Triangle Trip

Tag: boarding

How to get priority boarding without status

by on Mar.11, 2009, under Airlines, Business Travel, Vacation

I travel through a lot of different airlines, and each airline has their own boarding strategy. I have a rough estimate of what boarding group I will get with the seat I pick.

It would be nice to have the boarding group # displayed when selecting your seat # on the different airline sites.  Also, it would be nice to display the number of tickets seats purchased with priority boarding.  This way I would know when to pack lighter for a smaller carry on, or at least expect to check my luggage in to pick a seat with an earlier boarding assignment.

Different carriers have different number of boarding groups and strategies. United has 4 groups and board by outside-in, 1 status, 2 window, 3 middle, 4 aisle seats. Other carriers do back-to-front (4 groups), while others even do a reverse pyramid strategy (usually more than 4 groups).

Back window seat will guarantee you at least a boarding group 2, B, if you are status-less on most airlines and have no clue of the airline boarding strategy.  Guaranteed luggage in overhead, except maybe United since the majority is group 1, which is a different story.

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How to avoid the middle seat on Southwest

by on Jan.21, 2009, under Airlines, Business Travel

We all know that Southwest does not have assigned seats and everyone is aware of the standard practices to get in Zone A to avoid having to sit in the middle seat. The standard practices  to get away from sitting in the middle are:

  1. Print your boarding pass at right after midnight before your departure date so you board during Zones A or B. This may mean staying up all night just to avoid getting a bad seat – which is not so attractive.
  2. Paying for Southwest Business Select. This approach does not really make sense as you’re flying SWA because you’re trying to save money. Why should you pay to board first especially if you fly SWA all the time?

The standard practices also does not cover you for flight cancellations or changes. Here is the secret to avoid the middle seat or at least mitigate the risk of having to sit in the middle.

Kids generally prefer to sit by the windows because they want to look out the window during takeoff and landing. Since kids rarely travel by themselves which means a parent will be next to them. Like everyone else, parents also don’t like to be stuck in the middle seat. The usual scenario is a kid seated by the window and the parent sits at the aisle hoping no one will take the middle seat. This scenario occurs toward the back of the plane.

Regardless of when you board the plane, you need to look for a kid seated by the window and a parent occupying the aisle seat. What you must do is ask the adult to allow you to sit in the middle. The result is the parent will move to the middle because the kid will not want to give up the window seat nor does he or she want to sit next to a stranger. I have used this trick on every flight that is crowded and have an 80% success rate. Go try it!

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Clear (Fly Clear) Registration Experience

by on Jan.06, 2009, under Travel Partners

As a Platinum Starwood member, I was given a one year membership to Clear.  I have seen this at the airports I frequently travel to/from:  SFO and JFK but never really thought about investing $199 and giving up my privacy.  If you don’t live in NYC, DC Metro or Bay Area, I really don’t see the value in joining Clear – here’s the list of cities (I am still baffled how some of these airports made the list).  Additionally, I am also a Premier Exec on UAL and Gold on Delta.  Both airlines are pretty good about letting you skip the crowd.

So… I signed up to Clear via the SPG link right before Christmas.  The Signup on the Clear website was straight forward.  It took about 10 minutes to join.  Upon completing the web registration forms, I found out I needed to go to the airport to complete my enrollment at a Clear kiosk at the airport. To complete the enrollment, I will need to present 2 of the 3 items:  US drivers license; passport; birth certificate.

The additional enrollment requirements shocked me.  I think the website should be more upfront about the join process – especially at the start of the process.  Had I known it required the 2 step enrollment process, I’d have not joined (or paid if I was a paying customer).  Then again, this was a free membership… can’t beat free.  I also immediately went on Autopostmark to schedule a reminder to cancel at the 1st of December 2009 — I also added my buddy who was also joining the same time to this free awesome reminder service.

I was at JFK a day after Christmas at about 7PM.  Since I knew no one would be at the airport, I brought my passport to complete the enrollment process at the Clear kiosk.  When I got to the Clear kiosk, the Clear representative told me they had shut down the kiosk and it was not a self registration process.  A Clear agent needed to assist me with the registration. 

After flying around for another week, I ended up in SFO on new year’s eve.  I went to the Clear kiosk before heading out to the City by the Bay.  I went to the Clear kiosk all prepared with my passport and drivers license.  The Clear representative then asked me for my Clear account number as if I had the 16 digit account number memorized.

The Clear representative finally located my account number and I was ready to go.  The 2nd step to the enrollment process required me to provide:  thumb prints, index finger prints, hand prints and retina scan.  It felt like I had completed an FBI Self Assessment.  Since I don’t have much to hide, I don’t mind all the data Clear has on me.  I am some what concerned about what Clear will do with the information.  I am also surprised to see a Clear machine in the liberal minded Bay area.

The Clear kiosks were high tech but filled with bugs.  It took several tries to get my thumb prints and retina scanned. I was told that I will receive a Clear card with my photo and security chip on it in the next two weeks.  To use the Clear line, I will have to provide the Clear card plus a finger print.

I am not impressed with the enrollment process.  Lets hope the security clearance process is more efficient.

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