5 Airline 'Gotchas'

Look in UrbanDictionary and you’ll see this definition of the term “gotcha”: “An annoying or unfavorable feature of a product or item that has not been fully disclosed.”  Gotchas exist in the world of air travel, too and here are some of the worst.

Listen as FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney and editor Anne McDermott play their own game of ‘gotcha’.

Worst Airline Fee Ever

1. Booking ‘gotcha’

Sometimes, the mere act of buying an airline ticket costs you money. Most airlines charge for booking by phone (up to $25), and Allegiant and Spirit charge for booking online (it’s only free if you book their tickets at the airport). Nevertheless, when it comes to most flights, the Internet is the way to go.

Legroom on Planes: The Real Story

2. Cramped seat ‘gotcha’

Some airlines seats are getting smaller, but more are getting placed closer together – either way, it means lack of legroom for you. If you can’t or are unable to upgrade, you can purchase a roomier ore more desirable seat on most airlines (such as a window or aisle) and prices can be as low as $10. Or fly an airline that allows you to select a seat at purchase – most do – and keep returning the reservation in case better seats open up. It happens, but sometimes not until the day of departure.

3. Carry-on ‘gotcha’

Generally speaking, using a carry-on is a good idea as it will save you the checked-bag fees which typically cost about $50 per round-trip flight. However, you will pay a fee for a carry-on on Allegiant and Spirit, or an overweight fee if the bag is deemed too heavy on Hawaiian, or, you may be asked to relinquish it if your aircraft doesn’t have enough bin space. The latter won’t cost you anything, but don’t forget to remove any valuables, and things like medications you may need during your flight.

4. Canceled reservation ‘gotcha’

The worst of the gotcha. From time to time, an airline will cancel a route that you already have tickets on. It’s a matter of supply and demand and the airlines’ increasing unwillingness to fly a plane with a single empty seat. If this happens to you, speed is of the essence: get on the phone with your airline immediately to see if they can work out an alternative for you. If not, get a refund, and quickly see what other airlines are going your way, and again hurry, since others will be doing the same thing. Ask your airline if they can offer you something to make up for your inconvenience – you might get a voucher out of it.

Unruly Passenger Gropes Pregnant Woman

5. The bad passenger ‘gotcha’

There have been too many bad passenger incidents lately, including one in which a passenger was accused of molesting a sleeping seatmate. In some cases, the planes divert to airports you had no intention of traveling too which means delays and disappointment. Should something like this happen to you, ask the airline about a refund or at least a little goodwill – and again, you will probably have to ask.

More from Rick Seaney:

Avoiding Air Travel ‘Gotchas’

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Published: August 28, 2012