Fly Smart

Air travel is getting worse. This year’s statistics tell us that nearly 30% of all flights were delayed or late. More bags were delayed or lost this past year. Behind the scenes, the politics and conditions which contribute to how airports, airlines, and airline staffs function are creating a “perfect storm.” That is to say, it’ll likely get less convenient for travelers before it gets better.

This year, Alaska Airlines delivered more bags to my B&B two or three days after my guests’ arrivals than ever before. And that’s the good news: Alaska Airlines brings it right to my front door for you, whereas with most other carriers, it means repeated trips back to the Anchorage airport to try to find it.

For so many of you, flying is the only option to get to Alaska,. A large number of you take a flight before or after a cruise to Alaska, or because you don’t have the time to drive from the U.S. Our friends from other countries don’t have much choice in the matter if they want to experience Alaska.

It used to be that flying was fun. At this point, you have to think “defensively” and do everything within your control to make it a comfortable and expedient journey to The Great Land. Here are some tips to get you here and home as smoothly as possible.

• Please avoid the urge to save $50 on a lower airfare by taking two or three legs on the way to Alaska. With the number of delayed flights so high, chances are you’ll pay for it in the end by missing a connection and losing out on one of your precious vacation days in Alaska because you’re stuck overnight in Salt Lake or Seattle or Detroit.

The flights are getting more packed, which means more jostling, more crawling over one another for bathroom trips and additional time for everything. What might look like a decent night’s sleep on an overnight flight really comes down to about 4 hours or less when taking into account the safety presentation and settling the cabin down, then beverage services and landing announcements on the other end, well before landing time. Don’t forget to take into account the time changes and possible additional announcements due to weather as you fly. Get direct flights when possible. Many of our flights arrive late at night. They are priced more favorably. Again, shaving off a few dollars can mean you’re strung out from 24+ hours of little sleep on the first day of your vacation. Give yourself the gift of a daytime flight.

You’ll want to be fresh and invigorated when you see the breathtaking scenery all around you here in Alaska. Also, it is a real danger to drive when sleep-deprived with long miles to cover between destinations. Many travelers are killed each summer due to overtired drivers swerving on the road. Please don’t add to the statistics.

• Take empty water bottles through security then fill them with water before you board so you can stay properly hydrated. You won’t drink enough if only relying on busy flight attendants to give you 6 ounces of beverage every few hours if you’re in the air 4-8 hours.

• Renting or bringing a portable DVD player or video iPod/batteries with movies can help pass the long hours. Don’t count on sleeping long; this is another good reason to fly during daytime hours and not take a Red Eye overnight flight. Noise-canceling headphones can be helpful, too..

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