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Exclusive: 'The Travel Detective' Peter Greenberg on avoiding airport oopsies

'The Travel Detective' Peter Greenberg shared airport survival tricks during an exclusive April 17 interview with Examiner.
Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images

When it comes to the art of successfully surviving a trip through the local airport, few have more extensive experience than Emmy-winning journalist and producer Peter Greenberg. As host of the public television series "The Travel Detective" and the author of a series of books of the same name, Greenberg routinely provides guidance designed to help consumers enjoy the best possible travel experiences. During an exclusive April 16 interview with Examiner, the noted TV personality exposed the biggest mistakes consumers make at the airport, and explained how to stop making them once and for all.

Just because signage indicates a traveler should go in one direction doesn't make it the wisest decision. If an airport has separate floors for arrivals and departures and a passenger is booked on an early morning flight, he should skip the departures level because, as Greenberg noted, "everybody else is there, you'll be stuck in traffic for 10 minutes, it's a zoo." Instead, head to the level designated for arrivals since "nobody's arriving at 6:30 in the morning, you own the joint, you're not going to be stuck in traffic." The reward? A time savings of about 10 minutes.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but to insure a brief stay at the TSA screening area, don't automatically jump into the shortest line. Instead, Greenberg stressed the importance of looking at how many agents are actively monitoring the computer screens in each line. He recommended choosing the line manned by a single agent --"even if that line's all the way to Brazil"-- because that agent will keep the bags moving. Conversely, beware of screens being scrutinized by two agents, because it means that one is a trainee "and every single bag will be stopped for five minutes."

After successfully clearing security, most travelers go straight to the departure board to check on their flight status and commit the Travel Detective's third big no-no. Greenberg eschewed the practice, quipping that departure boards haven't "told the truth since 1947," and instead instructed travelers to take note of the gate listed and then head to the arrivals board. If the arrivals board indicates that a plane is due to arrive in the near future, it's a good sign that the traveler's flight will be on time. If not, a long wait could be in store.

Although Greenberg admitted that they're expensive, he also espoused the benefits of using an airport lounge --especially during long waits and layovers-- which include the presence of experienced, knowledgeable staff and the absence of the usual chaos of the terminal. He talked up the Executive Advantage credit card offered by American Airlines and Citibank, which waives the costly $500 annual admiral's club fee and checked baggage fees for users and their companions.

But the biggest travel gaffe of all may well be one made before the trip even begins. An online deal may look like good, but that may not be the case, since per Greenberg, only 52% of the available travel inventory is listed on the web. Rather than jumping online, searching for a deal, and clicking on the cheapest option that appears, "have that conversation with the airline rep on the phone. Find out the lowest fare you can get and hold it for 24 hours. Then go on the web and see if you can beat it."

For more information on Greenberg and a look at his extensive television resume, visit his official website. Check local listings for air dates and times of "The Travel Detective."