Big Airports, Regional, or Fly Your Own Plane

August 25th, 2013

When we think of flying on commercial airlines, we start shaking our heads. We start dreaming of flying our own small plane instead of going through the hassle of TSA, handling and paying for luggage, airport parking, etc. What would it take to get your own private pilot license and then your IFR rating?

ohareIf you thought the airlines had done everything they possibly could to cut costs and make your life miserable while flying, you obviously haven’t a clue how far they can go. Doing regional routes on tiny aircraft to give ‘narrowbody’ a whole new meaning is the next step in cost-cutting with American airlines now. You can’t entirely blame the airlines for this either. Businesses have been trying to cut costs, sending fewer people out traveling. Why would the airlines fly the planes half-empty? There is a good side to this change though of course. On most airlines, airport services to regional destinations have really opened up.

LuggageThe airlines that serve these destinations – names like American Eagle, Cape Air and Comair (no, not Con Air), use regional aircraft – machines that seat fewer than 100 people, often fewer than 30. They use aircraft brands more associated with personal flying – Cessna and the like – and flying on these requires a whole new level of sacrifice – you get less headroom, less elbow room, and there are more people crammed together in the space than you would like. If you plan on working while traveling, you had better forget it. There is just no way to take out a laptop, leave alone use it on one of these flights. Most of these airlines charge you $25 a piece to check a bag.

Here is where we once again start thinking of buying our own airplane or renting one and getting our Instrument Rating. This would put 90% of the headaches behind us.

And as far as carry-on is concerned, for the most part, there is no room inside for those. You’re best off packing a very small carry-on and nothing else. They only have one class of travel anyway. If you have a connecting flight to make, and its first class, you still fly supersmall economy from your regional airport. With these airlines, airport slots are very far away from the terminal you are connecting to. You probably will find your tiny bird of an airplane parked at a special regional terminal that will require you to take unconventional transportation to your connecting flight. You’ll probably need to be well in time so that you don’t miss anything.

Still, there are a number of positives to  using tiny regional airlines. (Yes, you can more easily fly your own plane into and out of these airports and it’s a lot easier getting your accelerated IFR training there as well.) Airport access becomes much more convenient sometimes. For instance, Cape Air flies directly into Manhattan. And also, if you happen to be in a city that isn’t in the top 10 nation’s hubs, you’ll soon come to appreciate the kind of connections you get from your home airport. They have code shares in place too. This way, you accrue miles for your travel. They let you make your reservations with a visit to just one website, and when you travel to places like Beaumont, Texas or Joplin, Missouri from Plattsburg, you’ll appreciate the convenience of flying directly from the airport in your hometown.

Affordable Airline Tickets

January 29th, 2014

For about as long as anyone can remember, one way tickets have always cost almost as much as round-trip tickets. That’s the way things have always been for tickets you bought directly from a travel agent or an airline. Luckily though, those who really care about their savings have recourse to travel booking websites that have begun to offer affordable airline tickets for one-way routes. Even so, the major airlines still charge you indefensible one-way prices that can cost hundreds of dollars more than what a ticket on a route would if you bought a round-trip itinerary. What do you do to keep yourself from getting taken advantage of?

The first thing you need to ask yourself is, why do airlines try to price their one-way tickets so far above their round-trip tickets? To begin with, whether or not you are flying both ways, the airlines always have to. Any time a plane goes one way, it has to come back so that it can make the same trip again the next day. If they let people buy one-way tickets, they fear that they will be flying their aircraft back empty. High-priced one-way tickets are their way of discouraging you from upsetting their carefully set-up schedules. They want to be able to fill all their flights both ways. And then, they believe that it is usually business travelers who wish to buy one-way tickets. Since it is the businesses that buy their tickets, airlines believe that they can well afford to pay a good price.

Still, it does come across as very unfair. How could the airlines possibly justify how sometimes, a one-way fare costs three times what a round trip would cost? Some passengers try to take matters into their own hands. Even if they do want to just go one way, they buy a round-trip ticket for one third the cost, just use one portion of the ticket, and throw away the rest. The airlines though, specifically prohibit such a practice. If you get caught, they have your credit card number and they threaten that they will charge you the full amount. But that’s only if you get caught. If not, how can you afford not only your car mechanic charges, but also boarding your dog while you are away?

A more legitimate away a finding affordable airline tickets when you want to only travel one-way would be to try the low-cost airlines that are happy to sell you one-way tickets at reasonable prices. The online booking sites can often be great hunting grounds for affordable airline tickets as well.

Fear of Flying Tips

August 25th, 2013

I used to be terrified of flying, to the point where I wouldn’t even take an airplane ride to go on a nice vacation. I missed out on a lot of fun with my friends who would fly to Acapulco, Halifax, Spain and all sorts of other interesting destinations for vacation. Nowadays, however, I can get on an airplane without a second thought. If I stop and dwell on it, I’m still afraid of airplanes, but if I keep my head level I suffer very little anxiety. I would like to offer a few fear of flying tips to help you overcome your fears as I did mine.

If you have the option, the best way is the way I got over my fear of heights. I used to climb a farm structure that was 50 tall and it used to frighten me. Then I climbed a 125 foot tall water tower. The next time I climbed the farm structure, it was like walking up some stairs. Same with flying. Fight fire with fire. Go up in a small plane and experience the turbulance and bumps. Or get your own private pilots license, then your instrument rating. Your fear will be a thing of the past. If can’t take this option, read on::::>>>

You might be expecting me to start with some profound wisdom about self-control or overcoming your own limitations, but that certainly is not how. I started. I started with drugs. I went the doctor and told him that I was afraid of flying, and he prescribed these wonderful anti-anxiety pills called Xanax for me. I waited until I was through security and took one as I was waiting for the flight to board. By the time I was on the plane, I was feeling incredibly mellow and, by the time we took off, I was fast asleep.

Taking Xanax to fly helped me to get over my initial fear, but I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life having to take sedatives every time I went on a plane. A friend of mine who is a psychiatrist gave me some great fear of flying tips to help me make the transition to drug-free flight. He told me to repeatedly explain to myself how safe flying is. He gave me some statistics about why planes were safer than any other form of transportation and why turbulence – though unpleasant – was not dangerous. He had me watch a tape simulating an airplane flight so that I could slowly start to get over some of my fear in the comfort of my own home. Apparently, he had acquired these fear of flying tips from a patient who had enrolled in a class to overcome her acrophobia.

Surprisingly, the best fear flying tips – the ones that really let me cut my Xanax dosage down to nothing – came not from a phobia book or class, or from a mental health expert, but from a meditation teacher. I had been taking a course in meditation to help me deal with chronic anxiety, but that class was also a tremendous asset in dealing with my phobia. I learned how to breathe deeply, relax, clear my mind and return to a pleasant image whenever I was overcome by anxious thoughts. Slowly, flight by flight, I used the rational approach taught by my psychiatrist friend and the mental exercises from my meditation teacher to overcome my fear.

Remember the earlier tip – grab the bull by the horns and become a pilot yourself if you really want to irradicate your fear. Go all the way and get an instrument rating, maybe by getting the accelerated IFR course or training.