There’s no denying that air travel has definitely changed over the years. It’s been years since smoking was banned on flights, and there are meals available now for individuals with allergies and food intolerances. Even before you get on the plane, there are extreme security precautions to adhere to so that you’re not considered a threat to the other passengers.
Even though most people don’t have a problem complying with some of the new regulations that come with flying (for the most part), there are still so many things you may not know about airlines. For instance, do flights really have to be that expensive? Can’t you get a more elaborate meal, considering the price you paid for your plane ticket? Why is it so hard to get a refund? What’s so special about the first class section of the airplane, anyway?
Some of the things that the public isn’t privy to when it comes to airlines may be better left unsaid. But, like all businesses, there are some secrets that aren’t public knowledge because the information could be bad for an airline’s cash flow. Want to be more informed the next time you book a flight? Here are 12 shocking things airlines don’t tell you.
12. Sanitize Everything
When you get on the plane, get your sanitizing wipes out. Clean everything before you touch it. There’s a good chance that the airplane was not cleaned after the last flight. So, if you drop peanuts or pretzels on your tray and you haven’t sanitized the tray, it’s probably a good idea not to eat it. After all, there was probably someone sitting in the seat before you, carrying their own set of germs. People also bring their small children onto flights and often have to change their diapers mid-air. So, just think about that the next time you’re getting ready for a plane ride.
11. There’s a Fee For Price Comparison
If you use those price comparison sites to find the cheapest flight, you’re probably not going to get the best deal. That’s because airlines have to pay a fee each time you use a comparison website, and they make you pay for it once you book your flight. There are also some airlines, like Southwest and Delta, that don’t release the price of their tickets to third party websites. You’ll have more luck contacting the airline directly to ask about deals and specials if you want an affordable ticket. It’s also best to buy your tickets at a time when most people aren’t traveling (like a few weeks before Thanksgiving or before the summer season) so your travel plans will be more affordable.
10. Call If Your Flight Gets Cancelled
If your flight is cancelled for any reason, you can get in the line at the gate counter to see if you can get on the next flight. However, you should probably get on the phone while you’re in line, and talk to a representative from the airline. Chances are you’ll get things resolved much quicker, and by the time you get to the desk, you’ll already have the details for your next flight worked out. Some airlines are counting on you to wait until you can talk to an employee in person, which could take forever. By the time you get to the front of the line you may end up paying extra fees to get on a flight as soon as possible.
9. Know When to Switch Seats
If you get your seat assignment ahead of time and you want to switch, make sure you do this about four days before take-off. This is about the time that airlines start upgrading passengers from coach to business, so you’ll find that some of the best seats on the plane will open up. This is the time to make sure that you and your friends and family are seated together. You can also choose your seats ahead of time if you don’t want to be stuck sitting next to an emergency exit, although your fare could be a little cheaper if you’re willing to take the risk.
8. Ask About Your Non-Refundable Fare
Don’t forget to ask about the non-refundable fee when you book your flight. If the airline cancels your flight, you’ll be assigned to another one. However, you should know that if you have a fare that is non-refundable, the airline will give you your money back. But, you have to ask for it, and that’s why a lot of passengers don’t know about this “rule.” After all, what business is willing to give money back to customers on a regular basis?
7. Tickets Aren’t Guarantees
Just because you book your flight and get a ticket doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed a seat. Airlines often overbook flights to ensure they make a profit if some passengers don’t show up. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines to ask if there are volunteers who don’t mind being bumped to another flight if their original flight is booked. The airline is also obligated to offer some form of compensation, like a free hotel stay or meal before the passenger gets on a new flight. If getting on a new flight will get you to your destination more than an hour after your scheduled time, you’re also entitled to monetary compensation.
6. Buy Your Tickets One At A Time
If you’re traveling with a group, you may think that it makes sense for everyone to buy their tickets on one credit card. However, you’ll get a better deal if you purchase the tickets one at a time. If you search for three or four tickets at a time, but only three are available at the cheapest price, then all four of the tickets will be bumped up to a higher price point. Once again, the airlines are in this to make money. So, get everyone to purchase their tickets separately, so you can save money on your trip overall.
5. Report Missing Luggage Right Away
If you discover that your luggage is missing, you should report it as soon as possible. Even if the lines are really long, it’s best to stick it out and make sure you talk to someone who can possibly help you recover your luggage. There’s a deadline for reporting stolen luggage. If you don’t report it within this time frame, there’s a good chance that you’ll never see your beloved items again. Looks like it’s true that flight attendants and airline workers take some of the valuable items from passengers’ luggage if the items are not claimed within a certain time-frame.
4. You Should Pay More Attention to the Flight Attendant
When you hear the announcement from the flight attendant to put up your tray tables, or you hear the signal that the lights are about to be dimmed, pay special attention. The cabin lights are dimmed so that your eyes will be accustomed to the dark in case you need to escape from the plane. The tray tables need to be upright so that the people next to you can get off the plane quickly if necessary. It’s also best to open your window shade, so that if the plane crashes, the firefighters can easily see inside the plane and start their rescue mission.
3. The Fuel Levels Are Usually Low
The fuel levels on a plane are usually pretty low. This saves the airlines a lot of money. However, it also means that if the weather is bad or there’s a delay in the flight for any reason, the plane will likely have to make an emergency landing. That’s code for “the plane is running out of gas.” Carrying lots of gas on the plane makes the aircraft heavier, and isn’t always the best choice money-wise. But, it’s pretty daunting to tell passengers that the plane’s gas tank is near empty, so the pilot usually says something like “we have to make an emergency landing for aircraft maintenance.”
2. Pilots Aren’t Allowed to Eat Together
There are several airlines that don’t allow pilots who are flying together to eat their meals at the same time. In fact, the pilots have to eat at least an hour after or before one another, or they have to eat at two different restaurants. This is to ensure that if one pilot gets sick or is poisoned, there will still be a pilot to operate the aircraft. This is often seen as a safety precaution, but there’s no doubt that it can give passengers pause as well. Why would anyone want to poison the pilot? Do people have a negative view of pilots for some reason? Do people generally want to poison pilots and sabotage flights? And if so, why? Airlines don’t want you asking these questions, so they don’t really share the pilot eating rule with passengers.
1. Never Accept the First Voucher
When you’re offered a flight voucher, never accept the first one. The airlines will typically keep upping the value of the voucher until there are enough passengers who are willing to give up their seats. If the airline has to bump you to another flight and you didn’t agree to it, you can insist on getting a cash voucher. A number of airlines will even write you a check while you’re at the airport. Depending on how long your flight is delayed, or how much your original ticket costs, you could get up to $1,300 in vouchers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.