20/20 Friday: 'Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity'

When preparing for festive holiday traditions, despite the anticipation of delicious food, family gatherings and meaningful traditions, thousands of people this season will also focus on a much more mundane topic: travel arrangements. There are airline reservations to make, hotel rooms to book — perhaps you're even planning a long drive.

But be careful, because many common assumptions about traveling are nothing but myths. This week, "20/20" examines several different travel myths that could change the way you think about airline travel, lost luggage, and much more.

Watch "Travel: Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity" Friday on "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET

Air Travel

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How many times have you sprinted through the airport, hoping you're not too late for your flight? When you finally board and buckle your seat belt, you are all set, right? ABC's Sam Champion shows how on-time departure claims can be misleading, because airlines routinely count flights as on time, even if a plane doesn't get off the ground for hours.

Last December, Kate Hanni's family vacation got off to a bumpy start when her flight from San Francisco to Dallas was diverted to Austin, Texas. Hanni's flight was stuck on the tarmac for nine hours and 17 minutes. The toilets overflowed, and there was barely any food and drinks.

After Hanni's onboard nightmare, she was so outraged, she left her job as a real estate agent to fight full time for passenger rights. Hanni has become a repository of airline complaints, receiving 70 calls a day on her hot line from unsatisfied passengers, reporting trouble on the tarmac. Now, she is trying to get a law passed in Congress to limit the time passengers can be held on a plane to no more than three hours.

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Also on "20/20," co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas investigates what happens when lightning strikes. Are airline travelers safe when lightning is flashing in the sky? Find out whether or not lightning can take down an airplane in this day and age.

Finally, if you don't want your luggage lost, stolen, pilfered or sold to holiday shoppers, read on.

The rate of mishandled luggage has almost doubled in the last five years, but don't let yours take a similar flight path. ABC's Jim Avila will show you where some missing bags end up, and you'll learn how to make sure your bag and its contents arrive safely.

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Using government data, "20/20" documented thousands of passenger claims about stolen valuables, such as computers, jewelry and, even, drugs all taken right out of their luggage at airports. Soon you'll be able to look up theft complaints at your own airport on ABCNEWS.com.

Driving

Traveling by car? We've all been there. You're driving down the highway, miles from the nearest gas station, and your car's fuel gauge is quickly approaching empty. Is it time to panic, or is there still some gas sloshing around at the bottom of the tank? Is it OK to keep driving when the needle dips below E or is that a myth?

Stossel tested his car's limit on a drive into upstate New York, beginning his journey with his car's gas gauge on empty. His surprising results reveal what happens when your car's gas gauge gets frighteningly low.

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