13 Secrets Hidden in Airline Websites

Are you familiar with airline contracts of carriage? These are densely written legal documents found on every airline’s website that spell out company policy. Of particular interest are reasons given why they will or will not transport you.

Listen as FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney and Editor Anne McDermott have fun with this one.

The 8 Lies of Air Travel

Here are 13 fascinating facts and nuggets of interest – “secrets” if you will (mainly because they can be hard to find) – that I’d like to share with you.

1. Don’t fly while odorous

Believe it or not, most airlines don’t want stinky passengers. As American’s contract of carriage puts it, you can be removed from the plane if you are deemed to have “an offensive odor.” And yes, people have been kicked off planes for this.

5 Easy Ways to Get Kicked Off a Plane

2. Pets can’t be smelly, either

Several airlines require that animals traveling in a plane’s cabin be “odorless.” Note: I have yet to meet an odorless dog or cat.

3. Only some service animals can fly

Do you have a service monkey? No problem, says United – but Virgin America says “no” to service snakes, service rodents and service spiders.

4. Don’t expect oxygen for animals

The final pet “secret” – if there’s an onboard emergency and the oxygen masks drop down, don’t expect to commandeer one for Sparky on Southwest. According to Southwest’s contract of carriage, that’s a no-no.

Traveling with Pets

5. Keep your shoes on while flying

Most airlines say, you cannot fly barefoot. Delta’s policy covers all passenger, while JetBlue allows those five and under to go shoeless.

6. Don’t fly too young

Most airlines require their passengers to be at least one week old to board their planes, but US Airways allows flyers as young as one day old.

7. No separation from some loved ones

You’ve heard how some airlines make it more difficult for families to sit together and even get the useful perk of early boarding, but don’t worry – at least Virgin America “will not separate a service animal from its owner” so you know you’ll sit by someone you love.

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8. Forget ‘mistake fares’ on some airlines

Ever find the deal-of-the-century and even though you suspect it’s a mistake fare, you buy it anyway? You can forget it on Delta. If it was an error, they’ll make you pay the real price.

9. No getting off a stop ahead of your final flight destination

You want to travel to City XYZ but the fare is too expensive. Then, you notice a cheaper flight to City ABC, with a stop in City XYZ, so you purchase that and figure you’ll just get off when the flight stops, right? Wrong, at least as far as United is concerned. Exit early and the airline will cancel the rest of your trip and maybe even take away your elite miles status, too. Other airlines do this as well.

10. Free hotels are rare

Once in a blue moon, an airline like United will provide lodging when a flight is canceled (but only under certain circumstances). However, they won’t do this if you’re at your home airport and in many instances, if you are in an airport near the home airport – even if that means a very, very long drive home.

11. No fake cigarettes

You know there’s no smoking on planes, but maybe you didn’t know most airlines including United also ban electronic cigarettes. No betel nut chewing on United, either.

12. Not all bag losses are covered

If your bag is lost, the airline will cover it, except in most cases, when it comes to valuables. According to Frontier, that includes the usual jewelry, furs, documents and cash but also prescription eyeglasses and even non-prescription sunglasses. United won’t cover any lost religious items, either.

13. Keep your clothes on

Shirts with slogans that include the F-word will get you kicked off a plane, but you can’t just take it off.  As Virgin America carefully notes, they can and will refuse to transport “any guest who is not wearing both top and bottom apparel.”

More from Rick Seaney:

13 Hidden Airline Rules


Published: June 12, 2012