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Air Travel

The United States has many airlines serving most parts of the country; they offer a wide variety of air fares. The major U.S. cities are connected to each other and the rest of the world by the larger airlines, with a variety of smaller airlines serving the smaller communities. The United States is a nation of great distances, so often air travel is often the cheapest as well as the fastest means of getting from one place to another. When on the plane, you can expect a fairly high level of service from American flight attendants. Be polite to them in return. If you have special needs, tell them clearly. If you have special dietary needs, you should talk to your travel agent or the airline people on the ground when making reservations, so they can arrange for your special meals.

Classes of Service. Most airlines have two or more classes of service: first class, economy class and possibly business class, an in-between variety. Airlines also offer special excursion fares which are cheaper than normal, but which come with restrictions as to how long you must stay at a certain place before flying back or how far in advance you must book the flight. If you cancel such a flight, you’ll probably lose a percentage of your money. On the other hand, if you just show up at the airport without making a reservation, and there happens to be room for you on the airplane, you’ll end up paying much more than excursion fare, sometimes twice as much. Airline travel, more than any other kind, works out best if you plan it carefully in advance.

Shuttle service exists between some major cities, like New York, Boston and Washington. You do not need reservations for shuttle service, you just show up and board the plane.

The fare structure is complicated. Excursion fares can differ from one airline to the other; terms and restrictions can be complicated. It is here that a travel agent or travel website can help you. You will never pay more with a travel agent than you would by dealing with the airlines directly, and a good travel agent can save you money. Nearly all airlines accept major credit cards, and travel agents and websites accept them for airline bookings also.

Trends. Air travel in the 21st century has become tangibly more difficult than in the past. Airlines have gone out of business or consolidated. Routes have been curtailed or eliminated. Meal service is an exception for economy class passengers. Airlines now charge fees to carry luggage. Getting through security has become more difficult. The most vexatious trend, however, is the prevalence of the hub system in which flights go to and from central points (such as Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas), necessitating layovers and flight changes, and increasing the chances of delays and flight cancellations.

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