5 Questions to Ask Before You Fly

What should you know before you fly? Here are five questions and where to find answers. Many come from the Department of Transportation’s statistics which are released each month. There’s a bit of a lag though; the most recent report released in mid-April covers February airline numbers. Other information comes from FareCompare’s vast storehouse of data.

LISTEN: Rick answers even more questions.

5 Questions to Ask Before You Fly

Much of this information comes from monthly Department of Transportation’s statistics which you can look up any time. There’s a bit of a lag though; the most recent report from April covers February airline numbers.

  1. Which airline will give me the cheapest flight?

This one’s simple: Any airline may have the cheapest flight, but you won’t know which unless you compare. That means going to an airfare comparison search site – and – going to Southwest, because it’s the only airline that does not share fare information.

  1. Will my flight be on-time?

There’s no way of predicting bad weather (or mechanical issues) but you can predict the outcomes for certain, specific flights and airports. The DOT statistics include on-time arrivals, chronically delayed flights, even long tarmac waits. In the latest report, Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time record and Alaska was in second place. Worst on time record was compiled by Spirit followed by JetBlue, but these are February statistics and there was a lot of terrible weather in Northeast corridor back then. Plus delays are not uncommon for flights in or out of the New York City area.

  1. Will my bag get lost?

Airlines are actually losing fewer bags, partly because more people choose to fly with carry-ons. In February, Virgin America reported a mere 415 instances of ‘mishandled baggage’ for its 530,000+ passengers while the worst of the major airlines was American with 33,000+ reports per 9 million passengers. The good news is, the vast majority of lost bags are not gone for good and are generally recovered within a day or so.

  1. Which airline is the nicest?

Nice is a such subjective concept  but most airlines are highly professional and treat you right. However, it’s important to remember that the first concern of flight attendants is not your comfort but your safety (and U.S. airlines and most others are safe). In February complaints about were actually down more than 10% over the previous month (Alaska had the fewest while Spirit had the most) but stats can and do change month by month.

Do you have a complaint? Contact the airline or file a complaint with the DOT.

  1. Should I fly with my pet?

Only you can answer that question, based on the animal’s temperament and health but more and more airlines are not accepting pets in cargo which means the only animals that can fly are small ones that fit in carriers under seats. For airlines that do accept pets in cargo, it’s worth noting that a very few sometime die or get injured (but also bear in mind that airlines safely transport thousands of animals each month).


Updated: May 10, 2016