13 Things Airlines Don’t Want to Tell You (But Every Flier Should Know)

From how to get the best seats to disgusting airplane habits to avoid, get these insider secrets to a safer, cheaper flight.

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Here's what a safety demo doesn't say:

Serge Bloch for Reader's Digest

We dim cabin lights at night so your eyes are adjusted to the dark if 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 if there's a crash, firefighters can see inside.

We're extremely stingy about fuel

iStock/Subsociety

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 gas.

If your flight is overbooked...

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... don't accept the first $200 voucher we offer. We typically keep increasing the offer until we have enough volunteers willing to give up their seats. If we don't get enough volunteers and have to bump you involuntarily, insist on cash compensation instead (many airlines will write you a check at the airport). Department of Transportation rules say you're entitled to as much as $1,300 in cash, depending on your ticket price and how long you are delayed.

Booking a group trip?

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Search for only one ticket at a time. 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. Want to explore the beauty of the American West? Get more info about an amazing travel experience to America’s Cowboy Country here.

Our pilots can't eat together

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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.

Lost your luggage?

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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.

Our seats really are getting tinier

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You're not imagining it. In the Boeing 777s used for long-haul international flights, we recently shrank the seats by one inch so we could fit an extra seat in each row.

Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize

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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 sanitizing wipes.

If your flight is cancelled...

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... 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.

We're not a fan of price-comparison websites

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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 (Delta, Southwest) don't release fares at all to certain third-party sites.

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