The 8 Fibs of Flying

Fibs, lies or spin – whatever you want to call it, you’ll find plenty in the air travel industry – just as you would in any other business.

My nominees for some of the worst falsehoods – or the ones we may fall for most often – are the following:

1. Optional fees

Some fees are clearly optional, such as charges for snacks or blankets. You don’t need these items but if you do, you can bring them from home.

However, if you’ll be out of town for a while and will need a suitcase – and neither of the free bag airlines (JetBlue and Southwest) is going your way – you will have to pay that optional bag fee. In fact, you’ll pay for any bag at all on Spirit or Allegiant since both now charge for carry-ons.

Worldwide Airline Baggage Fees

2. Armrests decide who is too-fat-to-fly

Many make this mistake, but the armrests aren’t the only gauge, not for many airlines. There’s also the matter of not encroaching on another passenger’s seat, either above or below the armrest. Unfortunately, many of these policies are fairly murky – which is why one apparent customer of size is suing Southwest – for clarification.

Celebrities Kicked Off Southwest Flights

3. Some flyers can always keep shoes on

You probably heard that kids aged 12 and under no longer have to take their shoes off at security checkpoint and that at some airports, passengers aged 75 and up are granted the same privilege. This is true, as far as it goes, but if the TSA officer deems otherwise – and this occasionally happens – the shoes must come off. Security personnel make the final call.

4. Airline X always has the lowest fare

Discount carriers such as Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America often have the cheapest fares, but not always. Sometimes legacy carriers meet and even beat the discounters’ prices. To find the cheapest flights, it is vital to always compare prices.

5. Bag lost? The airlines will pay you

They will pay, and pay up to $3,300 per bag, but most airlines do not cover valuables (and American Airlines, for one, says it won’t even transport such items). By the way, the term valuables can cover a lot of ground. For example, Alaska Airlines designates keys, medication, eyeglasses and even antlers as valuables. Always carry valuables in a carry-on or on your person (and better request special handling for those antlers).

Trip Insurance: Do You Need It? Can You Afford It?

6. Trip problems? Your insurance will cover it

Trip insurance can be great if it covers what you need it to cover, and that’s where the problem lies. Some policies don’t cover natural disasters, airlines going bankrupt, illnesses or passengers who have abused alcohol or gone in for extreme leisure activities like skydiving or bungee jumping. Know what your policy covers and equally important, what it doesn’t.

7. Airlines love families

Airlines do love multiple passengers because it means multiple revenue, but sometimes they have a funny way of showing it. United recently dropped the pre-boarding courtesy extended to families, and more and more airlines make it harder for families to sit together without paying the reserved seat fee. However, sitting together is not impossible but you may have to check back with your airline’s website a few times before departure day.

Southwest – What’s LUV Got to Do with It?

8. Airlines love you

No, they don’t. Never mind all that friendly skies stuff that United used to spout or Southwest’s declarations of LUV – airlines are a business like any other. If you want love, go to your local animal shelter. If you want cheap flights, check out an airfare comparison site like this one.

More from Rick Seaney:

7 Lies of Air Travel


Published: June 5, 2012