9 Secrets Hidden in Airline Websites

Unhappy man in airport

Updated Feb. 2, 2017

So you found the cheapest flight possible and now you're ready to fly. Wait – are you familiar with the airline legal document known as the contract of carriage? Look closely and you'll find a link to it on your carrier's website; it spells out company policy including regulations governing why an airline will or will not transport you.

9 Secrets Hidden in Airline Websites

Here are some of the more bizarre regulations.

1. Don't fly if you stink

Airlines don't want stinky passengers, mainly because they don't want to rile up everyone else on the plane. As Delta's contract of carriage puts it, people can be removed from planes if they are deemed to have a "malodorous condition." And yes, people have been kicked off planes for this, and more than once. Don't forget to shower!

2. Pets can't be smelly, either

Several airlines including Alaska also require animals traveling in cabins be "odorless." I don't know about you but I have yet to meet an odorless dog or cat.

3. Not all service animals are equal

Do you have a service monkey? United is fine with these little guys (the ones that are well-behaved, that is) but says no service snakes, service rodents and service spiders.

4. Emergency assistance may not apply to pets

According to Southwest's contract of carriage, "in the event of an emergency, an oxygen mask will not be available for the pet" (but if you care to share yours I'm sure that would be okay).

5. Keep your shoes on while flying

Did you know? Most airlines do not allow passengers to fly barefoot. Some policies cover all travelers but JetBlue makes an exception for those five and under.

6. Don't leave your flight early

Say you want to visit City X, but fares are high. Then you find a good deal on a connecting flight that makes a brief stop in City X and you figure you'll just get off there. Not so fast! Most airlines including Delta specifically prohibit this practice (sometimes known as Hidden City Ticketing) and if you do get off early, they can cancel your return trip home.

7. Free hotels are rare

It's getting harder and harder to find an airline that will give you a free hotel room when flights are cancelled or delayed, even if it's the airline's fault (the rules governing this are long and complicated but it seems clear that some airlines will try to help with accommodations under certain conditions). Bottom line: Ask. The airline may say no and may be within their legal rights to say no, but give it a try, anyway, because I've seen it work.

8. Not all bag losses are covered

You know not to pack valuables because items (and bags) can get lost or stolen. But what's a "valuable"? According to Frontier, that includes the usual jewelry, furs, documents and cash but also eyeglasses, medications, keys, e-cigarettes, dentures, toys and much, much more.

9. Keep your clothes on

Don't wear a T-shirt with the F-word on it or anything else that could be construed as patently offensive says Southwest and they've proven they will kick people off planes for violating this rule (though in fairness to the airline, they usually first ask passengers to cover up or turn the shirt inside-out). Our favorite regulation  on the clothing front comes from Virgin America which carefully notes all their travelers must wear "both top and bottom apparel."

Ready? OK, grab that cheap ticket of yours then head to the airport (but not until you leash up the service monkey and put on your shoes, of course).

Rick Seaney
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