Top 10 Myths About Air Travel and Airports

Travelers walking in airport concourse
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There are always rumors about the tricks of getting upgraded or what happens when you miss your flight. Typically, these are simply rumors. Let's bust the top 10 myths that persist around air travel and airports.

  1. You will be compensated if your flight is canceled. This is not universally true. If the flight is canceled for a mechanical issue, the crew is unavailable, or some other reason where the airline is at fault, compensation is on the table. But if the delay is weather-related, an Act of God or force majeure, things outside its control, then you are not owed compensation for the cancellation, hotel rooms, meals or transportation. 
  2. If you miss your flight, you will be booked on the next one out. This isn't always true. And if you insist on getting on that next flight, you may have to pay extra for it, depending on the airline. It really depends on why you missed the flight. If you got to the airport late, there is the "flat tire" rule, where the airline will try and accommodate you, but you may have to wait. If you are connecting and your inbound flight arrived late, the airline may have already protected you on the next flight.
  3. If your flight is canceled because of a force majeure, you will be booked on the next flight. If force majeure is in place, that means something major has happened and you will be lumped with all the passengers affected. That means you will go out on the next flight that has available seats. People who are originally booked on the next flight out are not bumped because your flight canceled. If space isn't available on the next flight, you can request to standby and take your chances.
  4. Flights hold for people who check in late. Flight delays cost the airlines money, so unless there is a major issue, if you check in late, you're at the mercy of the airline. 
  5. If your flight cancels you will be booked on the next available flight regardless of the airline. This is a big no. The legacy carriers -- American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines -- will work to put you on each other's flights in case an original flight is canceled. But if you're flying on Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines or Virgin America, you won't be accommodated on other airlines.
  6. If an airline goes bankrupt and shuts down, you will be protected on another airline, or be able to get your money back. The best you can expect is that airlines have mercy and offer some lower fares on a space-available basis to help those stranded by a carrier that stops operating. And it's not likely you'll get a refund of your unused ticket because you'll be standing in line with many other creditors. 
  7. You are more likely to be upgraded if you ask at check-in or at the gate. Airlines have cut back on seat capacity and they are getting tough about giving up their premium seats to those who haven't paid higher fares or don't have elite status in a frequent flyer program. If a flight is oversold and you volunteer to be bumped, you can negotiate for an upgrade as part of your compensation.
  8. It's okay to bring lighters in your carry-on luggage. Yes. For awhile, the Transportation Security Administration banned cigarette lighters in carry-on bags, but they are allowed now. This is always changing, so it's best to check with regulations before hand.
  9. You are more likely to get bumped if you check in late. This is true. Most airlines will bump those passengers who check in at the last minute if a flight is full and no one volunteers to take a later flight. There has to be an order, and an airline won't bump a premium passenger or ones who pay higher fares. That leaves economy class passengers, and the late ones will draw the short straw if involuntary bumping is necessary.
  10. If you make a group booking, with your family or a travel companion, you will be seated together. This is situational. It is recommended to choose seats when you book a ticket to ensure you're all sitting together. If you buy Early Bird boarding on Southwest Airlines, you can get the seat that you want and that way your family can sit together. You can ask for help from the gate agent or flight attendant, but they may not always be able to accommodate your request.