How to Find a Cheap Flight
Other Websites Useful When Flying
How to Stay Cool on Your Next Flight
Country/Continent Specific Information
Why do Things Taste Differently?
Things to Bring and Do on Every International Flight
Where’s the Safest Place to Sit on a Plane?
HOW to FIND a CHEAP FLIGHT – THE BEST OF THEM ALL:
1. google.com/flights – Shows flights for the next month or longer with prices which fluctuate by day, weekend and holiday wildly. If your travel dates are not fixed, this allows huge savings. Lightning fast. Another plus is that it warns you about drawbacks – long layovers, if flying in a prop plane. It is most helpful with complicated international trips. Excludes most foreign low-cost carriers from its searches. I go here first and get the lowest fares over a month. Then select your cheapest date. It is not biased toward certain airlines.
2. skyscanner.com – Possibly the cheapest flights. Often has local airlines not on other sites. Has good price alerts. Covers more of the world than any other site with more regional airlines. For example only site that covers flying around South Pacific.
Easy to-search, easy-to-use flight finder and fare comparison website. What sets it apart is the number of ways you can filter your search results. You can narrow it right down to a preferred airline, flight duration and departure time or go wild and search for ‘anywhere in the UK’ to ‘anywhere in France’. Allows you to ask for the cheapest flights anywhere from any city and lists them in order of cost. Or you can get all the flights from one city to a destination and it will show a graphic trend over the course of a month allowing you to pick the cheapest time to fly if the date is not critical.3. Then Try the Individual Airline – it may be best to book here as cancellations, registering miles and most things are easier. Sometimes cheaper but sometimes more expensive.
3. Then Try the Individual Airline. it may be best to book here as cancellations, registering miles and most things are easier. Sometimes cheaper but sometimes more expensive.
4. Search for ULCC – Use the post ULCC to find airlines specific to various geographic areas. Also try whichbudget.com, lowcostairlines.com or skyeurope.com, who all list some ULCC.
OTHER WEBSITES USEFUL WHEN FLYING
1. checkmytrip.com – Owned by Amadeus, the algorithm used by most companies, simply enter your flight code and last name and you can confirm if the booking is actually made.
2. sleepinginairports.com – Very useful when you have an early morning flight or a long layover or you simply don’t want to pay for a hotel room. Lists best and worst by continent, airport lounges and hotels and give tons of good tips for making it a safe experience.
3. gateguru.com – The home page shows current and future journeys. For current journeys, as they receive data on your next departure, it populates that in an expanded state. The Home screen also gives you direct access to our AirportCard. The airport list is pre-populated based on closest airports, but you can also access any airport via the search bar.
4. flightaware.com – Free, worldwide airline flight tracking and airport status for air travelers. FlightAware provides live flight data, airport delays, fuel prices, airline operational tools, weather maps, flight planning, flight routes, oceanic tracks, and navigation charts, as well as aviation news and photos.
5. loungebuddy.com – Everything you wanted to know about airport lounges. Find the perfect lounge for your needs based on ratings, reviews, photos, amenities, location, cost, and access methods. Take the guesswork out of complicated lounge entry requirements. Whether you’re a casual traveler looking to access a lounge on the occasional leisure trip or a road warrior battling through the airport every week, simply tell them about yourself and they’ll show you the lounges you can access at no cost or for a one-time fee. If you already have your itineraries on Concur, sync your account, and they’ll pull all the relevant data over in order to determine the lounges you can access. In addition, LoungeBuddy gives you the ability to purchase instant lounge access with just a few taps on your mobile device. Browse through their list of supported locations worldwide, and book your lounge access in 60 seconds or less.
6. ifly.com – Covering practically every airport in the world, gives terminal maps and ‘layover ideas’.
7. seatguru.com – The best seats (usually with the most space) and the worst (those with no window, no overhead storage, immovable armrests, bathroom traffic, no power ports, limited recline, or an obstructed view of the movie) varied with the airline and aircraft, but all are revealed here.
8. awardplanners.com – To use those frequent-flyer miles but there are no seats available, for a $40 fee, they will figure out how to get you there and back. They find alternate routes or partner airlines.
9. flightexplorer.com – FastTrack section gives the best estimate of actual arrival time.
10. webflyer.com – What is the best frequent-flier program. The Head2Head section details the pros and cons of all of them – which let you use miles to upgrade on even the cheapest fares, which have no blackout times. The Award/Upgrade Index tells the difficulty in getting free seats and upgrades on different airlines.
11. unclaimedbaggage.com – Connects you to the Unclaimed Baggage Centre in Scottsboro, Alabama where most lost luggage ends up regardless of the carrier. It is a clearing house that has purchased your luggage from the airline that has given up on trying to unite you with your luggage. The stuff is then sold on its website. They won’t search for a specific item, but the more remarkable the thing you’re looking for is, the better the chances of locating it via the Let’s Shop and What Is It? sections.
12. frequentflier.com – Profiles airline, hotel and charge-card reward programs and has links to Web sites for airports worldwide.
13. airconsumer.ost.dot.gov – US Department of Transportation. Gives a wide range of airline data, from consumer rights and items prohibited on planes to on-time and lost-luggage records.
14. myTSA.com – Answers all security policies of America.
15. airlinemeals.net – With 25,000 images of inflight food – food for thought.
HOW TO STAY COOL, CALM AND ZEN ON YOUR NEXT FLIGHT
Call it what you will: manners, etiquette or common sense but it is a key ingredient in your travel arsenal. I always try to be on my best behaviour when traveling even when faced with multiple delays or flight cancelations. Things happen and most of the time are unavoidable, so I grin and bare it. Weather induced turbulence is unavoidable, however, passenger turbulence inside the cabin should be avoided at all costs.
1. When I am on a plane, I’m always polite. The flight attendants are on board for my safety, not to serve as my personal butler. I treat them with respect, making eye contact, smiling and saying please and thank you. It’s not rocket science
2. I look around and see if I can help anyone. Retirees or families often need a hand or a kind word.
3. Give the poor soul in the middle seat control of the armrest. Not only are they trapped along with the rest of us they are in the worst seat on the plane. It’s the least I can do.
4. Don’t bring on smelly food and if you, have a sandwich or something shareable and ask my seat mate(s) if they would like some. Of course I have to be prepared if they say yes, which surprisingly they often do.
5. Pay extra to get the seat. I know where I like to sit and where I know I will be comfortable. Only bring a carry-on so I won’t have to deal with lost luggage and save time not having to stand around the luggage carousel.
COURNTRY/CONTINENT SPECIFIC INFORMATION
China. travelchinaguide.com – The most reliable booking for trains, flights and hotels in China. For trains, it gives how many seats are left which is very useful. With so many people and different holidays, it is often necessary to book weeks ahead at certain times of the year.
ctrip.com – I used this on my first travels to China in 2014 but when back in 2015, it was highly dysfunctional.
The Lack of Competition Means High Air Fares
The slumping oil price has cut the cost of petrol for American drivers but the price jet fuel (which makes up 30% of airlines costs), down by 50% since January 2014, has not resulted in any change in domestic air fares.
Unsurprisingly the countries four biggest airlines – Southwest, Delta, American and United – are making record profits. Investigation of allegations of collusion between the big four were started in July.
Five large institutional shareholders with overlapping holdings discourage vigorous competition resulting in ticket prices up to 11% higher than they would be otherwise. Operating margins for North American carriers exceed 14%, around double those of airlines from Europe and Asia. The overlap of institutional shareholders in these carriers is much lower than in NA. In Europe, low-cost carriers (Ryan Air, Easy Jet, Norwegian Air and Wizz Air) compete fiercely with older airlines.
The US also has a rule banning foreigners from owning more than 25% of voting shares in a domestic carrier. Besides preventing the likes of Ryanair and Air Asia fro creating wholly-owned American subsidiaries. The rule starves domestic challenger airlines of foreign capital. Virgin America would have attacked the domestic incumbents if its British owner, Virgin Group could have injected more capital.
A shortage of take-off and landing slots at America’s busiest airports makes it hard for challengers to achieve a decent market share. At 40 of America’s 100 biggest hubs, a single carrier operates more than half the seat capacity, pushing up prices.
bingtravel.com – Only works from the US.
Indonesia. nusatrip.com – Covers Indonesia and is a great website that lists all airlines, is fast and convenient to use.
For Indonesia in general, the domestic flight network is growing and in a constant state of flux. There are also local carriers that service small routes, are cramped and may have dated aircraft. Website information for small airlines is often nonexistent. The best option for them is to check with local airline offices and travel agents. Refer to local chapter information in Lonely Planet for the names of the airlines. Use travel agents or simply go to the airport and compare prices for the various airline offices. Many are strictly cash based and offer last-minute deals if there are empty seats. It is essential to confirm and reconfirm or you may well be bumped.
It is easy to book online with Nusatrip. In my 8 weeks in Indonesia in 2015 (did not go to Sumatra or Kalimantin), I had 8 flights and used only Garuda and Sriwijayaair, both reliable airlines.
a. garuda-indonesia.com – Indonesian national airline that serves Bali and Jakarta from Australia and points across Asia.
b. sriwijayaair.com – serves Dili in East Timor from Bali + many other flights
NB Avoid Lion/Wings. Could never book flights online, only at airport. Often cancels flights.
South America –
Brazil. submarinoviagens.com – For Brazil. In Brazilian and not in English.irlines in SA.
Why the continent’s airlines are losing so much money
When phone footage came to light last year of a stripper opening the throttle during the take-off of a commercial jet operated by Aerolíneas Argentina, the public outcry was predictably fierce. Argentina’s state-owned flag carrier swiftly sacked the pilots who had invited her into the cockpit and the lady herself was banned from the airline for five years. Endangering the safety of passengers is a serious concern. Yet the company’s assault on the public finances is almost as reckless: Argentines have tolerated vast subsidies and huge losses at their national airline.
Even without the drag of state ownership, other South American airlines have recently either lost money or made only meagre profits. Airlines in Latin America as a whole (whose performance is flattered by the inclusion of Mexico’s mostly profitable flyers) even surpassed Africa’s beleaguered carriers in their ability to lose money in 2015. That marks them out at a time when the tailwinds of growing passenger numbers and cheap fuel have carried many other airlines to unusual heights of profitability.
The region’s airlines don’t lose money because flights are cheap. Air fares are eye-wateringly pricey—an internal flight in Brazil can cost as much as one to Europe. Travellers have not benefited from the ascent of low-cost carriers (LCCs) because budget airlines are thin on the ground. Outside Brazil’s domestic market, where Azul and Gol carry passengers between the country’s far-flung cities, there are few LCCs and their impact has been limited. As a result, the continent’s growing middle-classes have not taken to the skies as enthusiastically as in the rest of the world.
This is partly attributable to a lack of infrastructure. There are few secondary airports of the sort frequented by LCCs in Europe or specialist low-cost terminals at bigger airports that are common in Asia. That lands LCCs with the same high airport fees as big carriers. Gol, the largest Brazilian LCC, made a loss of 4.29 billion reais ($1.3 billion) in 2015.
In some countries, budget carriers have been kept at bay by state-run incumbents. Cash-rich left-wing governments in the region set up or revived flag carriers as money poured in when commodity prices were high. In Bolivia and Venezuela state-owned airlines are virtually the only means of domestic air travel. Appointing cronies has ensured inept management.
The standard of service on state airlines is often woeful. Aerolíneas cancels three times more flights than the industry average, and loses roughly twice as many bags. Venezuelan travellers have the added problem that foreign airlines are leaving the country in a dispute over how to repatriate money from sales because the government cannot find the dollars to pay them for tickets issued in the country.
Elsewhere publicly listed airlines provide much better service but are just as hard to dislodge. LAN Chile set up subsidiaries in Peru, Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia before merging with TAM, Brazil’s biggest airline, in 2012. LATAM is now the largest airline across swathes of the continent. In smaller markets such as Peru, Chile, and Ecuador LATAM and Avianca, a Colombian carrier, already have big networks that leave little space for LCCs to operate domestically. Barriers to entry are high: dealing with a slew of differing regulations makes setting up new cross-border routes expensive.
Why then are the incumbents not making more money? LATAM lost $219m in 2015; Avianca lost $140m. As passenger numbers grew during the commodities boom, most airlines ordered lots of expensive new planes. But just as they arrive on the tarmac, demand for air travel is stumbling. South America is still reeling from the bursting of the commodities bubble. This has hit domestic and cross-border air travel alike. Worries about the spread of the Zika virus have also deterred visitors to the continent. In 2016 growth in passenger traffic in Latin America is likely to lag every other region, according to IATA.
Some of the continent’s politicians have woken up to the industry’s structural problems. In Argentina, Mauricio Macri, the victor in November’s presidential election, has announced plans to withdraw a $500m subsidy from Aerolíneas. The airline’s new management plans to cut capacity and return to profit by 2020. Brazil is negotiating with the EU for an “open-skies” deal that would boost competition by allowing airlines from those countries to serve any airport in Brazil. Before her impeachment the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, was said to be considering raising the share foreigners can own in local airlines from 20% to 100%, allowing better-run foreign carriers to buy domestic ones.
Michel Temer, Brazil’s interim president, is also said to be considering a relaxation of foreign-ownership rules. And intrepid budget carriers will doubtless try to overcome the difficulties and set up routes in more countries. But unless more politicians in the region turn their attention to aviation, South America will continue to be the continent of sky-high fares and limited choice.
WHY DO THINGS TASTE DIFFERENT?
The high decibel level in the cabin interferes with how people perceive taste. The palate registers sweets such as soft drinks less intensely, while the taste known as umami is heightened. Thirsty passengers may find they yearn specifically for rich and savoury, and frequently choose tomato juice. Lufthansa estimates they serve as much tomato juice as beer aboard its flights.
This phenomenon is not unique to aircraft – other loud environments also alter taste perception – this may explain why dinner at a noisy restaurant doesn’t always hit the sweet spot.
THINGS to BRING AND DO on EVERY INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT (And 3 Things Not To)
Traveling is exciting, but for many travellers, the flying part of the journey can be brutal. With tiny seats and limited legroom, flying is no longer something I look forward to — instead, it’s something I know I have to endure in order to visit my next travel destination.
1. Noise Cancelling headphones (or earplugs). Not all noise cancelling headphones are the same. Cheap ones are rarely worth it – the Bose QuietComfort 20 and over-ear 25s are comfortable, good and tiny. Ear plugs are a cheap alternative.
2. USB cable. USB plugs at every seat are becoming common. They won’t recharge very quickly. Not all USB cables are the same as some don’t let your phone charge at it’s maximum. Check out Wirecutter’s pick for some cheap cables that do.
If you’re an Apple user, this counts for Lightning cables too (as they’re basically just USB with an expensive connector).
3. USB battery pack. Use this external battery to recharge your various mobile devices. Never run out of juice again. Necessary to watch movies on your tablet for the whole flight.
4. Camera (or your phone) especially if you’re in the window seat.
5. An extra layer. Airplanes can get cold, especially at night. Bring a long sleeved pullover or fleece, window seats especially those on an exit row are cooler than those on the aisle..
6. Travel Pillow. Neck pillows, your own pillow or inflatable pillows.
7. Eye mask. Mandatory for a good sleep.
8. Pen. To fill out immigration forms, make notes, whatever.
9. Passport. Always travel with this most precious document on your person. Memorize you number, date of issue and expiry.
10. Address where you’re staying.
11. Entertainment. You want to keep your mind occupied to attempt to forget about the fact that your seat barely reclines and you will have zero personal space for the next several hours: in-flight movies or reading with a Kindle, paperback or audiobooks (download from Audible to your phone).
12. Hydration. Plane air is dry like the desert – it’s extremely easy to get dehydrated. Stick with water while you’re in the air. Bring a collapsible water bottle and ask the flight attendants to fill it up. Keep your nostrils hydrated with saline nasal spray. Bring moisturizers like lip balm and a simple skin moisturizer.
13. Sleep. Surprisingly, boarding the plane relatively rested is key. Don’t plan on using the flight as a way to catch up on your sleep (unless you are one of the lucky few who has no problem sleeping in an upright position). For red-eye flights, consider a sleep aid like Melatonin. It’s one of the few sleep aids that won’t make you groggy if you don’t catch a full 8-hours of sleep on the plane. Eye masks, neck pillows and blankets are a must on overnight flights. If a neck pillow feels like too much to carry, blow up an inflatable beach ball and place it on top of your tray table.
14. Exercise. Try to get up and walk around every couple of hours to stretch your legs. This is where an aisle seat comes in handy. If you are in a window seat and you don’t want to bother your seat mates every couple of hours, do some neck and ankle stretches while sitting down.
Things you SHOULDN’T BRING:
1. Fruit (and often nuts and seeds). This varies by country, but usually these are prohibited. New Zealand and Australia allow nothing.
2. Water/beverage. The only liquids allowed through security are under 30ml/1oz. Get new water past security.
3. Anything that smells: kimchi, durian, yourself (including your feet). Shower before your flight. This isn’t your living room. Don’t clip your toenails.
We all feel jet lag differently – some barely notice the effects on their circadian rhythms, while others are almost incapacitated and feel like a zombie for a week.
Jet lag is a chronobiological problem, as is shifting your body clock when undertaking shift work. When we travel long distances, our circadian rhythm (internal body clock) is temporarily out of synch with the new destination’s time. This means that internally we anticipate dawn and dusk to fall at certain times, which are suddenly at different times than what’s happening outside. The desynchronization affects not just sleep, but also body temperature, blood pressure, hormone regulation, when we get hungry and how hungry we are. Jet lag is the lag time between our internal body clock and the place we are now inhabiting.
Our body clocks run on a slightly longer than 24-hour cycle, with a “master clock” in our brain that uses our exposure to light to coordinate all of the workings of our organs. Consisting of a group of nerve cells in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (or SCN), this master clock is located in the hypothalamus. Genes also influence the body’s clock and circadian rhythms, which helps explain the variance in adjusting to time change from one person to another.
The body’s production of melatonin, a sleep hormone produced by the pineal glad to signify to our body that soon it will be time for rest, affects our body’s internal time measurement system. That system is also influenced by the direction we travel; heading west is easier on our body than flying east. It takes about a day to adjust to each time zone we cross. For some, crossing a few time zones might be harder on our body clocks than a larger gap.
For example, it would take you about eight days to recover from a westward trip across nine time zones, if you did nothing to fight it. But if you cross the same number of time zones going east, recovery could take more than 13 days. This recovery time is worse with crossing more time zones.
This is all because the body’s internal clock has a natural period of slightly longer than 24 hours, meaning that the body has an easier time with lengthening the day (heading west) than shortening the day (heading east).
These tips are a compilation of tips and experimentation that may work for you. Many have had no scientific study. If you don’t deal with jet lag well, these will likely help.
When night falls and there is less light input to the SCN, melatonin secretion increases. At dawn, the levels of melatonin drop again and the body’s daytime circuits take over. Just like jet lag itself, we all respond to melatonin in our own individual way. Personal experimentation may be necessary to figure out your dose. But the suggested dose is much smaller than the dosing recommendations on the bottle. Taking too much risks having the effects spill over to the next day – irritability, hunger, and generally no fun.
For jet lag, start with 1/4 of a 3mg tablet just before bed. If you wake up in the middle of the night wide awake because you master clock thinks it’s daytime, take another 1/4 of a 3mg tablet.
Malatonin is also available for transdermal use as Sprayable Sleep. For super sensitive people, you can control the dosage even further.
2. Restrict Blue Light Exposure at Night
Part of regulating circadian rhythms is to get in the habit of signalling to your SCN and your body when it’s time for bed and when it’s time to wake. Artificial “blue” light (even though it looks white), present in LEDs, fluorescent lighting and the backlit screens of our portable devices, is a daylight signaler to our minds. Without travel it can get confused, but can be even more confusing when your body clock thinks it’s halfway around the world.
Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. People produce 55% less melatonin when using an iPad at night and they need extra time to fall asleep. Further, the sleep had less rapid eye movement (REM) time. The next morning, iPad users feel sleepier and have difficulty feeling awake. And the next night the same iPad users had their circadian rhythms delayed by over an hour, causing them to feel tired later. In contrast, those who read books wake with more alertness.
By restricting blue light at night, it is a lot easier to shift your body’s clock when needed, sleep is more sound, and morning alertness is better. Here are some ways to restrict blue light at night:
a. F.lux on Your Laptop. F.lux automatically blocks blue light from your screen at sunset based on your location, and lightens it in the morning. It’s basically pillows for your eyes. Although it’s a free programme, please donate. If you are more productive in the evenings and can happily work away well into the night, your sleep may become impaired from all the blue light exposure. F Lux can make a huge difference to the way that you can work productively in the evening without feeling terrible the next day.
b. iOS’ ‘Night Shift’ or Android’s Twilight App. Both block blue light, essentially “Fluxifying” your device for evening use, which can help you sleep.
c. Blue-blocking Glasses. Uvex Skyper Blue Light Blocking Computer Glasses with SCT-Orange Lens block blue light and allow you to read on all your devices.
3. Shift Your Time Zone Early
Preemptively signal to your body that you are “in” that new time zone will shorten your adjustment period considerably.
a. Set F.lux to the new time zone 5 days before leaving, so your laptop blocks blue light during that country’s nighttime hours.
b. If it’s a particularly important trip where jet lag needs to be lessened maximally, wear the blue blocking glasses around the house during nighttime at your new destination. They are not attractive so you may not want to leave the house with them.
c. At the same time as you start your F.lux schedule, take melatonin at what will be the beginning of dusk in your new destination. You will struggle more with sleep during those few days, but the process truly limits time’s impact upon landing.
d. The free Jet Lag Rooster app will show you exactly how to shift your schedule based on your bed time, waking hours, and travel plans.
e. Re-Timer glasses emit green light and aim to slowly shift the time of day that light is received by your eyes to complement your travel schedule. Wear about 50 minutes per session. Retime your body clock in small steps before you travel and continue the process after you arrive.
4. Morning Light & Exercise.
After arriving, work out in the mornings to get your blood flowing and wake you up even more. Even if you are more awake at night, refrain from exercising then as it will simply wake you up further.
Rather than succumbing to the desire to crawl under the covers and stay there, expose yourself to natural morning light, especially in the initial days. Stick your head out the window and open the curtains, to help remind your body that it’s actually day-time.
5. Food and Alcohol
The SCN affects not only sleep but also hunger. Eating at the wrong times can signal to your body that you’re not where you actually are.
Airlines try to serve meals for the coming time zone shift, offering breakfast before a dawn landing for example. After arrival, you may crave food during your home’s dining hours but stick to the new time zone’s meal hours.
Alcohol dehydrates you and interferes with regulation of time zones. Stick to water.
Ultimately, jet lag isn’t that bad. It’s temporary state and allows us to let go of life’s reigns a little bit, and sink into disorder.
As Pico Iyer summarized it best. “Fourteen hours later, I’m on a different continent and hardly able to imagine the life, the home, I left this morning. It’s as if I have switched into another language — a parallel plane — and none of the feelings that were so real to me this morning can carry through to it. It’s not that I don’t want to hear them; it’s that they seem to belong now to a person I no longer am.
There is something gloriously discombobulating about emerging from a long flight into the fog of a new place. So even if the impacts of jet lag lessen but never go away fully, there are far worse states of mind to inhabit.
WHERE’S the SAFEST PLACE to SIT on a PLANE? (17 accidents since 1985 with both fatalities and survivors were studied)
While it depends on the nature of the accident, middle seats in the rear of the plane have been historically had the best survival with a 28% fatality rate. The last row is the best of these as it is closest to one of the exits in case of a fire. Front seats have 38% fatalities, middle 39% and rear 32%.
Emergency Exits. Fires can be deadly in 2-3 minutes. Regulations state that a plane must be able to evacuate in 90 seconds. The five row rule says that sitting more than five rows from a viable exit have a greater chance of dying than living.
Safety Cards in Back Seat Pockets. 89% of passengers don’t read the emergency procedures on the cards. And only half watch the preflight safety presentation.
Number of commercial airline accidents in the US since 1985: 368. Survival rate in those accidents: 96%. Lifetime odds of dying from an air-transport accident: 1 in 8015.