Booking and departing for a trip should be straightforward, but unwanted stresses can undoubtedly occur. From long delays to dodgy food, myriad things could jeopardize your travel plans or tarnish your flying experience. Luckily, we’ve outlined some airline travel secrets so you can beat any potential problems that could occur before and during your flight.

Get the Inside Scoop on Smooth Travel

Staying ahead of the common travel pitfalls requires a bit of insider knowledge, from choosing the right seat on the plane to breezing through TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Whether you’re jetting off with Delta, JetBlue, or Alaska, practical tips like staying hydrated, using mobile apps to keep track of your flight, or knowing a few flight secrets can make your journey even smoother.

You Can Get Compensation When Flights Go Wrong (Sometimes)

Is there anything worse than arriving at the airport, trudging through security and eventually brandishing your passport excitedly at check-in only to be told that your being bumped from your flight? If you’re unlucky enough to lose your seat on a plane, you may be entitled to compensation. But don’t rush to accept the airline’s initial voucher offer. Depending on how much later your schedule is pushed back you could be in line for a bigger payday.

And if those delays stretch into hours or your flight gets canceled? Don’t get stuck in the airport! Make the most of the downtime by booking a day room at a nearby hotel with HotelsByDay. You can refresh, relax, and even get some work done in comfort before your rescheduled flight.

When You Can Request Money for Being Bumped Off a Flight

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), travelers have the right to the following compensations depending on their new flight arrangements.

  • No money if your new flight arrives within 1 hour of the original time.
  • If your new flight arrives 1-2 hours late (1-4 hours for international), you get double the one-way fare or $775 (whichever is less).
  • If your new flight arrives over 2 hours late (over 4 hours for international internationally), you get four times the one-way fare or $1550 (whichever is less).
  • If you’re an EU citizen and your flight is delayed more than 3 hours (and it’s the airline’s fault), you could get between €250 and €600 in compensation. The exact amount depends on how long the delay and flight distance were.

No wonder airlines are quick to waive those $150 travel vouchers around after announcing an overbooked flight.

Getting a Seat on a Competitor Plane

Did you know that many airlines can also find seats on competitor planes if the delay is their fault? Be sure to ring up the airline as soon as you learn of delays or if your flight is cancelled — spots will go quickly, and a phone call to customer service may be quicker than waiting in a very long check-in line.

Bad Equipment

You can also ask for some compensation when there’s broken equipment that impacts on your flight. And if your seat is broken, speak up! The cabin crew should be able to move you, or, if there are no seats available and you have to endure an uncomfortable journey, request compensation from the airline.

When is a Compensation Request Not Valid?

airplane on runway in snowy winter weather conditions

Not all delays will see your wallet grow heavier. Weather woes, for example, do not qualify for compensation. Same goes if it’s an issue beyond the airline’s reach, like air traffic snags, closed runway or baggage carousel maintenance. And if you miss your flight because of a personal hiccup, that’s on you—no payout in such cases.

**Pro tip**: Safeguard your trips with travel insurance or use a branded credit card that offers delay and cancellation coverage. That way, even when the unexpected hits, you aren’t left footing the bill.

You Can Bring Your Own Food on Board

Don’t like airplane food? As it turns out, you don’t need to spend eight hours hangry or splurge for expensive meals at the airport. Packing your snacks in your carry-on is one of those flight secrets many seasoned travelers swear by. Remember, items like yogurts or dips must comply with the 3.4-ounce (100ml) rule to pass through security smoothly.

Familiarize yourself with the 3:1:1 TSA liquid carry on rules to speed up the screening process. However, keep in mind that certain foods are best avoided on flights for the comfort of you and your fellow passengers.

baggage and boarding onto airplane on runway

You Should Take Luggage with Wheels

Most people have rolling luggage these days. But if you’re still clinging to your vintage suitcase or travel with a trekking pack, know that not having wheels may cost you. A suitcase or travel bag with wheels may keep your belongings safer.

A former baggage handler told Reader’s Digest, “if it doesn’t roll, it most likely gets thrown.” Wheels mean they can roll it down the plane during the loading period instead of just tossing and hoping for the best. It’s also worth packing your bag with extra belongings so anything that is breakable has enough padding to stay protected.

You Can Bring a Pet on Board

Wouldn’t it be nice to cruise high in the sky with your furry companion in tow? Miraculously, some airlines do allow passengers to bring their pets into the cabin (as long as they stay inside a carrier). For the airlines that allow pets in the cabin, there are multiple rules to adhere to, some of which we’ve listed below.

man holding cat in soft carrier on an airplane

American Airlines & Alaska Air

  • You can bring cats and dogs over eight weeks of age
  • Weight limit: Carrier and pet up to 20 lbs.


  • Age restriction: At least 10 weeks for US trips, 16 weeks when flying internationally.
  • No set weight limit, but your pet must be comfy in their carrier under the seat.

Air Canada

  • You can bring cats and dogs small enough to fit and stay comfortably in their carrier under the seat in front of you
  • Weight limit: Up to 22 lbs, carrier included.

Just remember, there are fees for each pet you bring. It’s worth checking your flight details, as well as your lounge access status, to see if it includes an airport lounge where you and your little pal can relax before boarding.

And, if you’re a parent flying with your pet, consider this a heads-up to explore the pet policies of airlines and airports to ensure a smooth journey for your entire family.

It’s Possible (But Rare) to Get an Upgrade

How many times have you walked into the plane and wistfully turned to see the caramel seats of business class and complimentary glasses of champagne taunt you as you pass?

While it’s tough to bag a free upgrade flaunting just a cheeky smile and dressing a bit smarter, there are ways to increase your chances on your next flight. According to Lynn Unick at Skyscanner, it’s worth flying during the times business flyers are less likely to travel, for example, school breaks. Also, look to upgrade when your flight is overbooked, as first-class usually holds the most remaining seats.

If all else fails, there’s no harm in asking for the upgrade. My boyfriend and I shamelessly pretended we got engaged on our holiday. We weren’t granted our upgrade request, but it was worth a shot!

Airplane Toilets Can Open From the Outside!

We get it. Plane rides, especially long-haul flights, can be tedious. The idea of spending eight hours or more in tight quarters without can be daunting, double if you’re a smoker. Factor in the possible small, crying children on board, and the urge for a nicotine hit might drive you mad.

But whatever you do, don’t submit to a few quick puffs. The cabin crew can unlock airplane toilets from the outside. The lock on the door won’t make any difference. You’ll face a hefty fine if you’re caught smoking, and possibly, arrest.

If you really strike a nerve with the airline crew, the flight may even be diverted to the nearest airport for your detainment. And it might not even end there. In the UK, a man was jailed over nine years for being caught smoking and setting off a fire!

The same caution applies to anyone contemplating joining the oft-whispered about mile-high club. Though the lure of an amorous escapade in the skies may be tempting, the likelihood of being discovered is high. Redeye or overnight international flights that are not fully booked might offer slightly better odds for privacy, but discretion is still advised.

The Best Day to Book Cheap Flights

Finally, that all-important question, when is the best time to book cheap flights? According to a study by, Tuesdays at 3 p.m. Eastern are widely considered to be an optimal day for getting a good deal on a flight. The cheapest flights are, unsurprisingly the unsavory hours—think very early mornings, late nights or flights with awkward and long layovers. If you have the time to kill or don’t have money to burn on primetime-scheduled flights, these are ideal flying times to book. These also will probably be some of the least-crowded flights, allowing you to spread out in luxury.

And remember, if those extra-long layovers leave you feeling drained, don’t despair. Instead of hanging out in the terminal, consider booking a day room with HotelsByDay. You can escape the airport bustle, freshen up, and recharge before the next leg of your journey begins.

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Rosanna Lucy

Rosanna currently lives in London with her mum and sister. She has a penchant for good food and even better wine. You can often find her at a bottomless brunch or scouring google for a new place to explore.