13 Things Air­lines Won’t Tell You


1 If your flight is over­booked, don’t ac­cept the first voucher you’re of­fered. “The plane can’t take off with an ex­tra per­son,” says Me­lanie N., who works for a Cana­dian char­ter air­line. Air­lines typ­i­cally in­crease in­cen­tives un­til they have enough vol­un­teers will­ing to give up seats. If you’re bumped in­vol­un­tar­ily, in­sist on cash com­pen­sa­tion in­stead of a travel credit (many com­pa­nies will re­im­burse you at the air­port).

2 Here’s what safety demos don’t say: staff dim cabin lights at night so your eyes are ad­justed to the dark if you need to find a way out. Tray ta­bles must be folded at take-off and land­ing so pas­sen­gers can es­cape if nec­es­sary. And you should open your win­dow shade, so if there’s a crash, emer­gency crews will be able to see in and you’ll be able to as­sess po­ten­tial dan­ger out­side.

3 If your flight is de­layed, check your air­line’s pol­icy, oth­er­wise known as a tar­iff—they might be re­quired to pro­vide you with meal vouch­ers and ac­com­mo­da­tion or, depend­ing on where you’re fly­ing from, even cash com­pen­sa­tion (the

EU, for ex­am­ple, man­dates cus­tomers be re­im­bursed in cash).


If you book a group trip, look for one ticket at a time. If you search for, say, four tick­ets, and there are only three avail­able at the low­est fare, all four are bumped to a higher price bracket.


Air­lines usu­ally don’t al­low two pi­lots fly­ing to­gether to eat the same meal on-board—and they’re re­quired to eat half an hour apart. No one wants both pi­lots to be dou­bled over with food poi­son­ing.


Lug­gage didn’t ar­rive with you? Make a claim be­fore you leave the air­port, where you can talk to an air­line rep­re­sen­ta­tive in per­son. Some air­lines will re­fund your bag­gage fee, and most will de­liver your lug­gage when it ar­rives.


You’re not imag­in­ing it: air­plane seats re­ally are get­ting tinier. In the Boe­ing 777s used for long-haul in­ter­na­tional flights, chairs re­cently shrank by one inch so air­lines could fit an ex­tra seat in each row.


Most Cana­dian air­lines try to wipe down tray ta­bles be­tween flights, but you never know who’s been in your seat, says Me­lanie N. Be­fore you touch any­thing, clean the sur­face with san­i­tiz­ing wipes. 9 Speak­ing of tray ta­bles, don’t change your baby there! Or on the seat. Every plane has at least one bath­room out­fit­ted with a proper change ta­ble.


If your flight is can­celled, get in line at the ticket or gate coun­ters—but also get on the phone. You’ll prob­a­bly reach a phone agent be­fore you reach the fraz­zled em­ployee be­hind the desk.


Fly­ing with some­thing out of the or­di­nary? You can prob­a­bly bring your bi­cy­cle—or the frag­ile cello you don’t like to va­ca­tion with­out—but every air­line has dif­fer­ent reg­u­la­tions re­gard­ing how to trans­port large items like sport­ing goods and musical equip­ment. Make sure to check in ad­vance.


If you’re across the coun­try when a loved one be­comes gravely ill or dies, look into be­reave­ment rates—WestJet and Air Canada both of­fer them.


“Check in on­line 24 hours be­fore a flight,” says Charles P., who works at a Cana­dian air­line. “You’re able to pick a bet­ter seat.” Based on your air­fare and the flight’s va­cancy rate, you might be able to up­grade—say, to a seat in the emer­gency exit row, where there’s more legroom—at no added cost.

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