23 Travel Tips For You From Working 23 Years In The Airline Industry

Kerwin McKenzieTravel Information 2 Comments

23 Travel Tips For You From Working 23 Years In The Airline Industry

I’m an airline geek! As a kid growing up, all I wanted to do was become a pilot. Well, that’s kind of expensive and coming from a poor family, that did not happen, so as soon as I could I got a job with an airline. That was Delta Air Lines in 1994, fresh out of Graduate school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.


It was not in the back office as you’d expect, but on the ramp. Yup, a Graduate student with Math and Computer Science at the undergrad level and a Masters in Aeronautical Science working on the ramp at Washington-Reagan, well at the time it was just National Airport (DCA) :-). But the industry was in a slump at the time and a ramp rat was the only position offered me by the recruitment office in Atlanta for Delta. So I took it.


I learned a lot at National. I learned a lot as I moved positions and airlines (Delta Air Lines, ATA, Continental and United) and cities. As airline employees, we are nomads, always moving to the next airline for better pay, quality of life, etc. They say we have jet fuel in our views and I think they are right. Some live in one city and work in another and then commute back home after their shifts. There’s been a lot of mergers, so its a very close knit community.


I flew everywhere, every opportunity I got. I even met Sir Richard Branson once. Not sure he was Sir at the time :-). It was the inaugural flight of the Delta/Virgin Atlantic codeshare partnership and my very first flight to Europe. I stood in the jetway as he came down the jetway high fiving and shaking everyone’s hand. It was a pretty cool feeling.


I’ve been to 116 countries/territories around the world. It’s always a contention about which count is correct, so that’s a whole other post :-). Since my very first flight to Fort-de-France, Martinique from Kingston, Jamaica in 1980, I’ve flown more than 167 airlines averaging about 300,000 miles per year. At my peak, I flew 548,000 miles in one year. Yeah, I love to fly and I love people.



I tell you all this as I’ve learned a lot during these years. The industry has changed, the people flying have changed, the number of airlines have changed, many more things have changed.


So, to help you through your travels, I though I’d drop “23 Things I’ve Learned From Working in the Airline Industry For 23 Years” so it may help you in your travels. Here goes…


1. Be Nice

If you stop reading now (don’t :-)), your next flight will be better if you do this. Too often I see people just push their ticket in front of the agent asking to be checked in. Be nice, say good morning, ask them about their day; they are people just like you, and making a living serving your needs. Don’t just brush past the flight attendant onboard, say hello. A little hello goes a long way. I have friends who bring the agents chocolate :-)…


2. Be Loyal

This is the fastest way to make your trips better. Yes, the rules have changed over time and they will continue changing, but you can still get miles for your trips.


3. Get An Airport Lounge Card

I can’t stress this enough. You can do this via airline status and/or credit card. As an example, the American Express Platinum card gives you access to the American Express Centurion Lounges as well as Priority Pass Lounge access around the world. Other credit cards give similar benefits.


4. Read

The airlines are required by law to tell you about everything they are selling you. it’s a ton of information and there is no way they can present it all to you in one place and get you to read it. So they give you links to it. Most don’t read them, but should. Usually on that very last page of the transaction there’s a checkbox, use it. The main thing to read is the contract of carriage and the rules of the fare you are purchasing. I know what you are saying, but its the fine print. Well it is, but in every industry there are fine print. I’m sure like many you’ve not read the terms of your credit card, your mobile phone terms of agreement, your free email terms of agreement, your mortgage, get the picture. Be informed, know what you are buying.


5. Pack Only What You Need

Sounds simple, but people pack a lot of stuff and then talk about why they are charged for the bags or how come some airlines don’t charge. Note that each airline is different and if you prefer how one operates, then that’s the one you should fly. I mean its that simple. When I fly low cost carriers, I pay for my backpack as by their rules its too big. When I fly full service carriers, I have no issues as their rules are different. During each trip, check what you’ve packed and if you don’t use it, then just don’t take it next time. At worst, you can buy something if you need it. Don’t stuff your bag. If you can’t lift it over your head, take some stuff out.


6. Download The Travel Tools Provided

I’m usually amazed at how many people don’t do this. I worked in this area at one of my airline jobs and my colleagues and I really worked hard to put information that is really useful in these Apps. They give you all the information that you would usually ask about. So do yourself a favor and download them, create an account if necessary and manage your travel. I tell you you’ll be amazed at how much this will help your travels. Some airlines are much better at this than others. Trust me; it was my job to research then all and I still do this when I travel today.


7. You Are Not Always Right

You only know what is happening before you, you don’t know what’s behind the scene. If you think you know something the agent does not, be nice about telling them they are wrong. No one like a know it all. Besides its just not nice to be nasty to people.


8. Order A Vegetarian Meal

These are specially prepared and are much better than the regular meal everyone gets. Plus you’ll get served first. The drawback though is that you finish way before everyone else and you get to keep your dirty tray in front of you longer than anyone else. So its a trade off.


9. Get A Seat Before You Get To The Airport

This way you can pick what you want. Some airlines do charge extra for this. if you don’t want to pay, you’ll get one at the airport at no charge. It may not be what you want though, so weight that option. I’ll tell you though I’ve gotten great seats at the airport. Just go back to point number 1; Be Nice.


10. Know Your Airplane

Simple, but most people have no idea what airplane they are flying, then when they board, they complain about it. If you know your airplane and the amenities it has you can be prepared. The airlines are required by local laws to tell you this at the time you purchase your ticket. Take sometime to check to see if there is entertainment, in-seat power, Wifi, etc. before you buy the ticket. Don’t whine about it later.


11. Drink Water During Flights

When you fly your body dehydrates due to the dry air in the airplane. The airplane manufacturers use all kinds of cool technology to make your flights better, but you should still drink water when you fly. Alcohol is fine, but of course in moderation. You can take a water bottle onboard and some airlines will allow you to fill them at a water fountain onboard. Others will fill them up for you, just ask. Most airlines will bring you water at your seat at intervals through the flight. Drink.


12. Keep Your Shoes On

This one escapes me. People walk around the plane barefoot; don’t do it. There is so much germs on those carpets as people walk all over and then on those carpets. keep your shoes on especially when you go to the lavs.


13. Dress Properly

This should go without saying, but I’ve seen some interesting, to say the least, outfits in my travels. Just two days ago, I saw a guy in his pajama pants. Really? You have to sit next to a person; please put some proper clothes on.


14. Be Ontime

Give yourself enough time to get to the airport, check-in, clear security and be at the gate to board your flight. If you are traveling with others who need more time, factor that in. Just give yourself extra time. And when boarding starts, board, don’t sit there and wait until the last minute. It’s really rude to have an entire plane wait for you.


15. Don’t Be That Guy/Gal

You don’t need to stand out from the crowd, just blend in. Don’t be loud and obnoxious. Just chill.


16. Pay For The Services You Require

Not everyone travels the same. So if you need some extra services, don’t feel that oh, the airline used to offer it so they should. If you now have to pay for it. Just do it and move on. Don’t try to impose on the airline or your fellow passengers. It’s just not fair to anyone.


17. The Lowest Fare Is Not Always the Best Fare

Always choose comfort over price. Too often I see people making comments how their flight was terrible as they had no legroom or they had no meal. You usually get what you pay for in air travel. The control is in your hands when you buy the ticket. Do the research and know what you bought.


18. Be Courteous

Just be nice to your fellow passenger. When it’s my turn to get off the plane, allow me to get off, don’t walk by as you don’t want to wait anymore. Also, when the plane lands and get to the gate and you get up, say by your row, don’t go stand in the aisle in another row. How do you expect that passenger to get out? Basic stuff folks.


19. Bring A Pair Of Headphones

You are in a public place, don’t play your stuff loudly. I think I’ll find a headphone partner and just hand out free headphones on airplanes.


20. Drink Alcohol Moderately

Don’t get drunk on an airplane. It does not look good and you will get thrown off or even arrested when your behavior gets bad due to your drunkenness.


21. Social Media Is Not The Place To Complain

If you have an issue, contact the airline via email, phone or social media private message. Being loud although it sometime works, it just makes you look like a whiner. Especially if you are wrong. I’ve settled countless customer service issues by a one to two emails and sometimes a phone call. You can too.


22. Minimize Stress

Travel Is More Stressful Today Than It Used To Be. But don’t let that stress you out. Plan your trip, know your airport procedures, check-in online, get passports and visas ontime, pack properly. Just look ahead and do it right and enjoy it. Afterall, its your vacation. Consider getting travel insurance for your next trip.


23. There Are A Lot Of Highly Skilled Personnel Working Behind The Scenes

We don’t realize this, but a lot of people work behind the scenes and they are really committed to make you have a good time. Yes, there are bad employees, but there are bad employees in every industry. It’s not indicative of everyone. They really love their jobs. Just think of all the moving parts and still most airplanes depart and land ontime and get you to your important events. Of course thins are going to happen and sometimes you will be late. I know its troubling when its a life event that won’t be repeated, but that’s life right?


and two more just for good measure…

24. It’s All About The Journey

This phrase has been my mantra for a while; don’t get too bent out of the shape, enjoy the journey even when its not as good as it should be.


25. Listen

You’ll be amazed at what you may learn.


So there you have it. Please feel free to share this with your fellow travelers and also leave a comment below and let me know what you think.


Happy Travels!

Comments 2

  1. All good advice most of which should be intuitive–other than the credit card and app tips. (I’ll infer no nail clipping (toe or finger) under the “don’t travel in pyjama bottoms category). The bottom line for almost all of them is the Golden Rule. Do unto others, the way you would have others do unto you. This applies to both passengers and staff.

  2. All good advice most of which should be intuitive–other than the credit card and app tips. (I’ll infer no nail clipping (toe or finger) under the “don’t travel in pyjama bottoms category). The bottom line for almost all of them is the Golden Rule. Do unto others, the way you would have others do unto you. This applies to both passengers and staff.

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