Holiday travel basics for infrequent flyers: 6 things to know if you haven't flown lately
United Airlines launched ConnectionSaver at two of the airline's busiest hubs and plans to expand to other airports in the future. USA TODAY
Holiday travel season could easily be called the season of smug and ugh at the airport.
Frequent flyers who live on airplanes throughout the year have to temporarily coexist with travelers who only hop on a plane once a year, if that. From Transportation Security Administration lines to the boarding area, the most impatient among them can't contain their disdain. Rookie season they call it.
What's an infrequent flyer to do as the holiday travel rush kicks off this weekend? Brush up on the basics and any changes since your last trip. That will reduce holiday travel stress and, for those who care what others think, the inevitable side eye.
6 things to know if you haven't been on a plane in a year
1. No, that Boeing 737 you're on isn't one of those Max planes that's been in the news all year. The 737 Max has been grounded since March following two fatal crashes on the 737 Max 8 in five months, and U.S. airlines have no plans to bring it back until March 2020 at the earliest. There was so much confusion about different plane types, Southwest changed its safety information cards in May.
2. Yes, your driver's license will still get you through the TSA checkpoint. The Real ID requirement doesn't kick in until Oct. 1, 2020. Officials are encouraging travelers not to wait until the deadline is near to apply for an enhanced driver's license or ID.Travelers with a U.S. passport and other acceptable forms of ID don't have to worry.
3. No, your basic economy ticket doesn't come with an advance seat assignment. You're assigned a random seat at check-in. But you might be surprised to learn travelers holding the no-frills tickets can pay to reserve a seat. United and JetBlue allow basic economy passengers to buy a seat as early as when they book a ticket, and Delta and American open seats for sale a week before the flight. American's seat-buying window for basic economy passengers was only 48 hours until July. Whether you want to pay the often-pricey seat selection fee, with a basic economy ticket or regular economy ticket, is another question.
4. No, you can't move to that empty extra legroom seat a few rows in front of you. Airlines have been carving up their economy cabins, creating different sections with seats that come with more perks for travelers willing to pay more.
5. Yes, United Airlines might hold your connecting flight if your plane is running late. But you need to download the airline's mobile app. United debuted a cool new feature called ConnectionSaver in February, and it's now widely available. The airline says it has saved more than 60,000 connections across its seven hubs. The app has also been providing turn-by-turn directions and distance to your next gate for passengers worried about navigating an unfamiliar airport. Even if you're an infrequent flyer, it's worth downloading your airline's mobile app before you fly because airlines often push the most up-to-date flight and gate information there as well as offer airport maps and tips and try to sell you last-minute upgrades.
6. No, you can't pick up an Uber or Lyft at the curb at some airports anymore. Airports are creating new pickup areas to reduce congestion at the terminals. Los Angeles International Airport created a new pickup lot in October. Passengers take shuttles or can walk there from nearby terminals. It was a mess at first, but things appear to be more orderly. Other large airports that have made ride-hailing changes recently include Boston's Logan Airport and San Francisco International Airport. At some airports that have made a pickup change, travelers who book a premium car from Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing apps can still get curbside service. In San Francisco, for example, travelers booking an Uber Comfort, Select or XL car will get curbside pick up this holiday season as part of a two-month test. Uber Black and Black SUV rides kept their curbside status.Check your airport's website or the ride app for pickup locations.
More holiday travel tips: 8 things to do now to make Thanksgiving flights go more smoothly