By James Wysong Travel columnist
updated 7/24/2007 10:00:53 AM ET 2007-07-24T14:00:53

It wasn't that long ago that we were complaining about the brutally cold winter that caused endless delays and cancellations. Now we find ourselves in the grip of the hot stale air of summer. The airports are packed with vacationing tourists, and things are literally heating up. Some people are starting to lose it.

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The other day, there was a big commotion at a gate where the air conditioning system was broken. A group of passengers decided to protest by taking off most of their clothes. Police rushed in to contain the situation. I was one of the curious bystanders. To my dismay, the protesters turned out to be a group of rather large, elderly European travelers. Certain fantasies never quite work out the way you picture them in your mind.

Anyway, you don't have to take off your clothes to beat the heat. Here are my top 10 tips for keeping cool as you travel by air this summer.

1. Take a jacket or sweater. I know this sounds bizarre, but after sweating in the airport, in the Jetway and then on the plane before takeoff, you will freeze once you get airborne. That's when we blast the air conditioning. Moments later, your perspiration will turn to icicles. Trust me on this.

2. Be the early bird. If you get to the airport early, you'll have fewer worries, will hurry less and not sweat as much. Have you ever seen a fellow passenger so stressed out that he was practically raining perspiration? It's kind of amusing until you realize that he'll be sitting next to you.

3. Tell a flight attendant. If you are on the airplane and you're hot (or cold, for that matter), let a flight attendant know. Don't assume we already know. We move around the airplane so much that we generate our own heat, or we might be keeping cool by standing next to the air vents.

4. Take a shower. Many airports now have shower facilities. It's a great way to refresh and revitalize between trips. Not long ago, I was passing through London on the way home from Barcelona. I paid 15 pounds ($23) for a shower and felt like a million bucks afterwards. They even ironed my clothes. Ask at an information desk if your airport has amenities.

5. Crash the gate. If you are at a gate where the air conditioning system is broken and you have plenty of time before your next flight, move to a cooler area. Many people think they have to stay by their gate, but you don't. Relief could be at the next gate over.

6. Dress in layers. When you get too hot, you can peel off some layers; when you're too cool, you can put them back on.

7. Board last. The number-one hot spot is the Jetway. There's no air conditioning, and most of the time you're stuck in a long line that barely moves. If you don't need to board early to grab an overhead bin, stay in the cool gate area and wait until the gate agent announces the final boarding call.

8. Leave more than enough time between flights. Don't be the person running through the airport on a tight connection. Your seat partner will thank you, and your chances of getting a chill from the sudden temperature change are decreased tremendously.

9. Don't stand for it. Complain. And don't take "We are aware of the problem" for an answer. Now that airlines are cutting costs, they are less willing to provide supplemental air. If you threaten to walk off a flight or demand medical assistance, they will quickly pay attention to your needs.

10. Practice good hygiene. Don't be one of the smelly ones. Bring along adequate deodorant and use it. I was mortified one summer when I commented to my wife that somebody on board had really bad B.O. She replied, "Yeah, I think it's you." It can happen to anybody — even you.

I used to suggest freezing water in bottles and taking them with you aboard the airplane as cold water bottles, but this is not allowed under the new safety regulations. However, you are permitted to take an empty hot water bottle and fill it with ice at one of the fast food joints inside the terminal. Cold water bottles can be a great relief from that brutal heat and broken airport air conditioning system.

Hope this helps. Don't sweat it, and have a nice summer. Keep cool!

James Wysong has worked as a flight attendant with two major international carriers during the past fifteen years. He is the author of the "The Plane Truth: Shift Happens at 35,000 Feet" and "The Air Traveler's Survival Guide." For more information about James or his books, please visit his Web site or e-mail him.


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