Skip to content

Never Forget to Do This Before Boarding a Flight, Experts Warn

It's one way to make sure you end up at your destination on time.

Some things will always be a part of pre-flight checklists, like making sure to pack the right items and coordinating plans to get to the airport on time. But even if you're an organized travel planner, certain tasks may not be as apparent as others until it's too late—and may even end up affecting your travel plans. Before the boarding process begins on your next flight, experts warn there's one essential step you need to take to ensure you take off without a hitch. Read on to see what you should always do before getting on a plane.

RELATED: Never Forget to Do This After Boarding, Flight Attendant Warns.

Always select your seat assignment before your flight begins boarding.

Part of traveling like a pro is being in the best position to avoid any hiccups along the way—especially at a time when cancelations and schedule changes can make planning a real challenge. And while purchasing a plane ticket may feel like the last step towards jetting off, you're in a much better position to actually make it to your destination if you can pick your seat assignment before your flight begins boarding.

For some airlines, purchasing a basic economy ticket means you won't be able to select where you're sitting until 24 to 48 hours before your plane departs. And even though you'll likely be assigned a seat when you check-in and grab your ticket, waiting until you get to the airport can be a mistake in the event that there may not be enough seats to go around once you get there.

"People with unassigned seats tend to be the first ones taken off planes when the flights are oversold," Terry Suero, travel specialist and senior board member at travel planning agency Safe Travel Pathways, tells Reader's Digest.

Consider budgeting to get a ticket with seat selection or speak with a gate agent as soon as you arrive.

A man handing a boarding pass or plane ticket to a gate agent at the airport

Of course, it's not possible to always book a flight with a guaranteed seat assignment. Carriers like Southwest Airlines famously board their planes by zone and offer open seating, while low-budget airlines such as Spirit, JetBlue, and Frontier charge a premium to know where you're going to buckle in for your trip.

But if you absolutely know you won't be able to manage a long flight stuck in a dreaded middle seat, experts recommend budgeting in the added fee to your airfare to guarantee you'll get placed exactly where you want before general assignments open. This can be especially true if you're flying into or out of a busy or popular destination or traveling during peak business hours or holidays, Lifehacker reports. And while most airlines may not have a policy of allowing basic economy passengers to choose their seats over the phone in advance, it never hurts to head right to your gate and speak with an agent in person about changing your seat before boarding begins.

RELATED: For more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Download your airline's app before you fly to check-in as early as possible and potentially choose your seat.

Happy traveller: a woman packing her clothes into a suitcase, getting ready for a trip.

One of the easiest ways to stay on top of picking your seat assignment comes in the form of a quick and easy push notification sent right to your phone. By downloading your airline's dedicated smartphone app as soon as you purchase your tickets, an alert will let you know when it's time to check in and get first dibs on any seat selections that may have opened up. You can also use it to download your ticket and avoid long lines at the airport, confirm the status of your flight, and keep an eye on any openings in precious window or aisle seats in real-time.

Don't take the first offer from the airline if you happen to be on an oversold flight.

Group of people at departure gate

If you do find yourself on an oversold flight with no seat to call your own, you may still be in an excellent position to come out of the situation with some seriously hefty travel vouchers in your pocket. Just make sure to avoid getting lowballed by negotiating with the airline the right way. "Being eager and getting up there early is a good thing, but taking the first offer they give you is a bad thing," Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at the insider-intel platform Scott's Cheap Flights, previously told Best Life.

Instead of accepting the airline's first offer, you could try approaching the podium early and saying, "Hey, I'll be bumped, but I want to have the same compensation as the last person who volunteers," Orlando suggests. "Airlines tend to increase compensation as the pressure gets higher and they're trying to get those final people off the flight."

Note that, per the U.S. Department of Transportation, "There is no limit to the amount of money or vouchers that the airline may offer, and passengers are free to negotiate with the airline."

RELATED: If You're Offered This on a Plane, Just Say No, Flight Attendants Warn.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
Filed Under