Air Travel Gotchas


There are “gotchas” in air travel you might not know about–but should. Many are of the “some restrictions apply” and “read the fine print” type; some are matters of inconvenience, some are very expensive. Here’s my “gotcha” list:

— “Volunteering” to be bumped for oversales. That’s fine, if you are assured of positive space on another flight. Sometimes (and some airlines) will give you the promised compensation (typically a travel voucher), but not positive space–you’re standby, and you may be stuck for a long time. Be sure to specify positive space before you accept the voucher and relinquish your seat. I’m just enough of a pain in the ass to ask for boarding passes just to be sure.


Know your passenger rights.

–Misconnects. Know your rights, but as importantly, know the gotchas: if you used certain air travel broker sites (Travelocity, etc), your misconnect may not be covered for further travel by the airline. I’ve seen frantic passengers rush up to a gate where the flight had departed, asking to be put on the next flight. Problem is, the “” that sold you your ticket is not part of the airline and you may not be entitled to the next flight–or any flight other than the one that departed. Know this ahead of time or you may find yourself shipwrecked.

–Misconnects Part Two: compensation (hotel room, meals) will not be offered by or required of an airline for events beyond their control, like weather delays, diversions and cancellations. So, if your flight was the last of the day and you missed the flight due to circumstances like weather, plan to sleep in the terminal or spring for a hotel room yourself. which brings me to …

–Travel insurance. Buy this from a reputable travel agent or AAA. Policies can pay for that unexpected hotel room for a short overnight (tip: Minute Suites in many major airports have hourly rooms and they’re inside security, saving the screening time as well as the van ride to and from) and other incidentals and losses, like the vacation condo you’ve already paid for.

As importantly, a decent travel insurance policy can cover unforeseen costs like a rebooking fee if you become ill or some other exigence requires a change in your plans. Along those lines, you should be certain that your medical insurance will cover treatment in non-US locations and travel insurance can help cover the cost gaps.

Seems like few people consider travel insurance but with your vacation time being scarce and costs high, travel insurance makes sense.


–Aircraft Power Ports. Many flight attendants don’t even know this: there’s a maximum amperage draw allowed for the entire cabin. Aircraft manufacturers design the system with an average amp load, but a full flight, depending on what passenger items are drawing power, the demand often exceeds the design limit. When that happens, no power for you, at least until someone else unplugs. Moral to the story: if you have a device that needs charging–plug it in as soon as permissable in flight.

–Aircraft WIFI. See above: the WIFI bandwidth is limited. If you have something important to up- or download, do it as soon as possible or you may find the internet crawling so slowly that your data will not be accessible or transmittable.

So there you have it. Some of these issues are nuisance items, other are major league expensive travel disasters. The moral to the story is to be prepared, consider the possible problems and decide how you’re going to handle them BEFORE you leave port.

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5 Responses to “Air Travel Gotchas”

  1. Pamela Booth Says:

    Just FYI, Chris, you pay more for travel insurance when you buy through a travel agent. Unlike other things, the commission is added on top of the insurance cost. I buy my insurance on line (CSA is a good one and they have paid on two claims with no hassles). Also, I usually choose to cover only a portion of the cost of my trip and be self-insured on the rest. Medical coverage overseas is the main objective. If you buy through the agency or cruise line, they will make you pay to cover the entire amount.

    Pam Booth


    • I recommended AAA or a reputable travel agent because the former is the gold standard for travel products and the latter for those who can’t navigate the arcane sea of travel options. There are some that aren’t worth the $.

  2. […] via Air Travel Gotchas — The JetHead Blog […]

  3. A couple of points: CSA is now Generali Travel Insurance ( The AAA travel insurance can be hard to find, at least on the web site for California AAA. When you click on the big Insurance button on the home page, travel insurance isn’t one of the options listed. Instead, scroll down to the bottom of the page and look under the Travel column of links to find Travel Insurance.

  4. Australia once made a TV show about a discount domestic airline, that had a quality of being late and losing luggage, people would book multiple flights across different airlines to get to wedding or some other once in a lifetime family event, and well you can image what often happened..

    Takeaway, if you *need* to get to the destination by time X and date Y, book the whole trip directly via one airline, and pay the extra for it. Booking separate airlines with no room for delays between connections is asking for a bad day 🙂

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