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By Lauren Ohayon

Shuttle and express flights used to be the best way to get to nearby cities. These days, however, with the increase in both the amount of passengers and the Departure Signnumber of flights per day, delays and cancellations are becoming a big problem. Travelling from New York City to Boston on a supposed 45-minute shuttle can take as long as three to four hours if there are significant delays. Unfortunately, with airlines trying to fill the planes to 100% capacity, the problem of back-ups and delays is not going to go away any time soon. What are disgruntled passengers supposed to do during long and aggravating waits? In Pittsburgh, they have found a way to make the best of the annoying nature of flying -- one that seems to be satisfying airlines, airports, and passengers alike.

According to Pittsburgh International Airport officials, an average of 34,000 passengers are moved through their terminals each day. In addition to being one of the busiest airports in the nation, it serves as the hub of U.S. Airways, which sees large groups of passengers in transit every hour. A single delay in the U.S Airways terminal can mean huge delays for the whole system, which works on smooth transitions and precision timing.

A frustrated passenger can do a lot these days in large airport terminals, including shopping. In 1992, while a new terminal was being built, the airport set aside additional space for a shopping mall. Everything that one would expect to find in a local mall can be found there, from hiking boots to Airport Crowdslingerie, and from baby clothes to fancy soaps. A Timberland employee said, "Whenever customers can't get on their flights, they are looking for something to do, so they come and shop at stores in the mall. You probably see an increase in sales of 10 to 15% during peak delay times in the air mall."

The British Airports Authority (BAA) is the British company that oversees retail shops and restaurants at the airport. Its president, Mark Knight, explains, "The average store in this mall does about a $1,000 a square foot per year. And to give you a comparison, again, versus what happens in a typical shopping center, a typical shopping center would average probably in the neighborhood of $250 to 300 maybe per square foot." In the past year, about 30% of all flights in and out of Pittsburgh International were delayed. When you factor into that the estimated 19 million people who visit this airport each year, it's easy to see why the mall is such a success.

While shopping in a mall may be pleasant, many of us could take a few extra steps when planning a trip to try to avoid delays. On this week's THAT MONEY SHOW, Betsey Karetnick spoke to Mark Orwoll, the Managing Editor of TRAVEL & LEISURE MAGAZINE, who shared some travel tips with us.

  • While planning a trip, try to book it for earlier in the day. When a delay happens, a ripple effect occurs, creating, for the next three, four and even five hours, major backups.
  • Try to book your ticket off-peak, Orwoll advised. Although most people try to maximize their vacation time by traveling on a Saturday or Sunday, this can work against them if there are big delays, whereas traveling Monday to Wednesday is oftentimes quicker and easier.
  • Book online to save money on tickets. You'll have access to all the flights an agent could get you, and you'll save some time. For complicated or luxury travel planning, including multiple stops, hotels, and rental cars, however, nothing beats a reputable travel agent.
  • Orwoll also reminded us that many last-minute bargains and Internet-only promotions can be found online. Passengers can sign up for e-mail bulletins from airlines and travel sites that offer specials on airfare and package trips.

Check out the archives for more great stories.

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