9 Travel secrets the airlines don't want you to know

Congested airways are leading to all sorts of travel issues, flights are overbooked or worse delayed, luggage is nowhere to be found, weary passengers lashing out and planes parked on the tarmac. While researching passenger rights I came across several lists of things the airlines don't want you to know.  So, I complied my own list of secrets. 

1. Don't take the voucher - you're entitled to the cash
Flight over booked and the airlines are offering a lucrative voucher?  Don't take it.  Your entitled to cash.  If you’re bumped from a flight because it's overbooked, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has compensation rules of up to $1,300 in cash if the airline fails to rearrange plans within two hours of your flight.
2. Even with new flight arrangements, you can get cash
If your airline can get you to your destination between one and two hours of your scheduled arrival on a domestic flight, or between one and four hours on an international trip, it owes you compensation of 200 percent of the one-way fare to your destination, up to $650.

3.  Buy round-trip, even if you're going one way.
Airlines charge a premium for one-way tickets. Just go round-trip and don't use the return flight.

4. Pay less, get more. In many cases, first-class seats are available at coach prices, especially for last-minute international travel, if you use a travel agency. Lots of the bigger agents have deals with airlines where you can buy a full-price coach fare and be upgraded to business class. And domestically, agents can book coach tickets under codes (such as Y, Q or Z), which give ticketholders automatic upgrades to first class.

5. Airlines owe you way more for delayed luggage than they offer to pay
If your bag is delayed, not lost, airlines will try to make good by offering $25 or $50 per day. But the DOT says it's not enough. These companies can owe you up to $3,300 in liability for a domestic US trip, so long as you've got receipts to prove you needed the stuff you packed. 

6. If the plane sits for 3 hours, you can get off
During a lengthy tarmac delay in the US (upon either arrival or departure), the DOT says an airline can’t keep you on a plane for more than three hours (on a domestic flight) or four hours (on an international flight) without allowing you to get off if you wish. Also, the airline is obligated to get that food and water cart running down the aisle after two hours of delay.
7. If your itinerary changes, they pay the difference
If the airline can't get you where you're going on time, the airline MUST put you on a competitor's flight if it will get you there faster at their cost. (The exception is if the delay is beyond the airline's control, such as with a storm.)

8. Upgrade at the gate. Most airlines offer upgrades to first class for $500 at the ticket counter in the terminal. Sure, its a lot, but it's a LOT cheaper than if you'd booked first class to begin with.
9.  Non-refundable tickets can become refundable
When the airline's at fault, it owes you money. If a flight is severely delayed, canceled, or if there’s a schedule change in advance or a route change (like a nonstop flight changing to a flight with connections) you can get a full refund on a non-refundable fare.

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