Insider flight tips from a seasoned business traveller
Passengers pass through the airport. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)
As a management consultant, I have the privilege of flying more than most travellers. I spent most of last year commuting between London and Johannesburg, sometimes every week. My profile on Lufthansa’s frequent flyer website, which keeps tabs on the distances I fly, told me that I have basically flown the distance from here to the moon, on their airline alone. And when you fly that much, you start to figure out the secrets, like how to speed through security, which lounges are the best and how to make sure you get those elusive free flights. Here are some of my insider secrets.
How to fast track through security
You must wait during check-in, boarding and getting your bags, but the worst lines are always at security. Most people know the basics of taking off your shoes and removing your computer, but here are a few more tips to make security a less painful process:
Find the fastest lane
Unless you are flying business and can take the "fast track" lane, you may find yourself standing in a long line, often with families, vacationers and first-time flyers - typically not the speediest travellers. How can you tell which lane will be the fastest? The quietest one. No questions, no conversations and no kids means the line will move quickly, even if it looks longer.
Condense your bins
Avoid being the person whose belongings are stretched out across the entire length of the security table. If you have to use more than two bins, stack them on top of each other until they are about to go in the x-ray machine. This leaves room behind you for the next traveller and will save you time when you do not have to push each item individually toward the machine.
Leave the boots in your bag
Wearing your bulkiest shoes will save space in your luggage, but unless you can take them on and off easily at security, avoid wearing them for your flight. Alternately, take them off before getting in line and put them back on when you are well past security - the people around you may find it strange, but fumbling with zippers and clasps can cause a significant delay.
How to fly more comfortably
Airline seats have gotten smaller, there are far fewer free perks and with people stuffing everything they can into carry-ons to avoid checked luggage fees, planes can be crowded and uncomfortable. Here is how to make your time in the sky a little more pleasant:
Choose an aisle seat when flying coach, window when flying business. Most travellers agree: one of the worst things about a long flight is climbing over your neighbour to get to the bathroom. So when you travel coach, stick to the aisle - you may not have a great view, but at least you will not find yourself straddling your fellow passengers in the middle of the night. If you travel business or first class, select the window seat. It is usually designed with a little more room than the aisle seat, and there is plenty of space to traipse around without disturbing anyone else.
Get on last but get off first
Passengers love to board planes first. But choosing a seat in the front of the plane, and thus being one of the last to board, will save you time once the plane lands. Waiting for everyone to waddle up to the exit can cause significant delays. You might risk not having room left in the overhead compartment (the flight attendants will valet your carry-on if that happens) but you will still gain some time overall.
Get the right charger to have power on board
A long flight can be a good time to get some work done - so make sure your laptop is fully charged, and bring a second battery if you have one. In coach there are very rarely power plugs. But there are also no guarantees in business or first class. International airlines use any one of the many plugs used abroad, regardless of the airline's country of origin (British Airways flights to South Africa use American plugs, for example). Even worse, many American airlines have the kind of plugs used in cars to light cigarettes, so multi-country converters will not work. Sometimes the crew can provide (or sell you) the plug you need, but the best idea is to find out in advance what kind you need on board.