13 Things Airlines Won't Tell You

1. Here’s what a safety demo doesn’t say: we dim cabin lights at night so your eyes are adjusted to the dark in case there’s a crash and you need to find a way out. We put up tray tables at takeoff and landing so passengers next to you can escape if needed. And you should open your window shade so firefighters can see inside.

2. We’re extremely stingy about fuel. It’s expensive to carry because it’s heavy, so keeping levels low saves us a lot of money. But it also means if there’s rough weather or an unexpected delay, we’re more likely to make an emergency landing because we’re running out of fuel.

3. It’s no secret that flight attendants are sometimes cranky. But that’s partly because we’re tired and working long hours. That’s why the little things like a simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ go a long way, as do good manners, into making everyone’s flight more pleasant. “It meant the most to me when people would say ‘good morning’ in return as I greeted them when they got on the plane,” comments a former flight attendant.

4. If you book a group trip, search for only one ticket at a time. Why? Because if you search for, say, four tickets, and we have only three at the lowest fare, all four are bumped to a higher price bracket.

5. Some airlines don’t allow two pilots flying together to eat food from the same source within an hour of each other. Either they have to eat at different restaurants, or one waits at least an hour to make sure the other doesn’t get poisoned or sick.

6. Lost your luggage? Don’t delay reporting it – even if the lines to do so are long. Most of us require you to file a report within a very short time period. If you miss the deadline, your claim may be denied.

7. You’re not imagining it: our seats really are getting tinier. In the Boeing 777s now used for long-haul, we recently shrank the seats by 2.54 cm so we could fit an extra seat in each row.

8. You don’t want that pretzel you dropped on the tray table. Most airlines don’t clean trays between flights. Before you touch anything, clean it with sanitising wipes.

9. If your flight is cancelled, get in line at the ticket desk or the gate counter – but also get on the phone. You’ll probably reach an airline phone agent before you get to the frazzled agent behind the desk.

10. We pay a fee every time you book through price-comparison online sites like TripAdvisor and Orbitz, so we’re making it harder for you to use them. Some airlines don’t release fares at all to certain third-party sites.

11. Check the seat map about four days (100 hours) before your flight. That’s when we start upgrading elite frequent fliers from economy to business class and some of the best seats open up.

12. We are totally disgusted when we see you walking around barefoot on the plane. That patterned carpet? Everything you can imagine has been spilled on it: vomit, milk, baby pee, and blood, to name a few.

13. If we cancel your flight, we will offer to put you on another one. But you should also know that even if you have a ‘nonrefundable’ fare, we will give you your money back if you ask.

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