You’re going to find this number hard to believe, but it’s true: Last year, United Airlines collected $5.7 billion in ancillary charges for things like luggage, an upgraded seat, ticket changes, and so on. That’s $57 BILLION.
Here’s how you can avoid some of those charges.
First, pack very lightly to avoid checking a bag unless you’re flying Southwest or JetBlue which don’t charge for a checked bag. Or get a credit card that’s affiliated with the airline you fly the most that allows you to check one or maybe two bags for free, including bags checked by those in your party as long as all tickets were purchased together.
Then learn the rules of your airline. Spirit, for example, is the king of the hill when it comes to ancillary charges. Ten dollars to print out your boarding pass at the airport, for example; $199 to choose your own seat toward the front of the plane; $35 to put a carry-on bag in an overhead compartment.
Bring your own food aboard.
Book award tickets as far ahead as possible—American Airlines and others will charge you $75 to make an award reservation if it’s less than 21 days out from when you want to travel.
I’m taking my cue from a young graphics design student in the Netherlands who had a classroom assignment to illustrate now easily social media can be manipulated. So Zilla van der Born decided she’d take a pretend vacation to Southeast Asia and see if she could fool her family and friends.
So for five weeks—five weeks, mind you–she posted messages and photos of herself supposedly traveling around Thailand and elsewhere. Except she never left Amsterdam. She Photoshopped tropical fish into a photo of her underwater in her apartment complex’s pool. She had a picture of herself taken sitting with a saffron-robed monk at an Amsterdam Buddhist temple. And finding a way to have a picture of herself enjoying an Asian meal was easy—she just went to the nearest Thai restaurant.
So there you go. Frankly, I thought it was a very inventive project. I hope she got an “A.” Here’s a link to a story about her project that includes some of her fake posts.
First, your guides will instruct you to bow to the sculptures as a sign of respect. (More about the guides in a moment.) Then you must make certain you have the entire length of both men in the frame of you photo. And you guides will check your picture to make sure you do that, too.
Don’t ask me what that’s about—I have no idea.
Now, why do I say “guides” instead of “guide?”
Because you’ll always be accompanied by two guides—each is there to keep an eye on the other. I know this because of a fascinating new book by a German photographer named Julia Leeb titled North Korea: Anonymous Country.
She visited North Korea twice, both times as a tourist, though her guides began to suspect on her second visit that she was more than a tourist. Her passport was seized and then returned, but her guides kept a much sharper eye on what she was shooting. Still, the book gives an inside look at that closed society.
Here’s a link to an NPR interview with the author and photographer Julia Leeb.
The TSA says half of airline passengers have registered for the TSA Pre-Check option that lets them pass through airport security faster because you don’t have to remove a light jacket, your shoes, or your computer from its carrying case.
But if you travel abroad, skip TSA Pre and go for Global Entry.
TSA Pre costs $85 for five years. You fill out some forms (now available at most airports), and you’re done. Global Entry costs $15 more but allows you all the advantages of TSA Pre plus easy entry into the US by allowing you to avoid lines at Customs & Immigration checkpoints.
There’s a more thorough background check for Global Entry, and you have to have a passport to apply, but even if you only go out of the country once a year, I think it’s worth it.
Now, I’m not so sure I believe that half of all flyers in the US have TSA Pre; I still see lines at regular security checkpoints that suggest otherwise. But the TSA has the numbers, and the agency says waits of 20 minutes or longer to get through security have been reduced by 64%. I presume the TSA means in the last year.
That, of course, is good news.
In one of those two incidents a few weeks ago when two commercial airline flights were diverted to make unscheduled landings, a device called the “Knee Defender” was at the center of a brouhaha over reclining seats in coach class.
The Knee Defender allows you to prevent the person sitting in front of you to recline their seat. I talked with the creator of the device on my radio show recently, and Ira Goldman told me he thinks his invention saves people from having someone slam their seat into your head if you’re taking a nap on a tray table. And it may save your laptop from getting crushed when someone abruptly puts his or her seat back.
Airlines don’t allow the Knee Defender, and some passengers don’t even know one has been affixed to the back of their seat. When I can’t recline, I just figure the seat is broken and it’s the airline’s fault.
Look, it all comes down to manners and common sense. Before you recline your seat, ask the person behind you if they mind. Put it back up if you leave to use the lavatory or when you’re done napping. It’s just that simple.