The 5 Things Your Airline Won't Tell You

Chances are you’ve stood at an airline counter. Exhausted. Irritated. Convinced that your carrier wasn’t being straight up with you. Turns out, what the airline won’t tell you is not only a waste of your time, but can also be a waste of your money.

The first thing, says Peter Greenberg, travel editor for the TODAY show, is that departure boards lie. When an airline posts that your flight is on time, what it really means is that it is scheduled to be on time. Always ask the airline rep where the aircraft assigned to your flight is. If the plane is in Belize and you’re schedule to be on it in Chicago in an hour, better get comfortable.

Departure boards also lie about the gates. Greenberg suggests that when you get to the airport, only look to the board to find the gate you’re supposed to leave from. Then immediately look at the arrivals board to see what’s arriving at your gate. If nothing is arriving, chances are you won’t be leaving. At least this way you know the bad news before having to schlep down to the gate to receive it there.

Greenberg also has some bad news for those excited about scoring a direct flight on their next trip. Direct does not mean nonstop. You can stop on a direct flight – all it means is that you won’t be changing planes. Not enough people know this.

And if you’ve got a family member coming in for the holidays using a connecting flight, tell them not to listen to the airline when they say that 45 minutes is a ‘legal’ connection time. It may be legal, but Greenberg calls it ‘suicidal.’ Always give yourself 90 minutes to 2 hours to connect, because the odds of your originating flight being on time are less than perfect.

If you arrive at your destination in one piece, don’t worry – there’s still one last way you can get screwed. Losing your bags is a rite of passage for any traveler, and chances are your luggage will be found and the airline will deliver it to you. But if you think you stand a chance of getting your bags delivered promptly, Greenberg says think again. Airlines don’t like to tell passengers that they don’t deliver your bags, they subcontract that task out to third-party companies, who probably don’t feel the same sense of urgency about returning your luggage as you feel about getting it. Insist to the airline that the bag delivery service puts you first on their delivery run and get the name and direct line of the bag office (not a 1-800 number) while you’re at it.