By now, you’ve probably noticed that my ideas are based on replicating the perks I received while working as a flight attendant. I usually travel space-available standby, which means I’m assigned a seat after full-revenue passengers are accommodated, so don’t get too envious. I’ve seen chock-a-block flights where colleagues had to purchase last-minutes tickets that cost more than a regular passenger’s advanced bloging.

For occasional travellers, it can still be worthwhile to join a loyalty program with your favourite carrier. Consolidating your energy in one area increases the possibility of lounge visits and upgrades though reward points, coupons and frequent flyer status. There are also alliances between major carriers that share resources and routes for a seamless travel experience.

I’m slightly biased towards flying with the majors (big, established airlines), because I believe they usually have the best training, equipment, back-up fleet and standards. When

I was a flight attendant, I knew if one of our planes had a mechanical problem, it would relatively easy to swap aircraft. Smaller operations have smaller fleets and a replacement may take longer to arrive.

Direct vs. non-stop: It’s unintentionally misleading airline terminology but direct flights are different from non-stop flights. For some strange reason, they can be a less expensive way for full-revenue passengers to travel. Direct flights might be non-stop but barring some emergency, non-stop flights are exactly that.


For example, a non-stop flight will transit from New York to Miami in 2:55. A direct New York to Miami flight might stop in Charlotte on the way. You and your bags might have to change planes, or not, and the flight number might remain the same. You might not even be aware of the difference unless you question why a flight that would normally take three hours has increased to five or six.

Technically, you can’t miss the connecting leg of a direct flight, as opposed to a connecting flight, because the next leg will not begin until the first plane lands. However, changing aircraft increases the chance to misconnect or lose your checked bags. Once on the ground, anything can happen – a change in weather, a delayed crew member or a work disruption.

Non-stop flights mean just that. If it’s not noted on the schedule, check the flying time for clues. Lost in the airport? Missed connections? Improper documents? These are the sort of mistakes travellers make that can open up a seat for me and my airline friends.

A while back, we were travelling to Los Angeles. The flight, which was wide open, (airline lingo for “lots of empty seats”), the previous day, was now totally full. We’d have been next to board, had any seats been left. The gate agent offered condolences and promised to list us on the next flight to LAX three hours hence. As is my usual habit, I decided to wait until the plane pushed back and taxied down the runway.

Departure time came and went as the plane sat at the gate. It turned out that two first class passengers either forgot or didn’t know they needed passports to fly from Canada to the United States. Stuck in pre-clearance limbo, they were eventually denied entry. But those seats didn’t go to waste. An agent quickly printed out boarding cards for my husband and me and for the next five hours, we sipped champagne and watched movies in their place.

FA TIP: Airline employees belong to the world’s largest private club. For many travellers, joining an airline alliance may be more economical than cherry-picking random cheap flights.

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