10 Useful Secrets the Major Airlines Don’t Want You to Know!

By Laura Milligan

Ironically, traveling by air is getting more and more inconvenient as overbooked flights, lost luggage, and pricey ticket sales become more common. Unfortunately, booking a flight is sometimes just plain necessary, a fact that airlines know all too well, allowing them to continue maximizing profits while we passengers often get stuck on the ground.

The following is a list of useful secrets that will help you find cheaper, better, more convenient ways to fly. Bon voyage!

  1. Rule 240: Understanding your rights according to Rule 240 is vital. This article from Aviation.com explains the ins and outs of Rule 240, which states “that if an airline [can’t] get you to your destination on time, it [is] required to put you on a competitor’s flight if it would get you there faster than your original airline’s next flight.” Some airlines, including Delta, “no longer make any mention of transporting passengers on other airlines in the event of a flight disruption,” so it’s in every passenger’s best interest to speak up.
  2. You can get better deals and schedules without buying directly from the airline. Sure, we all know about discount travel sites like Expedia.com and Orbitz, but matching a good deal with an ideal schedule and direct flight is sometimes tricky. Airlines often rely on travelers who can’t afford to waste time during long layovers and would rather shell out extra cash to keep them on schedule. There are alternatives, however. This article, from the Microsoft Small Business Center, suggests contacting a travel agent or even checking your newspaper for special deals. Agents “can have affiliate agreements with a large travel company that negotiates lower rates on their behalf,” and “often, tour operators will advertise ridiculously low fares and package deals in the Sunday travel section.”
  3. First class seats are available at coach prices. You may need to ask your travel agent to help you out with this tip, but it’s definitely worth it. According to San Diego’s 10News.com, coach tickets can be booked under codes like YUPP, QUPP, or Z, which award ticketholders automatic upgrades to first class. How does it work? According to Rick Seaney, president of FareCompare, “a lot of times the YUPPs are matching some sort of low-cost carrier in a particular market.” According to the article, in 2006, a “round trip flight from Dallas to St. Louis on American Airlines, the YUPP fare is $278 — that’s nearly $1,500 cheaper than a regular seat in first class and more than a $1,000 less than the most expensive seat in coach.”
  4. Prague Short Breaks.  Breaking your journey for day or two in a place which is famous for many reasons is also one of the cleverest things to do. If you are passing by Europe than we’ll recommend you to break your journey for day or two to save little money on your airline ticket. We’ll recommend you city breaks in Prague. One of the most famous destination of Europe which is having connecting flights to almost every corner of the globe, Prague City Breaks is an ideal destination for both breaking your journey and saving huge amount on your long direct flights.
  5. Take advantage of lesser-known airlines. The European and Asian travel markets are noticing a boom in the number of smaller, cheaper airlines. Ryanair and Easyjet are popular airlines that are just as safe and probably more efficient than their larger competitors. Book flights on Jetstar or Malaysia Airlines for Asian travel. You won’t be able to fly direct from the U.S. on some of these airlines, but once you’re abroad, they’re definitely the way to travel.
  6. Fly foreign. Air France hosts its on U.S. site, which features extremely reasonable prices for tickets from various cities in the United States. You’ll probably find cheaper fares by checking with your destination’s airlines rather than American ones. Just be sure you calculate the exchange rate, however, to avoid paying more than you had intended.
  7. Re-work your travel schedule. If you plan on flying to several different cities, either within the U.S. or abroad, arrange your travel schedule so that you’re always flying into the cheapest cities. Wendy Perrin suggests looking “into flying via Dublin instead of London” if you’re going to Europe. “Aer Lingus has cheap flights, and low-fare carriers fly from Dublin to many European cities.
  8. Make sure you understand refund policies. Airlines can be reluctant when it comes to passing out ticket refunds, so make sure you’re familiar with their policy before getting duped. The article “Airlines’ policies on refunds and changes” from the New York Times connects you to the refund policies of all major U.S. airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest, and United. The article is dated 2001, but the links should take you to the most updated information.
  9. Buy consolidated. To find cheap fares even at the last minute, buy your tickets from a consolidator. wikiHow publishes a thorough step-by-step guide with tips on buying from a consolidator, including planning on departing from larger cities and finding great international ticket deals.
  10. Schedule your departure from a larger city to avoid higher prices. If you leave near a city like Dallas, Atlanta, Boston, or Los Angeles, consider driving to those hub airports instead of departing from the regional airports in your hometown. You can save hundreds of dollars and will avoid the hassle of having to connect (or miss) your next flight. Read the list of U.S. hub airports here.

Now that you’ve got the inside information on these top airline secrets, you’ve got a better chance of saving lots of cash, flying in more comfortable seats, and avoiding some of the inconveniences of traveling with major airlines. We hope you enjoy your trip!

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What One Pilot Would Really Like to Say from the Cockpit

“Before we take off, I would like to apologize on behalf of this and every airline for the hassle you just endured at the security checkpoint. As is patently obvious to any reasonable person, the humiliating shoe removals, liquids ban, and pointy-object confiscations do little to make us safer….”

Pilot Patrick Smith explains why the airline industry is on overload.

Welcome aboard. Our flying time this afternoon, not counting ground delays and holding patterns, will be two hours and thirty minutes.

Before we take off, I would like to apologize on behalf of this and every airline for the hassle you just endured at the security checkpoint. As is patently obvious to any reasonable person, the humiliating shoe removals, liquids ban, and pointy-object confiscations do little to make us safer.
Unfortunately, the government insists that security theater, and not actual security, is in the nation’s best interest. If it makes you feel any better, our crew had to endure the same screening as the passengers. Never mind that the baggage loaders, cleaners, caterers, and refuelers receive only occasional random screening. You can rest easy knowing that I do not have a pair of scissors or an oversize shampoo bottle anywhere in my carry-on luggage.

Just a moment.

Okay, well, as expected, we’ve received word of a ground stop. Our new estimated departure time is 90 minutes from now, subject to change arbitrarily, without warning.

And while we’re waiting, let me explain that these sorts of delays (and it’s not your imagination — late arrivals and departures have doubled since 1995) result not only from our antiquated air traffic control system but also from too many planes flying into and out of overcrowded airports. Passengers demand frequency-you want lots of flights flying to lots of cities. But this can be self-defeating, because many of these flights will be late — in some cases, very late. At airports near major cities like New York and Washington, D.C., the proliferation of small jets has added to the congestion. They make up nearly 50 percent of planes at some of our busiest airports yet carry only a fraction of overall passengers. This inefficient use of air and ground space is one reason we will be sitting here for the next hour and a half.

Once we’re airborne, flight attendants will be coming around with food and beverages for sale. I know many of you are irritated that an in-flight meal now costs $7 — on top of the $25 you just paid for an extra checked bag. Unfortunately, with oil prices skyrocketing and jets requiring as much fuel as ever (a coast-to-coast flight takes 8,000 gallons), it’s impossible for us to provide luxurious service and rock-bottom fares at the same time. We know that most of you are miserable and that you long ago learned to despise every aspect of air travel. But try, if you can, not to take your frustrations out on other passengers or the crew. The overall surly vibe is unpleasant for us too. And ridiculous as this might sound, look on the bright side.

Yes, there is a bright side: more choices and surprisingly reasonable fares. Domestically, you can now fly between almost any two airports in the country with, at worst, a single stopover. Internationally, transoceanic routes have fragmented, allowing people to fly direct from smaller hubs in the United States to points in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere. Nobody enjoys holding patterns or sitting on a tarmac, but in earlier days, the overall journey would have taken longer-and cost more.

It’s true that fares have risen sharply of late, but if they seem especially pricey, that’s partly because they remained so cheap for so long, with many carriers selling tickets below cost. Fares in 2006 were averaging 12 percent lower than in 2000, despite a 150 percent rise in jet-fuel costs.

Current fares cost about what they did in the 1980s. And let’s not forget that flying is much safer than it was in the past. Globally, there are twice as many planes carrying twice as many people as there were a quarter century ago. Although the raw total of crashes has risen, accidents are way down as a percentage of total flights.

I am well aware that airlines have become pariahs of the postindustrial economy. But it’s rarely acknowledged that despite recurrent fiscal crises, major staffing and technology problems, and constant criticism from the public, our carriers have managed to maintain a mostly reliable, affordable, and safe transportation system.

Hang in there, and our crew will let you know if and when our plane might actually take off. In the meantime, those $7 sandwiches are actually pretty good.