So you’ve got the baggage policy down. You know you’re getting the best fare because you’ve been tracking prices for weeks. There are still some things you might miss. Here are four “little” things most people forget about when booking their flights.
Fare class isn’t just “coach, business, and first.” Within those groups, fares are broken into classes. The fare you book on the airline website will tend to be a “higher” class than the cheaper one on the third-party site. Same thing with booking through a partner airline, or booking a refundable vs. non-refundable fare. This doesn’t matter for most issues, but it will effect (1) whether your fare can be refunded and (2) how many miles you get on a flight. Lower fare classes tend to earn fewer miles for the same flight. If you’re close to a reward redemption, you might want to confirm you’re getting the most miles for you buck. Here's a recent article from The Points Guy covering some changes to American's fare class structure.
Confirming your booking
Always confirm your booking with the airline after booking through a third-party site. This is necessary to make sure all your information went through right and isn’t sitting on some server. The easiest way to do this is to use your confirmation number or record locator, go to the airline website, and use their flight status tool.
If you can’t find it, call the airline. This is also helpful for hotels. I once had a hotel lose my reservation when a third-party transmitted my two separate reservations as a single one. Had I confirmed the two reservations with the hotel ahead of time, I would have saved myself some headache during the middle of my vacation.
Physical Lounge Access
No, I don’t mean “book United so you can walk right into their lounge.” That isn’t how that works. Getting lounge access isn’t a pipe dream, though. If you want to pay for it, you can often just buy a day pass to most lounges, even if you’re not flying a specific airline.
We’ll have a post on lounge access coming up, but a more difficult problem is often just getting physical access to the lounge. Not all concourses of all terminals have airport lounges. If you’re interested in visiting a lounge, you’ll need to be sure you pick an airline with gates in that same physical space.
Always have a backup plan. Booking a 5AM flight at a busy airport is a good way to make sure you’re always ready to book a later flight if you have to. If you’re at a smaller airport or can’t book an early flight, what’s your plan? Low-cost airlines especially have fewer flights, so they won’t always be able to rebook you that day if your 5PM flight gets cancelled. Do you need to be ready to drive to your destination? Is the train an option? What about going to another airport? Airline personnel can often be helpful in these instances, but they’re also going to be overwhelmed if they have to deal with 150 angry passengers. Know your general plan going in, and as your flight nears, watch for trouble. Check the weather. Get information on the inbound flight to make sure your plane will get there.