If you’re a road warrior like me — I’ll probably be home less than a week over the next six weeks, going from speaking engagements to consulting gigs to our Rainmaker Retreat — then you are well versed in the personal perils of air travel.
So when I read an article recently on HuffPost’s Travel blog about the 10 Secrets the Airlines Don’t Want You to Know, I was surprised to discover I didn’t know half of them. Which means you probably don’t either. Here they are:
Pass on the vouchers and take the cash. If you are bumped from a flight due to overbooking, do not take that voucher the airline is so quick to offer you. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s compensation rules for airlines says that if your carrier fails to book you on another flight within two hours of your original flight, they owe you cash — up to $1,300. They are also required to tell you that you can get a check on the spot.
You can still get cash for overbooking delays. Even if the airline can get you to where you want to go between 1-2 hours on a domestic flight (1-4 hours on international flights), it owes you compensation of 200% of the one-way fare, up to $650.
Cheapest days to fly are not necessarily the cheapest days to buy. The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays but they are not necessarily the cheapest days to purchase your ticket.
Cancel within 24 hours of booking for no charge. On most airlines, you can cancel or change your ticket within 24 hours of booking your trip if that trip is more than 7 days out and get a full refund. One exception: American Airlines. You will have had to book your travel directly on the airline’s website. If you fly Southwest, you can change your plans up until takeoff with no penalty.
Delayed luggage? Make ‘em pay. The DOT says airlines owe you up to $3,300 in liability for a domestic trip if your luggage was delayed and you had to replace those items during your trip.
You can deplane after 3 hours. The DOT says an airline cannot keep you on a plane for more than three hours for a domestic flight or four hours for an international flight during a tarmac delay.
The airline must pay for alternate carriers. If you are delayed and the airline puts you on another carrier, they have to pay all the expenses (including any extra fees) the new carrier may assess. And if there is only a first class seat available, it’s yours, compliments of your original carrier.
In the cases of #7, you can keep your original ticket. If you are put on another carrier (#7 above), you still get to keep your original ticket for later use.
Get later compensation, even if that means miles or vouchers. Most airlines are reluctant to hand over a check right away. File a complaint and state that you will accept a voucher or miles and they will more likely oblige.
Non-refundable ticket? Not necessarily so. If the airline is at fault and your flight is severely delayed, canceled or there is a schedule or route change, you are entitled to a full refund on a non-refundable ticket.
Knowing these things may not make you feel any better about airline travel, but at least you know there is some cash in it for you when the airlines screw up.