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.