Improving your Air Travel Experience without Spending More Money

Airlines and the flying public always seem to be dueling these days.

Airlines squeeze more and more up-sells and fees out of passengers, and passengers counter by taking advantage of an ever-expanding arsenal of online fare-comparison sites to find the cheapest tickets. Problem is, once on board, that consumer power all but evaporates in the face of shrinking legroom, narrow seats and pricey food.

If you feel like you’re losing the battle, change your strategy. Use these tips to compare more than price so that you can fly more comfortably without opting for expensive upgrades.

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Compare Qualitatively: Planes, Seats and More

Booking sites like Orbitz, Kayak, Chipmunk and others reveal more than just price, airline and flight plan. You can also see the flight number and the type of aircraft you will be flying on. With a little extra research, you can use this info to compare in-flight accommodations.

Copy the flight number into SeatGuru.com or seatmaestro.com. Both sites can tell you everything you need to know about your seat, including the pitch (the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front or behind) and width, the type of the entertainment system and whether the plane is outfitted with in-flight Wi-Fi.

Compare Everything in One Place

Some websites allow you to compare a number of factors across flights and carriers. Routehappy, for example, is an online aggregator that lists not only fares from different airlines, but also details about each airline’s planned plane for that route. For example, if you search for a non-stop flight between New York and São Paulo, you have a choice of three airlines that can get you there for about the same price: United, Delta and TAM.

But a closer looks reveals differences that could make for vastly different in-flight experiences. For example, in our search, though all three offered similar entertainment screens and options to charge your devices, TAM offered more space (a 32-inch pitch versus 31 inches). On the other hand, TAM, unlike United and Delta, didn’t offer in-flight Wi-Fi in our search.

Compare What’s Important to You

Since no airline is perfect and every passenger is different, think about what matters for your needs in-flight. If you value an extra inch of pitch above all else (it can make a world of difference to taller people), choose the more spacious airline. If you can’t unplug, choose the airline with in-flight Wi-Fi. And if you expect to work during the flight, a power outlet for your laptop may be your sole concern.

No comparison is fool proof. While you should do all you can to research the best airline seat at the best price, remember that airlines reserve the right to substitute equipment without notice. The good news is it doesn’t happen too often, so in most cases the time you spend searching for a better ride will pay off nicely.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

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