Six Reasons to Get on a Plane this Summer

OK, so maybe a deep dish pepperoni is not going to get you on a plane -- but what if it's served with a side of "fewer fees"?

There are some good reasons to fly this summer, and I'm not even counting the good deals out there. Sure, airfares are higher this summer, but that's because they had nowhere to go but up from the historic lows of 2009.

While you'll pay more for your tickets this summer, relatively cheap deals do pop up from time to time (and you'll find most of them if you shop for airfare on Tuesday afternoons).

Why else should you fly? Because, in some cases, airlines are being "nicer" to passengers. And when they aren't, there's always "Iron Man" (my new nickname for Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood): he's got your back.

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#1: The Pizza Factor

No, the FAA has not mandated free pizza on all flights, but it happens, like last month, when a Southwest flight had to be diverted to Pueblo, Colo. due to stormy weather. A couple of other planes soon joined them for the two-hour delay. Meanwhile, there was nothing to eat because the airport was closed.

The pilot of the Southwest flight made a command decision and phoned Little Caesars. Within 30 minutes,40 pizzas were being shared by passengers on all three planes. OK, it's not quite as good as a free ticket, but when's the last time this happened to you? Actually, Delta once held a similar pizza-fest in Syracuse, but that was three years ago.

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I'm going to go out on a limb and say we'll see more of this kind of customer service (or maybe we should call it "customer courtesy"). The airlines know passengers are fed up with the constant whittling away of any kind of onboard creature comforts, and some will (belatedly) try to show us that a human heart still beats beneath all those fees.

Possible downside: Eat too much pizza and Southwest may decide you now require two seats. Of course if that's the case, then you can start your own "too-fat-to-fly" rant on Twitter.

#2: Bumping Up Bumping Payments

It's not quite a done deal yet, but the Department of Transportation wants to increase payments for passengers who've been "involuntarily bumped" from planes, and these days, what the DOT wants, the DOT seems to get.

If approved, compensation rates would for people bumped from their scheduled flights would rise from between $400 and $800 to the neighborhood of $650 to $1,300, depending on the length of the flight. And remember, we're talking cash compensation, not vouchers.

However, I feel it's my obligation to note that the chances of you being forced from a plane due to over-sold seats is really not very high. Last year the rate hovered around 1 in 10,000. Still, that's better than one's chances of dating a supermodel (close to 1 in 180,000).

#3: The DOT's New Super Hero Has Your Back

Ray LaHood sure acts like a super hero these day. He didn't wait around for Congress to enact a passenger rights bill, he did it himself with the Department of Transportation's three-hour rule. At the very least it means no more gut-wrenching stories about loaded planes stuck on tarmacs for nine hours with no food, no water and broken toilets.

And Iron Man LaHood is no slouch when it comes to enforcement: Rule-breaking airlines will be fined at a rate of $27,500 per passenger (for a plane with 130 passengers that works out to more than $3.5 million).

Plus, LaHood and the FAA have pushed hard for NextGen GPS technology instead of the old, 1940s era radar technology still in use by our air traffic control system, and the Obama administration has said, "get going." At long last, some modern equipment -- and a higher level of safety -- is coming.

#4: The Great Fee Drop

Let me be clear: Bag fees aren't going down, but these days any fee drop is good news, so we can thank Frontier and Delta.

Frontier has dropped that annoying $25 phone fee for those of you who like to make reservations the old fashioned way. Even better, the airline has lowered its "change fee" for those who wish to alter itineraries, from $100 to a mere 50 bucks. Some airlines charge $150 for this "privilege."

And now, frequent fliers get a break from Delta: The airline dropped its frankly nonsensical $150 fee to "redeem award tickets" for those who want to make reservations and fly within three weeks. Finally, you can get a spur-of-the-moment trip out of your miles.

The contrarian: Europe's discount airline Ryanair, meanwhile, has actually raised bag fees, for July and August only (when more people want to fly). Summer rates for a first-checked bag rise to about $35 online, or about $60 at the airport. And yes, those are one-way fees.

#5: On-Time Rates Up

Worried about missing a connection or sitting on a delayed flight that prevents you from joining the Fourth of July festivities? It could still happen, but the odds against delayed flights are improving.

According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, airlines reported an overall on-time April flight rate of 85 percent, which isn't perfect, but it sure beats the 80 percent rate for March. Even better: The percentage of flights that were delayed on the tarmac for three hours or more was a minuscule .001 percent in April. Call that the "Iron Man" effect.

#6: Airport Security: "We're Catching Some People"

Indeed they are, like the Delta flight attendant who was arrested on misdemeanor charges last week for allegedly attempting to pass through security at the Indianapolis Airport with a loaded semi-automatic Glock in her carry on luggage. As of this writing, it's not clear if what if anything will happen in this case, but to anyone who tries to bring weapons through security, I say: no pizza for you.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website,, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.