We are travelling in planes more than ever before. Bangladesh has one of the highest growth of international travellers in the last 4-5 years. We are travelling abroad for business, vacation and even I hear nowadays some people fly out of the country for wedding shopping. Not to mention our fellow brothers and sisters who are working in different countries, their contribution to our economy can never be taken for granted. Many airlines are making very good money targeting the migrant workers. So the summary is that we are travelling by air more than ever and so I am making a list of some very common tricks that is sure to make your next travel experience a little better.
Air Ticket is the most important part of your air travel experience. It is important to book air tickets smartly, as airfare is pretty much 50% of your entire travel budget. So any savings you make here, contributes a great deal on your overall budget. There is a rule of thumb that says air fare is cheapest 90 days before you travel. 90 days is too far out for us to book a ticket unfortunately but I have seen that you can make up to 30-40% savings on some flights by booking about 30 days in advance.
Travel agents in our country are notorious and they will always try to get some extra money from you if you are not careful. Previously we could use credit cards to book tickets online but for some reason Bangladesh Bank banned it 2 months ago. So your only option is to book through travel agent or go to the airlines office directly.
Booking through travel agent is the most convenient option and I do the same. But I have some tricks up my sleeve. Before you call your agent, check these sites:
I have found a real buddy in www.skyscanner.com . They also have a beautiful app which I use all the time. They are sure to get you the best deal for a given day and you can use that as a reference when you negotiate with your travel agent. Remember travel agents get around 7% commission for each ticket from the airlines so bargain hard and they will lessen that commission for you.
If you are travelling to North America or Europe, keep an eye open for the special fares given by Middle Eastern airlines like Emirates, Qatar and Etihad. They are giving amazing offers almost every month if you book in advance. Last month I found Dhaka-New York return flights only at 52,000 taka given by Emirates. But it was soon over within a few days. So if you plan to fly to the far West, let your travel agent know in advance to keep searching deals for you.
I am taller than an average person and that is a big disadvantage when travelling economy. During my early flying years, I would really struggle to be comfortable in flight. But over the years, I have learned from experience how to go around this problem. You see, every plane has some seats with twice the legroom than other seats. One set of them is right at the front of each cabin class where you can stretch your legs a little and also chat with the flight attendants. But one big drawback of the front seat is BABIES. The front seats have the option to attach a bassinet so these seats are offered to parents carrying babies and if you have a grumpy baby next to you then even the cutest of flight attendants won’t make your flight experience any better.
So the next option are the seats on the Emergency Door Row. Previously I used to ask for them at the check in counter in the airport and they would give me those seats no questions asked. But the number of smart travellers are increasing every day and if I arrive late for check in I hardly get those seats nowadays. Even then if you ask really nicely, and plead a little they would sometimes change the seats right at the end when you board the aircraft. This is something I only learned this year that you can change your seats right when they scan your boarding pass before getting on the waiting room in the gate. They would simply change your seat no with a pen on the boarding pass, so don’t give up on that extra leg room until the last moment.
If 2 people are travelling together, you can try another trick. Normally there are 3 seats a set on each side of the row, A – B – C. Then ask for seats A & C when you check in. If the flight is not full then there is 75% probability that the middle seat will remain empty and you can be comfortable the whole journey. It’s a neat trick for couples and even if they do put one person, you can then request him or her to exchange seats. In this case you have nothing to lose.
Long haul flights are usually 70-80% full so as soon as the Seat Belt sign is turned off, I would bounce off my seat and go straight to the back. There is bound to be a 3-4 empty rows with nobody sitting on them. For most airlines you can lift the seat handle and make a very comfortable bed and with a warm blanket you can tuck yourself in for the night. The trick here is to be quick, as beds are given on a first come first serve basis and don’t worry about flight attendants telling you off, because it’s a very common practice.
Carry On Bags:
This is very much a Bangladeshi problem especially when you return to Dhaka. It takes ages for our luggage to come from the plane and once I had to wait around 90 minutes to get my luggage coming from a 2 hour flight. So whenever I travel, I always take my luggage on board. I try to keep the weight below 7-8 kgs and carry no liquid containers over 100ml. It’s a trick that has saved me countless of hours at Dhaka airport. This is very handy if you travel on regular business trips.
But there is a catch when you come back. We love to shop and during the return flight every passengers will carry a lot of carry-on luggage. So on most occasions the overhead compartment cannot store all the bags, so the crew would take your bag and put it in the baggage ruining your carefully crafted plan. The trick here is to board the plane early. If necessary be one of the first to wait in line when they call for boarding. It’s a little uncomfortable but believe me it’s worth it.
Waiting in the airport is not the most pleasant experience especially if you have a long connection between flights. Airports like Singapore, Dubai, Bangkok, Doha, etc gives passengers a variety of options to pass their time. So when you are in one of these fancy airports, be sure to check the maps and you are sure to find some hidden gems here and there. For example Singapore Changi Airport has a beautiful rooftop Sunflower Garden. There are of course numerous duty free shops to roam around but you are sure to get tired after a while carrying your luggage with you.
If your connection is more than 6 hours, the airlines is bound to give you Airport Hotel or Lounge card. So be sure to ask your travel agent about this. Sometimes airlines gives you hotels which are outside of the airport. So you would have to go through immigration and get out of the airport and come back after a few hours and again go through immigration. For me it’s a big hassle.
So I got myself a PRIORITY PASS. This is a cool card, which many banks are offering with their Platinum Credit Card. This card gets me to lounges in almost 95% of the major airports in the world and I can eat, sleep, and shower in the lounge for free even when I fly economy. I got this card with my City Bank Amex card and it has made my air travel very convenient and comfortable. Other banks are also offering this card now with their credit cards and truth be told the charges related to it are nothing compared to the benefits you will get. They also have a neat app named Priority Pass which allows you to search for the nearest lounge. There is a list and directions on how to get to the lounge.
If you don’t want to take this card, then you have one last option. Most international airports have a Muslim Prayer Room, and it’s away from the hustle and bustle of the airport. You can easily slip in there and go to one corner of the room to lie down and take some rest. Keep your mobile in silent mode and try not to disturb others who are praying. Last month I had a 6 hour connection at night in Bangkok domestic terminal when I was flying to Phuket and I found an empty Prayer Room and was able to sleep it off. Just make sure you don’t miss your flight!
Some Other Handy Notes:
- If you miss your connecting flight because of delay in your first flight you need not worry. Just go the airlines counter and they will book you to the next flight for free. If your next flight is more than 6 hours later, they are bound to take you to a hotel and bring you back also free of charge. This is only applicable if both flights are of the same airlines.
- When you book a connecting flight, try to keep minimum 90 minutes gap between the flights. Sometimes even if you catch the connection fight at ease, your luggage may not be so lucky! It is very common to arrive and find that your luggage has missed the connection flight.
- You will always find fellow migrant workers brothers coming back or going to their working country. Needless to say, they are not as educated as some of us. So try to help them out with immigration forms whenever possible. Some people find it very annoying when many of them ask for help, but I always take time to help them and you should too.
- When you are planning to go the airport, always go early. I believe, waiting in the airport is always better than waiting somewhere else.
- Don’t carry batteries and power bank in your main luggage. Carry them with you in your hand luggage.
I still believe there are many other ways to improve our air travel experience. These are the tricks that I have learned over the years. If anybody can share some of their own personal ways then that would be great.