Tuesday 15 April 2014

How to survive airport travel

I’m not a good flyer, it’s the take off and landing I’m not keen on. I need to sit by a window so I can keep my eye on the wing and the ground and make sense of what’s happening. The actual flight is ok, It’s probably the only time I sit and watch a movie.

As an expat I make regular trips between South Africa and the UK, preferring the Dubai route as I get to build up my air miles, use the Emirates lounge and it has the most leg room and more importantly, proper cutlery, not plastic forks that always snap. I’ve flown with various airlines, direct and with stopovers. Despite the Dubai route involving an 8 hour flight, 2 hour stop over and another 7 hour flight, plus the travel time to and from the airport, making it in total a 20+ hour journey, it has the most generous legroom in economy, checked in baggage is 30kg and trust me it’s not possible to get more than 30kgs in a suitcase. This disadvantage is the hand luggage allowance is only 7kg and as an expat and flying out of OR Tambo airport I carry all the paper work I need to sort out when I’m back in the UK and all valuables as theft from baggage is a high risk. Other airlines have a more generous hand luggage allowance of 10kg and purchase of an additional 23kg weight starts from around £45 where as Emirates charge £140 for up to 5 kilos.

It’s not just the ticket price you need to check when booking, how important is the luggage allowance? Is the cost of baggage wrapping included in your ticket price? What’s the charge for changing your ticket? Is insurance included in the price?

Top tips for travelling.

Check in online. I never print a boarding pass as from experience they prefer to issue you with one, but be warned, some airlines do charge for printing a boarding pass at check in.

When selecting a seat, you’ve more chance of having a spare seat next to you if you book an aisle seat; it is common practice for the airline to fill up the aisle seats first.

Avoid seats with extra legroom unless you’re particularly tall, the reason being these seats have fixed armrests, so if the seat next to you is empty you can’t stretch into it.  Also passengers will congregate on long haul flights near the exit doors whilst queuing for the toilets or they are near the galley where the cabin crew sit and passengers will stand and chat.

If flying from OR Tambo airport check with your airline to find out if baggage wrapping is included in the cost of your ticket. If not make sure you arrive in plenty of time not only for check in and clearing customs but for queuing to get your baggage wrapped.

After going through passport control, check the boards for your gate and locate it, it could be anything up to 30 minutes away and involve a train or a bus. It’s quite common for the gate to be changed, don’t just rely on your boarding card.

Once you’ve located your gate, grab a coffee, locate the smoking room and buy your duty free.

If travelling via another country, even if you are in transit, check what you can and can’t take through in regards to liquids. Best to buy your duty free once you’ve cleared security when you stop over, as they will not let you take liquids through, even though you haven’t left the airport.

Dubai airport have showers available at no charge. I always pack a hand towel so not to take up too much space/weight in hand luggage.

On arrival the first thing I do is activate my sim card, top up and message family and friends to say I’m here, this is my number, I’ll contact you again when I’ve reached my first overnight stop.

Coffee…any chance to purchase a coffee.

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