International air travel is becoming more challenging. It used to be, you purchased a ticket, chose your seat, you were given one checked bag free, food, drink, wine and beer were available complimentary, and you had a stable itinerary.
Not So Anymore!
Here are some tips to navigate some of the new terminology, requirements, restrictions, etc.
1. Check your airline choice and their ticketing options carefully.
Different airlines now have their own restrictions and complimentary services and nothing is standardized. If you use a smaller, regional airline, a discount airline, or some less known country’s airlines, you will find a lot of variation. Check their policies on seating, ticketing, food and drink, luggage, etc. BEFORE you purchase your ticket. Sometimes, the pricing, very enticing, could end up costing the same as the higher priced ticket after you add the services you want.
2. Watch out for Basic Economy.
There is a new category of seating called Basic Economy (some airlines use difference terminology, but it is basic, or a less than an economy seat.) This category means no refund, changes, seat reservations in advance, you board last, and there are NO EXCEPTIONS! Often when you are searching a fare in Google or Expedia, etc. this type of ticket will pop up as the cheapest. It isn’t always clear that the ticket is Basic Economy. The pricing looks very enticing, but don’t be tempted. I stay away from this fare unless my client understands it clearly and wants the cheapest price possible.
When an airline says you can have one checked bag, one carry on and one personal item (which is the general rule for most airlines), go to the airline’s policy page on luggage and read the rules. There are measurements for the bag size and weight restrictions, even for carry ons, and believe me, they WILL enforce these rules. I have seen check in staff take out a tape measure and weigh carry on items!
4. Pay online early for checked bags.
While we are on the subject of luggage, if you are going to pay for checked luggage, pay online as early as possible. Many airlines now are raising their prices for checked luggage the closer you get to the 24 hour check in. At the airport the price will be the highest. I have seen it as high as $120 for a checked bag at the airport.
5. Figure out meals before you board.
Check on meals served, which is usually noted when you select and pay for your flights. If food is not being served on your flight, purchase food in the airport and bring it on.
6. Seat selection.
Many airlines will not allow you to choose a seat for free until you check in 24 hours before your flight. If you don’t choose a seat then, they will assign you a seat. If you want to get a seat assigned before the 24 hour check in, some airlines will offer seating for an additional price. Important, if you are flying with another person or your family and you want to be sure you sit together, Or if you are tall or really need a window, etc. It is best to purchase your seat and not depend on the airline to seat you where you desire. They don’t guarantee travelers who book together will be seated next to one another.
7. Last tip, upgrades
If you think you want to upgrade to more leg room, exit row, etc. if you purchase that level of seat when you purchase the ticket, you will most likely pay more than if you purchase the regular seat and then pay to upgrade after the ticket is purchased. I won’t guarantee it will work 100% of the time, sometimes after you purchase your ticket, they will not allow any upgrades. But I would say 90% of the time, upgrades will be offered on the seat map and they will cost far less money than purchasing the higher level seat to begin with.
Things change quickly, by the time I print this, things may have changed, but hopefully these tips will help!