Travel and Leisure recently offered some great advice while unveiling these surprising airline rules you should know about before booking a flight:


Photo by flickr user Grant Wickes

Travel and Leisure looked at the fine print of some airline obligations and with the popular commercial flight/holiday season coming up, I thought I would share. Here are some interesting, little-known facts to be aware of before taking to the skies:

  • Don't expect a big payday if you get involuntarily bumped from a flight - You are not owed compensation if the airline can get you to your destination on another flight within an hour of your original scheduled arrival time.


  • If your seat assignment changes, you could be out of luck - Airline-ticket contracts don't guarantee a specific seat. If there's a last minute change of aircraft, you may be stuffed between two strangers despite having a confirmed aisle or window assignment. This does happen rarely, usually only when there is a change of aircraft or some other unexpected occurence.


  • If your flight is canceled, you could be out of luck - Canceled or diverted flights don't necessarily entitle you to a hotel or meal voucher. Southwest Airlines only commits to taking "reasonable steps" to provide a hotel stay, while American Airlines says it will do its best to get you accommodations, "subject to availability". This is wording designed for wiggle room.


  • If you miss a flight, you most likely will be out of luck - If the ticket was nonrefundable, the airline is under no obligation to get you on the next flight and can invalidate any return portion of the ticket.


  • If your airfare decreases after purchase, you could be entitled to a refund - While not part of their contracts of carriage, some airlines (such as United, Delta and American) offer price guarantees that will refund the difference between what you paid and the lower price you found, plus a voucher good toward a future flight. Here's the kicker, you must find the lower fare on the same day you purchased your original ticket.


  • You may be entitled to an emergency refund - Nonrefundable tickets are refundable...sometimes. You have to right to a refund if you can't travel because of the death of a traveling companion or immediate family member; a lost passport; jury duty or subpoena; or serious illness of the passenger, traveling companion, or immediate family member. You may be charged a small (in comparison) service fee for such reasons. Military personnel called to active duty qualify for a ticket refund without a service fee.


  • You can be penalized for "Throwaway Ticketing" - Be aware that most airlines prohibit "throwaway ticketing" (purchasing a more affordable round-trip airfare when you plan to use the ticket only for a one-way flight). Airlines will often retroactively charge you the higher one-way fare and may even revoke your frequent-flier membership (nothing regarding how an airline could find you guilty was mentioned).


  • There are ways to actually avoid baggage fees - Nowadays, when almost every checked bag is charged a fee, it's nice to know that you can check some goods for free. Sometimes, you can check novelty items (such as fruit or flowers) at no charge (doesn't hurt to ask the airline).


  • Don't expect to be able to check large instruments as luggage - On United, you must carry large instruments (such as a cello) on board and pay a full adult fare to let it sit in the empty seat next to you. Southwest is a bit kinder to musicians, charging only a child fare. American will let you check it as luggage, but accepts no damage liability.


  • You may not be able to fly if you're too "aromatic" - I thought this was funny. United reserves the right to deny boarding to passengers with a "malodorous" condition. Make sure you bathe before boarding your next flight.


With oil prices rising and flight capacities becoming more rare, airlines are continuing to jack up the prices. I think it's ridiculous to fly nowadays and try to avoid it at all cost (literally). So I, for one, will not be traveling this holiday season. How about you? Going anywhere cool? If so, I hope this helped a little...and Happy Merry something!



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