I know our goal is to hack our way to luxury travel on the cheap using shortcuts from credit cards to bolster our points and miles reserve to cash in with a baller first class ticket.
Unfortunately, we'll probably actually have to do some flying before that.
Continuing my quest to turn you into a seasoned traveler even if you're not, you need more than just knowing the lingo to make an educated review of your experience.
Below, I'll walk you through some of the things I look for throughout my journey when I fly, from booking to arrival. You may be surprised at how many little things along the way can enhance your trip.
Let's get to it.
Before The Airport
Website: An airline's website can make me not want to fly the airline because I don't want to deal with booking my tickets on it. A website should be clean, fluid, seamless and easy. I should never have to wonder how to redeem miles, or which fare I'm looking at, or which section of the plane I am looking at. Consult my guide for booking plane tickets to better prepare yourself for this. I don't want a lot of steps involved in the booking process. I think Virgin America has the best website because it basically holds your hand through the process, never leaves any doubt, and has a very cool vibe to it like all things Virgin. American Airlines recently updated their site and I LOVE the changes.
App: It amazes me how few people download and use the app for the airline they are flying. A good iPhone/Android app should follow the same rules as the website: clean, easy, intuitive. I should be able to do everything I need within the app. Again, American has a fantastic app. Southwest's app sucks and I hate it. From your app you should be able to check-in, select seats, request upgrades, and scan your boarding pass to avoid paper.
Reservation Line: I almost always call the reservation line for something after I book a flight. I very often hang up as soon as I hear the greeting that I get from an agent. In my experience, if an agent sounds bored or disinterested, you will not get anything accomplished. This is crucial for if you're wanting to upgrade a flight, change seats, or just have any general questions.
Communication: If the flight is getting delayed, don't make me hunt down the information. Bring the information to me. You have my email. Use it.
At The Airport
Check-In Kiosk: THERE SHOULD NEVER NOT BE ENOUGH KIOSKS. Seriously, it's 2016. We need kiosks. The kiosk should have several options to access my reservation. I like an updated kiosk that doesn't feel like a Gateway computer.
Check-In Counter: I virtually never go to the check-in counter as I always carry-on my luggage (and you should, too) to save time. However, occasionally I need to for upgrades, dropping off luggage, etc... When I get to the counter, I need to see a smile and feel like, no matter what I ask, there's a chance the agent can get it done. Don't automatically give me a no. Try. Always try. It's important to me that the check-in agents know the system, and know ALL the rules. This expedites the process and leaves me walking away very impressed. There should also be ample priority and premium check-in lanes. Even if I can't use those, I appreciate an airline that will reward their passengers.
Lounge: I know most people don't go to the airline's departure lounge, but with how many credit cards offer complimentary lounge access now, this is an increasingly important tool for airlines. When you walk in you again want to see a friendly and helpful face at check-in. Overall, I want to see a clean lounge. I don't want to see chairs with rips in it, trash all over the place, etc... Think about it like a hotel room. There should be ample food and drink options with a nice presentation. Even if it's just a snack mix, it goes a long way to have it set out in a nice matter that feels like I'm in an exclusive club.
Boarding Gate: Honestly, the most important thing to me at the gate is that the Gate Agents take control. I would love to see more agents tell passengers to back away from the boarding lanes. It winds up being a crowded mess and slows everything down. This is the only time I encourage some attitude! Also, I want to continuously hear what group is being boarded. There's nothing worse than a gate agent that whispers the group number. Shout it out and own it! The boarding process should not resemble cattle-herding. It should be clear and swift.
On The Plane
The Aircraft: Please, please, please, please don't put me on a crappy plane. I know inevitably planes get older, and you may not realize it, but a crappy plane is just a drag. There is an incredible difference between stepping onto a newer plane and an old one. American is currently going through this process with their old USAirways planes and I dread it. Newer planes will come with better entertainment options, better wifi, and they'll just feel better.
The Flight Attendants: Again-- smiles! I know that this is can be a miserable career, and I appreciate everyone that does this. Honestly, whenever I meet someone that's a flight attendant I pepper them with a million questions because this career fascinates me. We've all had good and bad crews. They can make or break your flight. This especially comes into play when you're flying a premium cabin. Aside from food and drinks, what often separates international carriers from domestic airlines is the level of service. Attentiveness is key. Nothing is too much trouble. A blunt "no" when I ask for an extra bag of peanuts is not what I'm looking for.
In-Flight Entertainment (IFE): I know that not every domestic aircraft will have state of the art entertainment. But, it's 2016. Like it or not, we have become accustomed to always having entertainment. If you don't have it in a seatback monitor, have it available on my own tablet. I'll give Southwest credit for going this route fairly early on. American has recently adopted it as well. Virgin and JetBlue obviously are best-in-class with free live TV at all seats.
Now, everyone's different and some people may not care at all about half of these things, but it's worth paying attention to as you cultivate your travel prowess and decide on an airline.