When it comes to all things travel, Brian Kelly – aka The Points Guy – knows a thing or two. We spoke with the travel site's CEO and founder to get some of his best tips on maximizing your flight experience this holiday and beyond. Kelly provided us with some awesome tricks and hacks that you may not have even thought about it, from scoring a free seat upgrade to getting around those long wait times when you're trying to reach an airline employee. Below are six helpful tips that will save you on your next trip.
1. How to get the best seat.
"If you have the misfortune of picking the wrong seat, your travel could turn into a painfully unpleasant experience. To see what your experience will look like in advance, I recommend checking SeatGuru. The site has the seat map for every aircraft of most major airlines, meaning you can check seat by seat for which is the best for you. For example, if a seat is missing a window or has limited recline, you'll know in advance. Also, check The Points Guy to see if there's a review for the product you're flying, so you have a better idea of what to expect."
2. Knowing your rights for flight cancellations.
"One of the major things to keep in mind when it comes to canceled flights is when compensation is justified. If your cancellation is the result of weather, air traffic control, or airport equipment faults, chances are you aren't likely to get compensation. However, if your cancellation is the result of US Department of Transportation Bill of Rights violations, broken equipment, and a couple of other instances, you should be.
We're seeing airlines beef up their social media teams, so if you're looking for an immediate response reaching out on Twitter might be your best option. Of course, every airline is different and you'll want to reach out to the carrier as soon as possible."
3. How to get around long wait times on the phone.
"If there's bad weather and phone lines have long waits, consider calling international phone numbers for a quicker response. I've had luck calling the Mexico phone number with American. Most reps on the international line speak English and have the same access to servers as their US counterparts. Instead of wasting hours on hold in the US, try calling a foreign customer service line."
4. How to score a free seat upgrade.
"High density routes between major cities on peak travel dates are likely to be overbooked in many cases. If you're stuck in the scenario where your flight is overbooked, credit compensation is a great reward. But, also ask the gate agent if you can be upgraded on your rebooked flight — it could work out well for you for both your current flight and to use the credit on a future itinerary.
It never hurts to be friendly to gate agents and the flight crew. If there are a lot of open seats up front and you're kind to the flight attendant, you never know when you might be offered to move up. A little kindness can go a long way!"
5. Knowing how to play the game when flying a low-cost carrier.
"We all hear about the horror stories of some of the low-cost carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and Ryanair, but if you know how to play their game, you could come out ahead. All of the ultra low-cost carriers offer low-base fares and then make their money on additional fees. However, if you know the rules before arriving at the airport, such as making sure you print out your boarding pass at home and only bring a personal item, you could save a ton of cash."
6. Looking at unexpected dates to redeem travel rewards.
"When it comes to award travel, some of the best awards open up just days before departure. If you've been eyeing a Lufthansa business-class redemption for months and it's looked bleak, don't give up hope! In many cases we've seen availability open up just a couple days in advance. Set Expert Flyer alerts and keep searching!"