Airline Secrets: Little-known ways to save money (and aggravation)

Not all of what follows is super-secret but you have to dig for some of it (often buried in the dense legalese of an airline’s contract of carriage). You might even stumble across some of these items on an airline’s website as I did.

Some examples, in no particular order.

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JetBlue freebie

Something goes wrong and your flight is cancelled. If this was due to a “controllable irregularity” (instead of, say, bad weather), the airline will get you on the next flight or provide a refund, and JetBlue will apologize for the inconvenience with a $50 credit good on a future flight.

United bicycle perk

If you want to  bring a bike along on your next adventure and you’re  flying United, here’s some good news: As long as it’s under 50 pounds, just pay the standard checked bag fee. No oversize or special handling fee is required.

American change-your-mind policy

All U.S. airlines must give shoppers 24 hours to change their minds about a ticket purchase, but American does it a little differently than the others.

  • Most airlines: After a ticket is purchased, you get 24 hours to change your mind and get a full refund.
  • American Airlines: You can hold a tickets for 24 hours – without paying for it. Warning: You might not notice this hold option – it’s an icon at the end of the credit card icons – and if you go ahead and pay and then decide to cancel, you’re out of luck.

Delta extreme bag fee

Bag fees vary depending on where you travel plus factors like size and weight, and the fees can reach dizzying heights. One example: On Delta flights between the U.S. and South America or between Europe and North Africa, an oversized-bag can cost you a round-trip fee of $600. If in any doubt, check the fees before you fly.

Spirit extreme bag fee

Unlike most airlines, carry-on bags aren’t free on Spirit and they’re actually more expensive than the checked-bags fees. However, you can still pack a tiny bag for free – if it fits under the seat in front of you, and stays there throughout the flight.

Alaska freebie.

A terrific and unique perk “If your baggage is not at baggage claim within 20 minutes of your plane parking at the gate,” says the airline’s website, “you’re entitled to a $25 [voucher] for use on a future Alaska flight or 2,500 miles.” Most airlines give you – nothing.

  • See more about this topic in Rick’s latest column for


Updated: November 7, 2014