Monday, 17 October 2011

Air travel Myths: Flights and air fares

There are many myths concerning air travel that you would be wise to avoid and learn the truth about. Many of them concern missing flights and what your rights are should this happen.

1. If you miss your flight you will be booked on the next one
This is usually a myth as it all depends on the circumstances surrounding the missed flight. Basically if there was no way that you could avoid missing the flight then you will usually be allotted a space on the next flight. Flight providers take a dim view on tardiness that is your fault so beware!

2.You will be reimbursed if the flight is cancelled
Once again, it depends on who, or what, is responsible for the cancellation. If it is the flight providers fault then you will usually receive a refund. However, if the weather is the culprit then the airline can wash their hands of any money that you expect back - so make sure you are insured!

3.Your flight will wait for you if you check-in late
Having been a victim of this, I can assure you that the pilot will certainly not wait for you as you stumble aimlessly towards the boarding gate. If you are running late, get to the gate ASAP!

4. If you book as a group you are guaranteed to be seated together
Untrue. The flight provider is under no obligation to sit you together. Once again, I can vouch for this one and it's really not fun. Being split from your group is more likely to happen if the flight is close to being filled and you are one of the last to check-in.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Defining Jetlag

For many of us who run the gauntlet of the long-haul flight the dreaded jetlag has become something of a nemesis.

You know the deal, you set down at your vacation hotspot hoping for a speedy transfer so that you can make the most of the hotel pool before the day is up. Instead, you are warmly welcomed by your good friends fatigue, headache and, best of all, irregular sleep pattern - Collectively know as jetlag.

This horrible affliction is common and you are most likely to experience it if you fly through multiple time zones as  it is in essence a disruption of the body clock. You see, the human body despite its inherent cleverness, is susceptible to the most basic of things...

...In the case of jetlag the body is experiencing different light patterns to what it is used to, thus disrupting the finely tuned sleep-wake cycle. As well as this, the body will not be used to the new times in which you choose to eat - It seems that the human body is something that adapts to a particular routine, so beware all those that choose to go against it!

The severity of jetlag is affected primarily on the distance that is travelled and the individual in question. Some of us just seem to have the knack of adapting well to the surroundings and soldiering on through it which is often the best piece of advice. For the rest of us jetlag remains our greatest flying opponent!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Truth About Air Travel

Myths surrounding air travel are flying about everywhere. From mobile phone use on flights causing crashes, to intoxication occurring far quicker in the air than on the ground.

But barely any of these have any substance to them. In this quick run-down we'll separate fact from fiction.

Myth number one is that electronic devices on planes interfere with navigation equipment thus causing plane malfunction. Many people believe that this ban is in place because phone signals interfere with GPS signals, but the basis for this ban is that phone signals bouncing between mobile phone towers will prevent mobile communications from the ground making it to the cockpit. Either way there is very little evidence to suggest this would really cause major disruption.

Myth number two. Air conditioned air on planes causes rapid spread of germs and sickness. This is a big untruth that many people believe to be true. The air filters on board these aeroplanes are in fact very sophisticated and extract 99% of all germs and viruses and therefore cleaner than much of the air we breathe in our everyday lives. 

Myth three - Drinking at high altitude gets you drunker, quicker. Inebriation is measured by the quantity of alcohol in your bloodstream and therefore you will not be affected by the altitude at which you are flying.

Myth number four suggests that you can book your flight on any day of the week and your final price will not be affected. This is in fact false as flights being booked on a weekday and a weekend can differ by substantial amounts. Research has shown that Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays offer best value for money combine this with a decent flight provider and you're on to a winner!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Ryanair Vs Easyjet

They are the two biggest budget airlines in the UK, riding the wave of the no-frills airline movement for the last decade allowing anyone to travel almost anywhere for a nominal fee.

But, budget airlines are in the budget bracket for a reason. They provide you with the bare essentials and make the passenger do much of the work to avoid overheads and drive down costs.

So what are the main differences between these two juggernauts? Which airline scrimps the most and which offers the greatest level of overall comfort?

Both airlines fly from all of the major airports in the country so evens on that one, but in terms of flights from London Ryanair operates primarily out of Stanstead whilst Easyjet seems to have more of a share at Gatwick. For this reason, Easyjet takes a point here for operating from the more accessible, larger airport.

Inflight, both airlines provide very little in terms of comfort. No free magazines (apart from the airline's own), no complimentary food or drinks and no television or media. Food and drink can be purchased on-board but prices are heavily inflated. The seats are not what you would class as luxurious on either airline but they are sufficient for short-haul flights. Seats are free-for-all upon boarding so you may have to brace yourself for scrumming and elbows-at-dawn upon boarding! No winners here!

How about prices? Well, if we compare one popular flight we can see a noticeable difference here. The initial cost of a ticket to Belfast from London costs £54 with Easyjet whilst Ryanair charges a more conservative £44. But add in the extras such as taxes and booking charges and the total cost of the Ryanair ticket is nearly double the initial price at £85! Compare this to Easyjet's £63 and the winner here becomes clear. Easyjet wins this one with ease.

In conclusion, in comparing three vital factors, it is Easyjet that comes out as the winner primarily due to the fact that they charge their customers less. Flights with Easyjet can be found through a range of online providers but for the best prices go with a reputable firm.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The finest food to grace the air!

On-board cuisine - you either hate it it!

Often, the arrival of food on a flight can come as welcome reprieve from the mundaneness of a long, arduous flight. But once it sits in front of you, there is usually a deep sense of annoyance at what lays before you. Luke-warm mashed potato, microwaved meats and congealed milk are often served in quaint moulded plastic dishes with mass-produced plastic cutlery that snaps whenever any pressure is exerted upon it....Mmmm, Mmmm

But, there are certain pioneers of the sky who endeavour to provide their passenger with a meal-time experience that is a welcome departure from the usual.

In first place must be Qantas who have been known to serve caviar before main meals! This is followed by a further eight courses that sample cuisines from all over the World. Of course, you must reside in 1st class to be fed such fine fayre, but it's perhaps a small price to pay for such a dining experience!

Next up is Gulf Air who provide passengers with an on-board chef who cooks up a range of culinary delights that sample many regions of the Gulf. So expect meals along the lines of honey-glazed quail and spiced Arabic lamb!

Third spot must go to Singapore Airways. Not solely for their food but also for their assortment of premium champagnes served on-board. So expect Dom Perignon or Krug as an accompaniment to your Korean eel fillet!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Dealing with long waits in the airport

Ever got to the airport far too early and thought 'What on Earth am I doing here already?'.... Yep. So have I.

I always wonder why I do it to myself - arriving at the airport so early because I have to take into account every possible eventuality that may somehow prevent me from reaching my sunny destination. The longest time I have spent loitering around an airport is 12 hours - a record that I am certainly not proud of but proved to be necessary due to the situation I was in at the time. Basically, in this case my travel mate and I arrived at Cairns airport speculatively in the hope of boarding a flight to Sydney which proved impossible. Hence a long, drawn-out wait until the next flight a whole half-a-day later.

During this nightmare of a wait my friend and I managed to amuse ourselves for a reasonable portion of it. Whether by eating our weight in fast food or by playing seemingly inane games that took on a distorted sense of higher meaning we survived (somehow) to board our flight in reasonably jovial spirits.

From that experience, I have extrapolated the five best methods of keeping one entertained whilst waiting for a flight...

1)Strike up a conversation with someone
Whoever it is, everyone has a story. Sure, in our case we tried (and failed) to chat to the prettiest things we could find but broaden your horizons by speaking to people of different nationalities and gain some insight into their World.

2)Play a game of how many
Categories include; How many moustachioed men will walk through gate number four? and how many times will this Mother clip this young boy around the ear?

3)Check out the duty free section
There is a wealth of entertainment to be had in this treasure trove. Cologne testing can take up a good couple of hours but beware of glares from the up-tight staff. Likewise, cheap sweet treats can be had for nominal amounts of cash and what better way to spend an hour than seeing how many Ferrero Rochers can be inserted into one's mouth without swallowing.

4)Explore the hidden avenues that your airport offers
You'd be surprised to find what hidden delights await you in your airport. The holy grail is a gaming arcade. Sure, their hard to come by, but once found, a couple of solid hours will fly by. Other joyous finds include Krispy Krème doughnut stalls and free internet connections.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Sad end to Superfast plane flight

A test flight for the World's fastest plane as ended in disaster after the crashing into the Pacific ocean.

The U.S military's Falcon HTV-2 was launched with promises of it being able to travel from London to Sydney in less than an hour with speeds reaching 22 times the speed of regular planes.

The plane itself is attached to a rocket before disengaging on the edge of space an re-entering the atmosphere but after a smooth start, the Californian air base lost signal after nine minutes - at which point the plane had flown for 139 seconds and had reached nearly 17,000mph!

The plane had already encountered a host of problems in testing with two test flights already being cancelled prior to this one. It's little wonder when you realise that the vehicle travels on average at 13,000mph or 20 times the speed of sound on its journey!

Hopefully this will not blemish the reputation of the hypersonic flight too much and we will see more examples of these amazing planes being tested soon.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Say NO to flight delays!

There's nothing more annoying than getting to the airport with plenty of time to spare, queueing all the way through to departures before hearing an announcement over the P.A system explaining that a flight has been delayed.....and lo-and-behold it's your flight!

It may seem that such delays are completely out of your hands... and they, are as most are caused by factors such as weather conditions, mechanical faults or airspace issues. But these delays can actually be avoided by following a particular set of rules.

1. Fly in the morning
If there were any mechanical problems with your plane, they are more likely to be fixed through the night when a plane has more chance of being grounded and worked upon compared to during the busier period during the day. Terrible weather is more likely to hit in the afternoon to so this also makes flying in the morning a prudent idea as well.

2. Check who you're flying with
There are now a number of online resources that actively allow you to look up the percentage of flights that are on time or late for a particular airline, showing you who you should be travelling with.

3. Which airport are you flying from?
Many airports are affected by the weather, and therefore delays. Choose to travel from any city that has prolonged periods of inclement weather and things may begin to go downhill. This especially true in the case of cities that are affected by fog and heavy cloud cover so you may want to avoid San Francisco on your travels!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Virgin Space flight: a step closer

With the first Virgin space flight due in just two years, a British pilot is set to fulfil a childhood dream by becoming the first person to pilot one of Virgin's Galactic aircraft.

David Mackay, 53, will be the chief pilot for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic when it begins the first sub-orbital space flights by 2013. More than 400 passengers have already paid £125,000 for the experience of a weightless flight 100km above the earth's surface!

Mr Mackay is currently in the U.S training for the flight in one of Virgin's test aircraft named the 'WhiteKnightTwo' and is one of four pilots who are currently placing the aircraft through it's paces.

When Mr Mackay gets round to flying passengers commercially, he will pilot the Mothership to 50,000 feet before blasting of into space on the spaceship by means of a rocket motor, accelerating at 2,500mph before leaving the Earth's atmosphere. Once the ship has reached it's cruising height of 360,000ft above the Earth, passengers will able to unbuckle themselves and experience the weightlessness of outer-space!

In the meantime, we will have to make do with our Boeings and Airbusses, but hopefully someday will all be able to afford this amazing opportunity!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Flying cars: The future of flight

It's not quite reality yet, but it certainly seems like flying cars could be the future of air travel.

U.S firm Terrafugia have declared that their innovative new flying machine, called 'The Transition', will revolutionise the world of personal air travel and will allow pilots to fly in the air as well as drive on roads and highways.

According to it's makers, the Transition is comfortable and intuitive to use. It is also fuelled by regular unleaded petrol making this aircraft a seemingly viable domestic flying vehicle! Terrafugia also state that this aircraft can also be mastered with just 20 hours of flying lessons which is actually considerably less than learning to drive a car!

With over 100 pre-orders already, the Transition is actually selling rather well and is beating all other viable personal flying aircraft on the market. But at £250,000 this thing sure ain't cheap and it's unlikely that London will resemble a scene from The Fifth Element any time soon (unfortunately). So for now, instead of flying to Spain in our fancy flying cars and saving on our fuel costs, we'll have to make do with low-cost airlines!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Alcohol and planes: Proof that they really should not be mixed!

Ok, so I'm not referring to pilots downing a few brandies before transporting their passengers to far-flung destinations. Rather, the passengers who insist on plying themselves with drinks before taking to the skies. We all get a little nervous sometimes but is drink really the way forward for flying? I doubt it.

Recent figures suggest that as many as a quarter of the 3,500 passenger interruptions have been alcohol fuelled, with these passengers arriving drunk at the check-in desk.

These passenger clearly pose a security risk on flights. With alcohol acting as a catalyst for stupidity and aggression and with security on planes becoming stricter and stricter due to the risk of terrorism, an alcohol ban seems increasingly imminent.

On the other hand, it could be argued that a ban would be unfair for the majority of placid alcohol drinking folk who consume the odd drink to make their journey that little bit more bearable. And how far would such a ban go? Would all alcohol within the airport be banned or just on the plane? Or would it be possible to monitor drinkers and regulate the amount they consume?

In my opinion, the way forward includes screening intoxicated passengers before they embark on a flight and incorporating this with a a limit on the amount of drinks that can be consumed on a flight. If a rule such as this could be used across all airlines then the high figures of delays attributed to intoxicated passengers would surely plummet.

Monday, 27 June 2011

5 Questions of Paramount Importance

When booking your flight there are five questions you should have in the back of your mind to ensure the best possible flying experience. Read on for more nuggets of Above the Clouds info. 

1.What time does the flight depart?
Beware of lights that leave at night. They are often cheaper but often go very early in the morning. If you have a long drive ahead of you to get to the airport, it may be beneficial to book nearby accommodation so that you are well rested before your departure.

2.When does the flight arrive?
A simple question that can have a huge bearing on your well-being on arrival. Flights that get you to your destination whilst it's still bright outside can help to keep your body-clock in sync with your new destination.

3.How much luggage can I check in?
Most airlines operate within a 20kg allowance for baggage. If you go over this limit you will often incur an additional charge.

4.How much hand luggage can I carry on-board?
You will find that some airlines restrict you on the size and weight of baggage that can be carried on board and you may be penalised for baggage that does not meet the specifications. Always stick to the 'one bag rule'.

5.Do I need to reconfirm my flight on the way back?
Many flights ask you to reconfirm on the return leg of your flight. This is a vital aspect of your flight that youshould know beforehand.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Singapore - THE best airport in the world

According to a Priority Pass poll, Singapore Changi is the best airport in the world. Respondents to the poll were frequent flyers, averaging 17 flights per year lending gravitas to the findings.

At the other end of the scale, London's Heathrow airport scored the worst. This possibly reflects the recent T5 lost luggage debacle and a general perception of mayhem within the vast halls and terminals of the airport.

There is no doubt that Heathrow is slowly re-building its reputation though with 1 billion pounds a year being spent on the airport and its facilities in an attempt to change traveller's views of the airport. Flight punctuality is also up on previous years, with the average delay time being just ten minutes at present.

The win for Singapore Changi continues it's growing reputation as an established award winner. Changi already has already amassed 27 best awards since 2009 alone and this reflects on the airport's fervent dedication towards achieving gold standard customer service in all areas.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

First Bio-Fuel Jet Manages Atlantic Flight

In a huge step for aviation, a business jet has flown from New Jersey to Paris on 'Green' fuel, becoming the first flight to complete a bio-fuel transatlantic crossing.

The flight marks another leap towards a greener aviation sector and will surely pave the way towards more green flight innovations.

The flight was operated by Honeywell international in a Gulfstream G450 and left Morristown NJ at 9m, landing in Paris seven hours later. In a move to signify the gravitas of the flight, the pilot closely followed the route of Charles Lindbergh's pioneering first flight across the Atlantic.

The fuel used in the journey is derived from camelina - an Oilseed crop that has the ability to grow on any poor quality land. To place the green credentials of the fuel into perspective, its use saved 5.5 metric tonnes of Co2 emissions when compared to a flight using petroleum.

The flight follows the continued trend in the aviation market for greener fuels, with the likes of Airbus recently showcasing their own green alternatives.

Monday, 30 May 2011

The ugliest plane designs ever to grace the skies

Today we take a sideways look at the world of aviation and look at some examples of the most gaudy, offensive and downright awful paint-jobs in the world of flight.

All planes that you are about to see have somehow, at some point, been allowed to fly through the air and in the process commit crimes against the World of aviation.

1)Qantas Airways - Aboriginal Spirit
Well, it's certainly original. This design was commissioned in 2006 to celebrate Australia's oldest population. Rather than being enthused by this design, I'm certain that Aboriginal people were possibly quite offended by the myriad of gaudy colours and cut/copy Aboriginal art.

2) Air-Nippon - Air Pikachu
A Japanese cartoon who has had the gall to imprint ones-self upon the legendary Boeing 737, this Pikachu plane has thankfully been restricted to flying solely over Japanese flight territory.

3) Alaska Airlines - Mickey Mouse
What better way to advertise your multi-billion pound company than through a massive flying billboard. This Mickey mouse monstrosity has probably endeared a generation of young children to the world of Disney whilst simultaneously losing most of its Adult audience!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Brits pay highest flight taxes in Europe!

I heard a startling fact today about the cost of the UK's aviation taxes. Whilst many countries are actively lowering their flying taxes, it seems that taxes for UK flyers are forever on the up.

In the last two decades, air passenger duty in the UK has increased by a huge 2600% with travellers paying more than any other country in the world. Rather than encouraging people to travel and holiday, it's as if we are being penalised and prevented from travelling to our favourite destinations.

Anyway, in an attempt to counter the Government's incessant misuse of air taxes, industry leaders are joining with The Association of British Travel Agents to prevent more increases.

This year the treasury is expected to pocket £2.2billion of travellers money with further increases predicted over the next few years. To put the taxes into perspective, it would cost a family of four flying to Australia £340 in flight tax. Compare this to another country in the EU- such as France - and the same family would expect to pay just £15. With such huge differences you can really see how unfair the UK system is.

The best way to offset such inflated taxes is by purchasing your flights as cheaply as possible through online providers such as directline.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

5 Tips For The Ultimate Flying Experience!

Think you're ready for your next flight?

Think again. These five very quick tips will ensure you have the best possible experience and make time go that little bit quicker.

1) Take your own amenities.
Whether it's pillows, ear-plugs, magazines or blankets, take your own! Airlines have noticeably been cutting down on these lately to save costs. Low-cost airlines offer an even more stripped down service so make sure you are well equipped!

2)Have a little chat
Sometimes it's good to talk to strangers and you will often find some very interesting people on flights. If you're sitting next to a stranger, have a go at making conversation; you may find out some interesting things about them, if not, who cares? You'll never see them again!

3)Take gadgets
For many of us our gadgets are our saving grace on flights. I-pods, gameboys and portable DVD players can all be invaluable sources of entertainment - especially for young children.

4)Enjoy your Meal
Many of us base our flights around the on-board meal-times, and why not? Quite often the food is actually rather tasty and you can use up precious time delicately enjoying cheese and biscuits or a pleasant coffee. Just be sure to avoid the special options as these meals are often lacking in the taste department.

5)Deal with the odours of others
With a plane filled with hundreds of people each with their own unique smell, you're bound to get the odd stink that you really cannot agree with. Whether this is the elderly lady with the cheesy feet or the gentleman a couple of rows down with the sweat issue, try dabbing a touch of lavender under your nostrils to block these smells out!

One final tip that goes without saying is to book your flight with a reputable company! This way you can avoid any problems that may occur before you even get to the airport! Choose a company such as directline-flights for complete peace of mind.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Best Duty-Free Buys

Holidays do not just present us with a chance to get away from the stress and strains of our often mundane existence - They also present us with the chance to stock up on quality luxury items that can be found in the treasure trove that is the duty free section of International airports!

There are certain items that we should steer clear of in duty free, (think of those gigantic novelty chocolates that you devour as soon as you get home), but there is a trio of items that are fairly priced and are far too good to be ignored. If you are venturing out of the comfort of the EU you will find that your savings are even greater on these goods.

1) The item that you will make the most saving on is cigarettes. Without the vast amount of tax the British government imposes on these cancer-ridden little sticks, you will find you can make a profit of £5 per pack. Better still, you can potentially earn yourself a few extra pounds by selling to smoker friends.

2)If you are a regular drinker of spirits you can stock up in duty free and save yourself many a pound. The best technique is to buy in bulk, raising your long-term savings even more. You will also find that duty free sections stock local spirits that are difficult to find in Britain.

3)Fragrances present another duty free choice that often undercuts our high-street retailers. There are often special deals and promotions on these products, providing even better savings for flyers.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Avoiding Check-in Problems

The whole flying process has become so streamlined and generic that we rarely encounter problems these days.

But there are still times when things can go wrong - usually at check-in.

There are a number of common problems that you may encounter at check-in, most of which can easily be avoided.

The first and most obvious problem to avoid is related to your baggage. Airlines make a large amount of money from baggage fees. Charging passengers for bags that are over weight has become a profitable source of income for airlines. Make yourself aware of your airline's baggage rules before you get to the airport to avoid this.

You should also double check the contents of your hand luggage. There is nothing worse than finally getting to the scanners then realising that you have can of hairspray or an unopened bottle of water in your bad that is about to be confiscated by a burly security guard. You may not look like a terrorist, but they're just doing their job! Leave purchases such as these in your main baggage, or alternatively, hold on until you are through to the waiting lounge.

Queues at the check-in desk go hand-in-hand with the flying experience, but they are an annoyance that can be avoided. Numerous airlines now offer the option of online check-in. This means you can go straight to security rather than having to pay a visit to the check-in assistants. Online check-in is usually only available on domestic flights due to more stringent passport checks on international flights.

If you are a frequent flier, you should really have applied for a frequent flier number by now. This can speed things up hugely as you can check-in at an automated kiosk by typing in your personalised number and all of your flight details will be instantly recognised, completing check-in in minutes.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Dealing With Tears and Tantrums on Long-Haul Flights

The other day a friend of mine told me how he and his family had taken the arduous 21 hour flight to Australia for a two week holiday and catch-up with recently emigrated family.

He told of the nightmare he and his wife had in entertaining his two young children, 5 and 3 years old respectively, and how they struggled to cope with the dreaded child jet-lag. I personally would have baulked at the idea of spending so much time in a cramped cabin with nothing more than a colouring book and a series of recently released Hollywood blockbusters to keep them happy!

Tears and tantrums on such a flight come with the territory, but there are a few little things that can make the journey a little more bearable. Firstly, you should make sure that the airline you are travelling with caters for little ones. If the airline provides digital entertainment, make sure that the screens are incorporated into the back of the seat rather than a communal screen for sections of the plane, thus ensuring small children can actually see the screen. Perhaps you could ask if there is a children's T.V channel before opting to fly with them? Better still, see if the airline offers a gaming channel, this will entertain the kids for hours and can give you much needed time to yourself.

Portable DVD players can be a real saving grace, just make sure you pack their favourite DVDs! An excellent tip that you may not necessarily have thought of is to take small presents for your children that you could get them to open at certain times during the flight to relieve boredom and give them something to look forward to.

Dealing with the after-effects of a flight can be equally as tricky, but it's important to remember that a child's body acts in the same way as an adults when it comes to jet-lag. The same rules apply, so try to keep up with the new time zone and go to bed at night time to ensure your body adjusts, This may sound difficult for young children, but you will find that excitement gets them through the first signs of sleepiness!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The fail-safe way to upgrade to business class!

Ever been on a ten hour flight and looked longingly towards the front of the cabin where those business class folk recline in luxury in their soft, padded, leather-bound, luxury seats?!

Yep, me too. I mean, they don't even have to contend with the thought of suffering from DVT on landing or painful muscle cramps causing you to jump, bolt upright in your seat on multiple occasions during the flight. Ok, seat space may effect me more than most due to the fact I'm a tad on the tall side, but an upgrade to business class sure would make a long-haul flight a more bearable for anyone.

So, how can you actually go about getting an upgrade into the elusive business class section?
Many upgrades happen because it makes sense for the airway. By moving you, they can make room for a larger group if the flight is close to capacity. Therefore, if you are a lone traveller you have a far greater chance of an upgrade for this reason. This upgrade tip is especially true in the school holidays when flights are more family orientated.

But without a doubt, the best tip is to just be polite! Its a simple yet effective way of making an impression on the staff at the airport and on the plane. If you're brave enough, just ask politely at check-in or once you're on the plane. If you come across as relaxed, charming and well-dressed you can certainly increase your chances!