Here are some tips for readers based on my most recent airline experience from here and back to South Florida, via Air Canada.

Security Matters: A few months after the September 11, 2001 airline attacks Richard Reid, a self-admitted member of Al Qaeda attempted to destroy a commercial aircraft in-flight by detonating explosives hidden in his shoes. His crime led to the new requirement of airline passengers having to remove their shoes for inspection before boarding. More recently, Nigerian terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab had a packet of powder sewed into the crotch of his underwear. He unsuccessfully tried to ignite the device as the plane prepared to land in Detroit. As a result of these and other threatening incidents every passenger is treated like a potential suspect, even babies in strollers. I know that all of these precautions are necessary, but it sure has taken the fun out of flying.

Carry On: For a few weeks in January carry-on luggage was not being permitted on flights from Canada to other countries.

Full body scanning is now becoming part of the security regimen. The edict on carry-on items was a real inconvenience for most people. As of this writing this prohibition has been lifted, but remember that the rules of what you can bring aboard remain very strict. Check your airline’s website before heading to the airport. If you are bringing medication, make sure they are all in their original prescription containers. And what about lotions? They have been banned to bring on board since 2006 after a foiled plot by terrorists to bring explosives in liquid form onto transatlantic flights. There are some people who have medication in the form of lotions and liquids. The ban applies to suntan lotion as well.

But people with certain skin conditions cannot use just any suntan oil and need to bring theirs on board because it might not be available at their destination. Get a note from your doctor and present it to the security agents. They will let it through.

Pack Your Food: On Air Canada, like other airlines, there is nothing close to a free dinner. I try to pack my own sandwich and water. Alternatively you can fork out between $6 and $13 for Quiznos barbeque chicken flatbread pizza, a wrap or a sandwich. The in-flight entertainment plan is still a bonus. Bring your own set of small earphones and you can watch movies or television shows directly on a screen at your seat. Otherwise the price to rent these dollar store items is $3.

Seat Reservation: Air Canada will charge you for extra or overweight bags and there is no guarantee you will have seats reserved in advance. In some cases, depending upon how your ticket is booked, you might have to pay extra for seat selection. Go online at least 24 hours before. You can print your boarding pass and try to do seat selection. The same goes for WestJet. Also, arrive at check-in at least two hours before the flight. Line-ups are long and you are much better off beating this aggravating situation. The later you arrive, the better chance there is your luggage might not follow you.

Aeroplan Points: Finally, for those of you with Aeroplan frequent flyer points do not allow the 12 months exceeding your fight to elapse without using your card otherwise all of your points will be lost. Keep the card in the glove compartment of your car and use it when filling up with gas at Esso. It will keep your tab alive.

Mike Cohen’s email address is [email protected].
Log on to his travel advice column at

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