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M ost travelers take time to plan trip details, but when it comes to flying, they spend less time making sure their flight goes as smoothly as possible.
Maybe you think it's just luck that some passengers get the roomier aisle seats. Or that the same passengers find low-priced tickets and get occasional upgrades to business or first class. But luck usually has nothing to do with it. These savvy travelers know how to get what they want before they get on the plane.

       You can do the same thing by considering your flight's details as important as the rest of your trip. After all, if your flight is enjoyable, you'll arrive at your destination less tired and less stressed.
       Know what questions to ask before you leave home. Eight frequently asked questions about increasing the comforts of flying:

At the airport, will I be delayed if I purchase my ticket with cash or a check?
How can I choose flights with good on-time records?
Should I check my luggage or carry it on?
How can I get extra legroom?
Where should an anxious flyer sit on the plane?
What are the best times of year to get the best ticket prices?
What can I expect from the airline if I get bumped off an oversold plane?
How can I get upgraded to business or first class without paying extra?

At the airport, will I be delayed if I purchase my ticket with cash or a check?

You might. Airlines are skittish about passengers paying with cash or check at the airport. You're considered a higher security risk because you're not leaving an easily checked paper trail. Consequently, you might be delayed, and you might be denied courtesies such as curbside check-in of your baggage.
       If you must buy your ticket at the airport instead of purchasing your ticket in advance, use your
credit card for a smoother, hassle-free experience.

How can I choose flights with good on-time records?

Ask about a flight's on-time record before booking your flight. The performance rating is typed in the reservations system and is quite easy to decipher. For example, an "8" means your flight has a track record of arriving on time between 80% and 89.9% of the time. You have less chance of being delayed if you fly early in the day. And, if your early morning flight is delayed, you'll have more options when choosing another outbound flight.

Should I check my luggage or carry it on?

Whenever you can, take your luggage with you in the cabin. That means you'll have to travel light and use suitcases and garment bags that you can fit underneath your seat or you can stow easily in overhead compartments.
       The trade-off for traveling light is that you'll avoid baggage check-in lines and baggage claim areas. Another perk is that you'll avoid the possibility of losing your luggage, a potential dilemma every traveler faces when checking bags.

How can I get extra legroom?

When you book your flight, ask for an aisle seat. Even more spacious are aisle or middle seats in the bulkhead rows. These are the front rows in coach with a wide aisle between the seats and the wall (bulkhead) in front of you.
       On some flights these seats might not be available to you unless you make a case for sitting there. For instance, if you're susceptible to leg cramps on long flights, mention this. Airlines often keep these blocks of seats available for medical-needs passengers or those traveling with small children.
       Another way to get extra legroom is to request a seat in an emergency row exit. Generally, there's more living space here because one seat usually is taken out, leaving two in a row instead of three. However, airlines assign these seats to passengers in good health, at the airport. If you want one of these seats, arrive early.

Where should an anxious flyer sit on the plane?

Here's where advance seat selection comes in handy. Ask for a seat over the wings, where the feeling of turbulence is less noticeable. If you tend to feel claustrophobic when you fly, don't choose a seat at the back of the plane or a seat in the middle of a row. Instead, select aisle seats toward the front of the plane.
       If you didn't get your first choice when you made your reservation, here's a trick frequent flyers often use: Try to board last, even after the attendant calls your row. Then, if your flight isn't full, choose a seat that's better than the one assigned you. Of course, if it's obvious the flight is full, this tactic could backfire.

What are the best times of year to get the best ticket prices?

It's impossible for most travelers to keep ahead of airfares because prices are in continuous flux. But some guidelines will help you.
       Domestic fares usually take big price drops three times a year, in late May and early June, in late August, and again between Thanksgiving and Christmas. While prices may not be lower than those offered during "airfare wars," generally, these are good times to buy domestic tickets.
       If you're planning a European trip, consider flying off-season. From late October through late March, your off-season, round-trip fare is about half price from gate cities including Chicago and New York to destinations like London, Paris, and Brussels.

What can I expect from the airline if I get bumped from an oversold plane?

First, expect to negotiate. If you're strapped in your seat on an oversold plane and attendants make a request for one or more passengers to get off before the plane takes off, ask what they're offering for the inconvenience. The airline may offer you small rewards like drink vouchers or small vouchers good for future flights. This may be satisfactory to some, particularly when it's voluntary.
       But if you're smart, and you arrive at the airport to find you've been bumped because the airline oversold the flight, you'll realize the airline owes you up to $400. And what's more, if the airline offers a voucher for a future flight, you have a right to demand a check instead of a flight voucher.

How can I upgrade to business or first class without paying extra?

This requires some ingenuity. Your best chance for upgrading comes when you're traveling with someone sitting in first or business class. Simply ask to sit together.
       If you've paid full fare or you have a strong showing of frequent flyer miles, ask for an upgrade and you might get one.
       If all else fails, request an upgrade if the plane is undersold. On many routes, at light travel times of the day, a small passenger list will get you what you want.

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