Taking the Fright out of Flight
Flying can be an extremely stressful experience, especially with the security measures that have been implemented in the last fifteen years or so. Airport anxiety may not be something that you can get rid of entirely, but there are things you can do to make the experience less of a hair-pulling nightmare. Here are three ways to improve your pre-flight experience.
First, and this should go without saying, but give yourself plenty of time. You never know what traffic may do, or how long the security lines will be. You should also make good use of your time by not arriving too early for a flight that’s been delayed. Keep up to date with your flight’s status via their website or apps that let you know immediately if your flight has been delayed. I’ve been in situations where I received the flight update on my phone’s app before the delay was even announced at the gate. Giving yourself ample time reduces stress and increases your chances of keeping a calm and level head in a high-stress environment. It also allows you, if you so choose, to allow someone to go ahead of you in line if they are late for a flight. It happens to everyone, and if you pay it forward, so to speak, your chances of someone being equally gracious to you are greatly improved!
Second, there are lounges available to make getting there early even more relaxing, plus it’s a nice bonus when you have longer layovers. These lounges offer free WiFi access, complimentary or low cost alcoholic beverages, free snacks and non-alcoholic beverages and a generally quiet, comfortable atmosphere in which to wait for your flight. Many of the people using these lounges are business travelers, and there are sometimes dress codes enforced. This is a good reason to always be well-dressed when you fly.
To access an airport lounge, you often need to have a first class ticket for the airline sponsoring the lounge or be a certain status with their frequent flyer program. However, there are alternatives. Some credit cards come with airport lounge access (certain American Express cards, for example). However, those credit cards may come with hefty annual fees. As of this writing, the AMEX Delta Platinum card has an annual fee of $450 per year, but that does come with a “free” buddy pass for a first class flight. A less expensive and more flexible alternative is Priority Pass. A Priority Pass standard membership is currently $99 per year and gives you access to thousands of airport lounges around the world. (Right now if you use this link you can get 50% off your first year.)
Third, you can get the frequent traveler pass in order to bypass general security called TSA pre-check. In order to obtain this, there is a non-refundable application fee (currently $85) and you agree to a full background check. You have to be a US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident and never have been convicted of certain crimes (they are pretty serious, so if you don’t have any felonies you should be good). You also need to apply or complete your application with an in-person visit at an application center where you will be fingerprinted, etc. So instead of standing in line only to get frisked or looked at naked through a scanner, you can get expedited security with minimal hassle. You can find out more about pre-check here.
Here’s a bonus tip for making flying less stressful: smile and be nice to people. Chances are other flyers are just as stressed or anxious as you are, and regardless of your feelings about TSA being hostile or rude to the employees is not going to improve the situation and may even land you in big trouble. If you want to make a difference in travel security, applying your efforts outside of the airport will be more effective and appreciated by other travelers.