I make it a habit that I choose an aisle seat using online early check-in whenever I travel. Aisle seats give me more leg space, more freedom of movement (I can go to bathroom whenever I want before everyone queues up there after meal), and I don’t get the light and blowing air-con by the window. And so long as I choose the aisle seat on the centre side, not the window side block of seats, I normally do not have anyone asking me to stand up every time somebody next to me need to stand up, because they have another way out of their seat, usually where their companion sits. Anyhow, that’s normal, this time, I was in the mood for a window seat. It’s been a long while since I did a long-haul flight in the day.
Australia is no small place. If you use an accurate map (the kind that would not skew the image and make the polar region seem much larger than the place under equater), you would know that it is as large as the mainland USA, and it could fit Western Europe in it. Flying out of Melbourne in the far south, on a flight aiming at its left shoulder where Hong Kong sits, most of the way the flight was over the dry land of outback Australia. And I can tell you, it is absolutely beautiful from above. I can see why some photographers use plane and helicopter to make aerial images.
I had hardly noticed from my regular aisle seats far from window and its view, but it seems pilots seem to make lots of small turns on their route to avoid active cloud structure here and there. So I got to see a few of such magnificent structure outside my window from time to time.
Many airlines nowadays offer the service of online reservation and online check-in. I know there may be cheaper tickets elsewhere which would save me a couple of hundreds, but I still choose to buy directly from the airline’s own website. The reason for that is mainly the more relaxed policy around cancellation and modification of itinerary. Make sure you read the ticket conditions. Some airlines offer you tickets for the same route at different price – normally the difference is with the T&C. I tend to buy ‘not the cheapest, but reasonable’ deals, which would normally give me right to change my flights without having to pay penalty for it. Also, buying from the airline I am more likely to get mileage points for my flight, compared to ‘discount tickets’ which often do not give you any mileage points at all. Knowing the luxury I COULD be enjoying after earning enough mileage points, I would not worry about a hundred here, couple of hundreds there. Considering all the benefits, I think it is well worth it.
And online check-in… I think it is great! You do not (technically speaking, that is, not always the case, though) go to airport so early, and you can shorten the queue time at the airport. You can pre-select (request only, not guarantee, just in case you didn’t know) a seat – say, in my case, I like ’33D’, the aisle seat on the middle island side as I mentioned earlier. It is very close to the front of the economy class, meaning I could get through immigration at the top of the queue, and yet it is not the very top row, so I still have people in front of me, and the space under their seat where I can put my shoulder bag. I prefer to have my bag there so I can take things in and out without standing up and unbuckling seat belt. Some people prefer to sit in the very top row of the economy class, but that row is often given to family with baby and tall people as they take priority. Having your pre-selected seat taken away to other people like that is potentially disastrous – you could end up on the back row of the plane where it is stuffy, noisy from both people (people who check in last end up in the last row – they are not as careful and tend to be noisy… Just ‘tend to be’ but enough to annoy me if I’m stuck there), and it is close to galley kitchen or crew rest area if there is one. Anywhere behind wing is likely to be noisy as they suffer from the sound of the jet engines on the wing. Not the most peaceful place on the plane. Hence, 33D.
You can also make special dietary requirements through here. If you get frustrated by not getting the food you want on the plane, maybe you are better off choosing a special kind of food – like vegetarian, or no seafood, or whatever. Some airlines have an extensive list on their online booking management page, so you take your time and see which is closest to your taste.
Make sure you provide any mileage membership details that are relevant to the flight you are on, add local contact phone number, especially mobile number, as the airlines will tell you if the flight schedule changes (And they often do. My flight from Melbourne was supposed to be first thing in the morning, but it was pushed down by 1 hour 40 minutes due to the delayed departure of the incoming flight – I received an SMS at 1am on the day of the departure /night before – notifying the delay.), passport and travel document details. Providing all these basic information online saves you time at the airport check-in.
Many airlines offer ‘internet check-in’ or ‘drop bag only’ queue at the airport for passengers who are already checked-in online. The queue time is often much shorter than the regular one. Sometimes there is virtually no one there, while dozens of people are waiting in their slow-moving queue. I go straight through the non-existing queue for online check-in, and wonder why people do not use this privilege. I am pretty sure some of those people in the queue have used the same airline before; and some may even be relatively frequent flyers.