe us when we say we know the TSA screening checkpoint often feels like more of a trick than a treat, but did you know the TSA agents at AVL are rated more highly than at comparable airports across the U.S.? Yeah, we’re fortunate to have some of the best TSA folks around. But we digress.
The point is, one of the most frequently asked questions we hear is about getting through TSA when you’ve got various metal implants or internal medical devices, such as screws in your bones, plates in your head, or even a pacemaker. Not to worry — our TSA agents could make even Frankenstein a happy customer. If you’ve got any kind of metal in or on your person, all you need to do is have a chat with a TSA agent before you begin the screening process so they can take special precautions to make sure you’re screened appropriately.
As for all the other ways you could set off the metal detector, such as with a belt, earrings, necklace, or steel-toed boots, our recommendation is to leave the metal at home or in your bags. This will make the screening process a little easier for everyone!
4. Losing your liquids at TSA
The 3-1-1 rule for liquids and gels has been in effect since August of 2006, but we still see bottles of hairspray and jars of sauce being tossed out like it’s some kind of witch’s brew. The TSA agents aren’t trying to be jack-o-lanterns, they’re just trying to do their job and keep the skies safe, and sometimes that means it’s better to be safe than sorry. To recap, the 3-1-1 rule states that all liquids and gels in carry-on bags must be 3.4 ounces or less each, and they must all fit into a single (1) one-quart-sized plastic bag. So next time you travel, support your favorite household supplies manufacturer and buy a box of quart-size bags for your lotions, potions and toothpaste.
5. Lost luggage
Unfortunately, this is probably one of the most common evils of air travel, and can certainly cause a fright. The good news is that we have a couple tips to help battle this particular demon.
- When booking flights with a connection, be sure to leave a large window of time (no less than an hour if you can help it) between the connecting flights. Remember those movie scenes where the main character runs a record-setting pace from one terminal to another in a mad dash to catch their next flight and arrives at the gate just after the door closes? Well, that’s essentially what your bags do each time you have a connecting flight, and the more time you give them to reach the next plane, the better your chances of being able to pick them up on time at your final destination.
- Always, always, always pack medication, car and house keys, and irreplaceable items in your carry-on bag. And, if certain items won’t fit, you might consider shipping them ahead of time to your destination.
- Label all your checked bags with your name, address, phone number, e-mail, CB radio handle, Twitter name, ESP wavelength — you get the idea. If your bag does get lost, you want the bag handlers to be able to easily identify which one is yours.
- If you find yourself bag-less at the end of a journey, don’t leave the airport before filing a lost bag claim with the airline. This claim ticket allows you to follow up on your bag if it still hasn’t arrived the next day or so.
- Finally, keep in mind that bags that are checked “planeside” — i.e. you slap a tag on your bag and hand it over right before you step onto the plane — need to be picked up planeside when you land.
Amazingly, nearly 30,000 flights operate each day in the United States alone. This amounts to about 1.76 million passengers every day, most of whom fly easily to their destinations without any problems. Of course, as with many things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and we hope these travel tips will help you avoid a haunting experience the next time you head to the airport!