The internet is changing the way that we fly from planning trips to purchasing tickets and even tracking flights in mid air. Chances are you have been searching for deals and buying tickets online for years but there are more ways to take advantage of what the internet has to offer after prior to, the day of and in flight.
Many airlines offer ticketless travel where you can book online and print off your reservation right from home. No waiting for tickets in the mail or picking them up at a local travel agent. While some airlines simply ask for your confirmation number, having the print out is always a good plan in case there are any questions or errors at the airport. Plus, if you are traveling internationally having a print out of your return ticket may be required at immigration to prove length of stay.
The fine print
Ticketless travel and online purchases without any actual contact with a travel agent or airline representative means reading the fine print is extremely important. For example, some chartered airlines have stipulations that require you to be at the airport several hours ahead of time or you are denied boarding. Other airlines offer lower rates if you are willing to have no seat assignment and the possibility of being the first person bumped off the flight. Many online ticket purchases are non refundable or can incur substantial charges for changes to your reservation. No matter how easy it has become to book flights, at the end of the day, travel is still unpredictable and you need to be able to protect yourself. Read the fine print.
At home check-in and seat selection
One of my favourite features that many airlines are taking advantage of is the online check-in and seat selection. For example, on Westjet airlines in Canada, you can check-in 24 hours up to 60 minutes before you fly. You can also select your seat at that time. So when you arrive at the airport, if you are traveling light you can head straight to the gate with your print out and skip the queue. This online check-in feature is wonderful for the frequent traveler who isn’t loaded down with bags and special requests. You can also check-in from your mobile device from 24 hours up to 30 minutes before you fly and print your boarding pass at one of the self serve kiosks – this means you can check in while heading to the airport.
Check flights in real time
Last but certainly not least, is another awesome tool for not the traveler but the unsung hero – the relative or friend who is always there to pick you up. Give them a break by referring them one of the many real-time flight trackers so they know exactly where you are mid flight and can arrange a pick up accordingly. Some great ones include Flight Aware and Flight Arrivals.