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How to Survive Holiday Travel — From Mike Benjamin, CEO of FlightView

20 Dec

Editor’s note: kids, your Aunt Benet needs your help me with her new Wednesday column, Rolling Aviation Thoughts. Before, I never posted on Wednesdays.  But now I’m using that day to write down the aviation/airline flotsam and jetsam running through my head at any given time.  It also guides you to links to other random stuff that isn’t big enough for a full blog post, but is still worth pointing out.  Drop me a line at benet AT aviationqueen DOT com or DM on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet.  You can be anonymous if you choose. I thank you in advance for your help!

As the holidays fast approach, I felt it was time to offer some travel tips to make the process smoother.  And who better to talk about this topic than Mike Benjamin, CEO of FlightView.

Aviation Queen: What are some of the things travelers can do to make their holiday travel less stressful?

Mike Benjamin: With just a little extra preparation, travelers can enjoy a more productive and calmer experience for themselves and their families. There are a few simple ways to prepare for busy travel conditions this holiday season:

  • When deciding when to depart for the airport, plan an extra 45 minutes due to heightened security and higher volume.
  • Instead of fighting crowds, losing your seat and lugging your bags around the airport to check the display boards, leverage your smart phone for updates on flight information.
  • Travelers should check parking availability before leaving for the airport – one parking detour could be enough to cause a missed flight.
  • As always, travelers can save time at the airport by checking in and printing their boarding pass in advance.

AQ: I have an iPhone/iPad. What are some of the best apps out there to track airline delays and airport security traffic?

MB: A smartphone in your pocket is a power tool while trying to survive the holiday travel chaos. There are two great apps to download – one for airline specific information and one for airport specific information.

App for Airlines

FlightView offers three versions of its leading real-time flight tracking app – Free, $.99, and $3.99.

Free features include:

  • Flight Tracker & Current Weather: Track flights by flight number or route between 2 cities – search flights yesterday, today, tomorrow, and up to three months in the future – and view a real-time map for in-air flights showing the plane’s current position, speed and altitude, and national radar weather.
  • One-touch Dialing: Need to get in touch with the airline to ask a question or rebook? One-touch dialing lets you call them right from the app.
  • Social Sharing: With social media integration you can share your itinerary or flight status with others.
  • My Trips: This feature is great for multi-destination trips or connective flights. Group saved flights together as a trip to quickly reference the flights in the future. Users can also add notes like car rental or hotel reservation numbers.
  • Airport Delay Map: Stay one step ahead of the game with a national airport delay map. View the red-yellow-green delay status of airports in the US and in Canada, along with current national radar weather overlaid on the map

Flightview Elite includes the free features as well as the following:

  • Flight Boards: View arrival and departure boards for the US & Canada’s largest airports. See gates, delays, and cancellations.
  • Flight Alerts: Get immediate notification of changes in flight status, delays, or cancellations on flights saved to My Trips – whether the app is open or closed.
  • Flight Details: Search and save flights up to six months in advance of scheduled departure. Travelers also have access to additional details such as plane’s altitude and speed, as well as the aircraft type to get a sense of the plane’s size and layout.
  • Airport Directions: This feature lets you find and integrate airport locations and driving directions directly into your app

App for Airports

The Transportation Security Administration launched a mobile app with multiple functions, including:

  • Airport Status: Users can see what airports are experiencing general delays or search for conditions at a specific airport (information provided by the FAA).
  • Can I Bring?’: Users can type in an item they plan to bring on a trip and find out if it is permitted or prohibited for carry-on or checked bags.
  • Guide: The TSA offers a wide array of travel tips including: traveling with children, rules for packing, tips on how to dress for airport security, and many more.
  • Security Wait Times: My TSA gives passengers the ability to share their wait times and see the wait times other passengers have posted for US airports.

AQ: Let’s say the worst happens, and either your flight is cancelled or you’re bumped during peak holiday times. What advice would you offer to get travelers to their final destination as soon as possible?

MB: Cancellations and delays are never fun, but there is a key window of time to take action. Before leaving for the airport, research similar flights that reach your final destination.  In the event of a cancellation, you’ll be one step up on the other travelers because you already know which flights you want to be switched onto.

When you need to rebook, speed is of the essence.  The best place to start is online.  If that’s not an option, call that airline while you are waiting in line to speak with a customer service agent.  That way, you’ll be connected with the first available person.

The most important strategy, though, is preparation.  When booking flights, aim to depart in the morning.  When the weather causes delays, morning flights tend to get postponed, while evening flights tend to get cancelled.  Additionally, it’s best to purchase your flights from the airline, as opposed to a third-party reseller. In the event you need to switch your travel plans, it’s a much simpler process if you bought directly from the airline.

AQ: How does FlightView keep its flight databases always up to date with the latest information?

MB: FlightView aggregates data from multiple sources on a minute by minute basis.  These sources include airlines, airports, the FAA, and schedule publishers.   The various feeds are combined to provide travelers’ with the most accurate and up-to-the minute view of what is happening in the skies.  FlightView’s data center contains over 40 high-speed servers that handle requests from over 180 million customers each month.

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