Booking and departing for a trip should be straightforward, but unwanted stresses can undoubtedly occur. From long delays to dodgy food, myriad things could jeopardize your travel plans or tarnish your flying experience.
Luckily we’ve outlined some airline travel secrets so you can beat any potential problems that could occur before and during your flight.
You Can Get Compensation When Flights Go Wrong (Sometimes)
Is there anything worse than arriving at the airport, trudging through security and eventually brandishing your passport excitedly at check-in only to be told that your flight is overbooked or late? If you’re unlucky enough to lose your seat on a plane, you may be entitled to compensation. But don’t rush to accept the airline’s initial voucher offer. Depending on how much later your schedule is pushed back you could be in line for a bigger payday.
When You Can Request Money for Being Bumped Off a Flight
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), travelers have the right to the following compensations depending on their new flight arrangements.
- You won’t receive any money if your new flight is scheduled to arrive within an hour of your original arrival time.
- However, if your substitute transportation is scheduled to arrive between one and two hours of your original arrival time (one and four hours for international flights), the airline must pay 200 percent of your one-way fare to your final destination, or $775, whichever amount is lower.
- If your new flight itinerary puts you more than two hours (four hours internationally) behind your original arrival time, the compensation doubles to 400 percent of your one-way fare, or $1,550, whichever amount is lower.
No wonder airlines are quick to waive those $150 travel vouchers around after announcing an overbooked flight.
Similarly, if you are an EU citizen, you’re permitted compensation for flight delays of more than three hours — assuming it was the fault of the airline. Depending on the length of the flight and delay, it can be anything from €250 to €600!
Getting a Seat on a Competitor Plane
Did you know that many airlines can also find seats on competitor planes if the delay is their fault? Be sure to ring up the airline as soon as you learn of delays or cancellations — spots will go quickly, and a phone call to customer service may be quicker than waiting in a very long check-in line.
You can also ask for some compensation when there’s broken equipment that impacts on your flight. And if your seat is broken, speak up! The cabin crew should be able to move you, or, if there are no seats available and you have to endure an uncomfortable journey, request compensation from the airline.
When Is a Compensation Request Not Valid?
Unfortunately, weather-related delays do not warrant any repayment. And let’s be honest, no one wants to fly during a hurricane or snowstorm! You also do not have grounds to complain if the issue is outside of the airline’s control, such as air traffic control problems or complications within the airport itself, like a closed runway or baggage carousel needing maintenance.
Finally, if you to miss your flight due to a personal problem or delay (we’ve all been there!), the airline will not grant compensation. Tip? Always buy travel insurance or, even better, a travel credit card that includes trip delay and cancellation insurance. If there’s a serious reason for your trip interruption, you won’t be out any money.
You Can Bring Your Own Food on Board
Don’t like airplane food? As it turns out, you don’t need to spend eight hours hangry or splurge for expensive meals at the airport. Instead, you can bring your own food on board! You can carry most solid foods in your carry-on luggage, but liquid items — including yogurts, dips or soups, usually carry security limits of 100ml or roughly 3.4 fluid ounces. While you’re at it, you can practice the 3:1:1 carry-on rule for a faster security checkpoint experience. It’s worth mentioning however that just because you can bring food on an airplane, doesn’t mean there aren’t foods you should never eat on a plane.
You Should Take Luggage with Wheels
Most people have rolling luggage these days. But if you’re still clinging to your vintage suitcase or travel with a trekking pack, know that not having wheels may cost you. A suitcase or carry-on travel bag with wheels may keep your belongings safer. A former baggage handler told Reader’s Digest, “if it doesn’t roll, it most likely gets thrown.” Wheels mean they can roll it down the plane during the loading period as opposed to just tossing and hoping for the best. It’s also worth packing your bag with extra belongings, so anything that is breakable has enough padding to stay protected.
You Can Bring a Pet on Board
Wouldn’t it be nice to cruise high in the sky with your furry companion in tow? Miraculously, some airlines do allow passengers to bring their pets into the cabin (as long as they stay inside a carrier). For the airlines that allow pets in the cabin, there are multiple rules to adhere to, some of which we’ve listed below. Keep in mind that there are extra fees for bringing a pet on board, so make sure to check with the airline before booking.
American Airlines & Alaska Air
- You can bring cats and dogs over eight weeks of age
- Maximum weight: 20 pounds, including carrier
- Some flights with American Airlines include restrictions; check before you book
- You can bring dogs, cats, and even domestic birds. They must be 10 weeks old for domestic travel and 16 weeks for international
- Maximum weight: No limit, but pet must fit comfortably in a carrier and stored under the seat
- You can bring cats and dogs small enough to fit and stay comfortably in their carrier under the seat in front of you
- Maximum weight: 22 pounds, including carrier
It’s Possible (But Rare) to Get an Upgrade
How many times have you walked into the plane and wistfully turned to see the caramel seats of business class and complimentary glasses of champagne taunt you as you pass?
While it’s tough to bag a free upgrade flaunting just a cheeky smile and dressing a bit smarter, there are ways to increase your chances. According to Lynn Unick at Skyscanner, it’s worth flying during the times business flyers are less likely to travel, for example, school breaks. Also look to upgrade when your flight is overbooked as first class usually holds the most remaining seats.
If all else fails, there’s no harm in asking for the upgrade. My boyfriend and I shamelessly pretended we got engaged on our holiday. We weren’t granted our upgrade request, but it was worth a shot!
Airplane Toilets Can Open From the Outside!
We get it. Plane rides, especially long-haul flights, can be tedious. The idea of spending eight hours or more in tight quarters without can be daunting, double if you’re a smoker. Factor in the possible small, crying children on board, and the urge for a nicotine hit might drive you mad. But whatever you do, don’t submit to a few quick puffs. The cabin crew can unlock airplane toilets from the outside. The lock on the door won’t make any difference. You’ll face a hefty fine if you’re caught smoking, and possibly, arrest. If you really strike a nerve with the airline crew, the flight may even be diverted to the nearest airport for your detainment. And it might not even end there. In the UK, a man was jailed over nine years for being caught smoking and setting off a fire!
With this in mind, don’t try and join the mile high club, either. It may be alluring to get your rocks off at 30,000 feet, but spare yourself the embarrassment from being caught in flagrante by the cabin crew and your fellow passengers. If you must sneak away for an in-flight rendezvous, your best bet of being uninterrupted is redeye or overnight international flights, especially if they’re under-booked.
The Best Day to Book Cheap Flights
Finally, that all important question, when is the best time to book cheap flights? According to a study by Farecompare.com, Tuesdays are widely considered to be an optimal day for getting a good deal on a flight. The cheapest flights are unsurprisingly the unsavory hours—think very early mornings, late nights or flights with awkward and long layovers. If you have the time to kill or don’t have money to burn on primetime-scheduled flights, these are ideal flying times to book. These also will probably be some of the least-crowded flights, allowing you to spread out in luxury.
Should you need a space along the way to spend your next layover or catch up on inadequate airplane sleep, we’ll be waiting with a relaxing day room in the city of your choosing.
Rosanna currently lives in London with her mum and sister. She has a penchant for good food and even better wine. You can often find her at a bottomless brunch or scouring google for a new place to explore.