If you’re planning a summer getaway by plane, you may be feeling pretty bummed out by just how expensive flights are. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that airfare jumped 18.6% from March to April — the biggest-ever month-over-month increase in the category.
Airfare is skyrocketing partly because of inflation and the cost of gasoline but also because, weirdly enough, consumers aren’t putting up much of a fight. In Delta’s latest earnings call in April, Delta president Glen Hauenstein said, “We haven’t seen a lot of resistance to the price points that we have in market.”
We’ve got to speak up if we want to be heard! But, if you already have your flight booked, it’s important to know what extra benefits you can get on your flight (or at the airport). From first-class freebies in economy to nabbing cash instead of a voucher, here’s a look at 11 secret perks airlines won’t tell you about.
You Can Get Free Miles If Your Luggage Is Delayed
“One perk people don’t know about is if your luggage takes more than 20 minutes to get to the carousel and you’re flying with Delta or Alaska Airlines, you are entitled to an award of 2,500 miles,” said Jen Ruiz, founder, Jen on a Jet Plane. “In the case of Alaska, you can opt to accept a $25 discount for a future trip instead.”
A Long Delay Gets You a Free Hotel Stay
“If you have a layover of 12 hours or longer on international flights you can be owed an overnight stay at an airport hotel, plus three square meals — all for free,” said Katie Cafaro, a blogger at Katie Caf Travel. “Check with the airline you’re flying with since it’s a rare perk nowadays, but I was surprised on my last trip to Bali that other airline passengers I was flying with had free hotel stays. I had to ask the airline in order to get a free stay for myself but it was 100% worth it to arrive at my final destination refreshed and ready to go.”
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Inconvenienced? Ask For Cash Instead of a Voucher
“Did you know if airlines bump you from flights or lose your luggage, they will usually try to offer you a low monetary voucher or flight voucher for your troubles; however, you’re actually entitled to receive a cash payment?” said Thomas Sentosa of Tom’s Cheap Flights. “Not only that but the compensation will be multiplied by how long you are inconvenienced.”
You Can ‘Change’ Your Flight To Get the Same Flight Cheaper
“Most U.S. airfares (excluding basic economy) now qualify for free changes, which can be a boon to travelers even if you’re already booked on the perfect flight,” said Becky Pokora, travel rewards expert at Forbes Advisor. “By monitoring prices, if the price drops, you can ‘change’ your flight to the exact same one and the price drop will be refunded as an airline credit for future use. There’s no guarantee that airfare will fall in price after you book, but fares are so volatile that it’s not unheard of to lock in $20, $50 or even $150 price drops and start saving toward your next trip.”
International Airlines Often Let You Use Their Fancy Lounges for Free
“Many U.S airlines do not offer complimentary lounge access to frequent fliers, most foreign carriers do,” said Tim White, the CEO and founder of MilePro. “This means you get the benefit of using those facilities within the U.S. borders (e.g. with airlines like United or Delta) without actually being a member of their frequent-flier programs.”
Air France and Korean Air Have Amazing Perks
White added that in his experience, Air France and Korean Air have the best perks.
“For example, when you’ve flown 100,000 miles with Korea Air, you automatically receive platinum status for life, which includes access to hotel discounts, bonus flight tickets, rental car services, and more,” White said.
You Can Get First-Class Freebies in Economy
“For most airlines, you don’t have to fly first-class to get items to improve your comfort,” said Nick Mueller, director of operations of Hawaiian Islands. “Blankets, pillows, ear plugs and often even eye masks and slippers can be given to any passenger just as long as they ask for them. Because there is a limited supply of these items, airlines won’t come out and offer them to all of their passengers, which is why you have to specifically ask.”
Bring Treats for Special Treatment
“Take a special treat on-board the aircraft for the cabin crew,” said Kim Burns, a former airline employee and travel industry expert. “This will make them feel special and they will in turn make you feel special – from complimentary upgrades (if available) or complimentary food and beverage service during your flight. This can be as simple as a box of individually wrapped Halloween size chocolates, or a Starbucks gift card for them to share at the arrival airport — just stay away from homemade goodies.”
Ask For a Full Can of Soda
“Flight attendants always pour glasses of soda, but they are happy to give you the full can if asked,” Burns said.
Check Whether You Can Get Bumped Up to Business Class
“Certain airlines that hold business inventory for the last minute,” said Naveen Dittakavi, founder and CEO of Next Vacay. “Ideally, travelers should also keep an eye on their flight status as to whether their flight is overbooked. If you volunteer to get bumped, your chances of getting an upgrade increase as the airline may be grateful for your willingness to change flights.”
Fliers need to pick the right flights to increase their chances of snagging a seat in business.
“Flights that depart on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are the lowest volume business travel days,” Dittakavi said. “Early morning flights are usually packed with business travelers, so it’s unlikely that you would be able to get a free upgrade here. Choosing bank holidays or flights in the middle of the night are your best options as you’ll be able to avoid the rush of business travel.”
Ask For Leftovers
“On a long-haul flight, there are always extra meals, as most of the flights are overnight and people are often snoozing when the flight attendants are offering meal service,” Burns said. “Once service is complete (and only then) ask your flight attendant if there are any extra meals. There often are and they would prefer to give them out, as they are trashed otherwise.”
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