Quick Travel Tip: Getting On An Earlier Flight

I just got back from Vancouver, and yes – I am leaving for Vancouver, again, in four days for TRAFFIC! Welcome to the wonderful world of travel! Well I thought now would be a good time to put-together another travel post since travel is such a big part of my life.

Today’s tip is about getting on an earlier flight. We’ve all been in this situation – meetings end early, you get to the airport 4-5 hours before your flight and you want to get on an earlier flight. Well there’s a right and a wrong way to go about doing this. Since I have a lot of experience with this I thought I’d help some of you get home early, because let’s face it – there’s no place like home!

The first mistake people make is to try to book the earlier flight directly with the airline either at the airport or over the phone. This will usually result in a $100+ fee that you don’t have to pay if you follow my advice – see I’m already saving you money!

Get your boarding pass like you normally do and make your way through security. Once you’re in the gate area head-on over to the departure screens and find-out which gate the flight you want to get on is leaving from.

It helps if you don’t have any bags under the plane which is one reason why I only travel with carry-on. While you still have a chance of getting-on an earlier flight with bags under the plane it’s a lot of work for the gate agent which sometimes prevents them from helping you.

When you arrive at the gate remember the one golden rule of airplane travel – be polite. The people at the gate can help you…but only if they want to. If you’re pushy, demanding, or just plain mean don’t expect to get on the earlier flight. Instead be very gracious and thank them in advance for anything they can do to help.

Sometimes the gate agent will send you to the Customer Service counter. Don’t go – this is the counter where all of your dreams are crushed and your hopes dashed. Instead go where they can ACTUALLY help you – an airline lounge. If you’re flying United, head to a Red Carpet club, American – an Admirals Club, Delta – the crown club…you get the picture.

When you get to the club tell them that someone at the gate sent you. Don’t try to get-into the club, they’ll turn you down and most likely won’t help you with your ticket problems. While I am a member of almost every airline club out there I find they are usually happy to help regardless – as long as you tell them that someone from the gate sent you there. This will help you avoid the Customer Service area and give you a much better chance of getting on the earlier flight.

That’s it! I hope this helps some of your get home earlier, because, like I said earlier – there really is no place like home! Oh and I am writing this post on a flight back from Vancouver – and yes – I got on a flight leaving three hours before my scheduled flight – hopefully I can catch the end of the Lakers game!

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Marcus B. June 4, 2010, 9:34 am

    I previously worked for an airline and I currently work for an organization that helps airline passengers. So I am really familiar with this topic.

    You’re right that you have a better chance of getting what you want from the gate agent. But it doessn’t mean that the agent at the customer service desk will not be as helpful. The agents in the lounge are going to provide you a better service because your an elite passenger, so its their duty to keep you happy.

    It boils down to your main point. BE NICE! Working for an airline is fun. But agents do more than just check people in and send them on their way. There are behind the scene tasks that also need to be done and this can cause the job to become very stressful. So make them smile to relieve the stress and your tasks will become that much easier to accomplish.

    Being nice goes a long way. I have to use my charm all the time and it works with airline agents.

    Sometimes no matter how nice you are, the agents are just rude and you’ll never get through to that person. Nothing you can do about it, just roam to a different counter/agent to try your charm on someone else.

    • Morgan June 4, 2010, 12:10 pm

      Thanks for the comment @Marcus – appreciate you sharing your expertise here! What company do you work for? Do you help passengers that get screwed by the airlines – I’m seeing this happen more and more!

  • Logan June 5, 2010, 9:02 pm

    Attempting to go standby is also always an option in a pinch, especially if the earlier flight is already boarding or about to board.


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