Infrequent Flyer 2/14: What’s Important to You?
October 31st, 2011 by Mike

Unless you’re crazy like me, most people don’t just get on a plane because they like to fly. They get on a plane because they have a reason to travel. I can’t stress this enough: Before you buy a plane ticket, you absolutely must understand what is putting your butt on that plane.

Airlines have tons of moving parts. Flights get cancelled. Airports get closed. Airports get evacuated. Taxiways back up. Snow falls. Runways freeze over. Planes break down. Computer systems go down. Unions go on strike.

Any one of these things can impact your flight. What is your risk tolerance for any of these things happening? This is a really important question to ask yourself before buying a ticket.

Lets say you’re taking your special someone to Walt Disney World for a long weekend in January, and you’re leaving from Providence’s TF Green Airport. It’s January. In Rhode Island. It’s going to snow. You probably stand the chance of getting hit by a nor’easter and being delayed. In this case, your risk isn’t that great because Disney will probably refund your money if you’re delayed or cancelled due to weather.

Lets change that around, though. What if you’re in your cousin’s wedding in Miami that same January weekend. You’d better believe I wouldn’t attempt to book a Saturday morning flight that arrives the day of the wedding. In the case of snow or some other weather event, you’re pretty much screwed.

To some people, they don’t have time restrictions and just want to get there as inexpensively as possible. To those people, I would ask how much they’re willing to tolerate paying in other fees like checked luggage or choosing a seat in advance. These sound like little things, but they are important.

To me, collecting frequent flyer miles is important, so I don’t mind taking a circuitous route. Yet a good friend of mine will gladly pay more money for a non-stop flight.

Two weeks ago, Iwent to the west coast for a conference. I wasn’t going to spend almost seven hours in a cramped little seat, so flying first class was important to me. I found that leaving a day earlier than I needed would get me a much better deal.

Do you care about price, time, comfort, avoiding the risk of a cancellation, the ability to be reacommodated immediately in case of a disruption, or some other combination of these things. It may sound silly but asking yourself all of these questions in advance can help you make a better decision. And you might not miss your cousin’s wedding.

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