Did you hear about the fellow who was on a Continental flight from Houston to Chicago this month when he tried to get off the plane - in mid-flight?
1. MYTH: Commercial jet doors can be opened in mid-flight
He failed of course because he couldn't get the aircraft door open. I don't know what the airlines are stocking on those beverage carts of theirs lately, but there have been a bunch of similar "unruly passenger" incidents over the past year.
A former Playboy centerfold was accused of trying to open an airplane door on a JetBlue flight; an agitated man pounded on the cockpit door on an American flight; another guy tried to open a door on a Delta plane while also allegedly threatening to blow up it up.
Not to worry. Today I am playing "Airline Myth Buster" and I can assure you that opening a door on a commercial jet in midflight cannot be done.
There are a couple of reasons for this, but the big one is cabin pressure which, in effect, seals the doors shut. Plus many aircraft doors are "plug-type" in design meaning the doors are bigger than the opening (unless they are rotated). Again, though, once cabins begin to pressurize, which occurs as the plane begins to taxi, well - forget it. Those doors are shut.
Here's some other myths - and the real story behind them.
2. MYTH: Airlines reimburse you for all losses when luggage is "mishandled"
I love that airline word, "mishandled"; in plain English, it means they lost your bag. If so, they owe you, right? Well, yes: starting in August, you will get your checked-bag fee refunded if your bag is lost, thanks to new rules from the Department of Transportation. As for contents, yes, you're due compensation for that to, but you may not get what you consider a fair deal.
Read the fine print on your airline's baggage policy (found in the carrier's "Contract of Carriage" section): many airlines don't allow you to transport "valuables" in your checked-baggage, such as electronics and jewelry, although many of us do this anyway. By putting that in writing, the airlines are telling you that if they lose the bag, they certainly won't pay for those losses.
Also, you may need receipts to be reimbursed for anything new in your bag; if you have none, or you want compensation for other items, the Department of Transportation says you could be in for weeks (or even months) of negotiations to prove the value of your losses. By the way, do not leave the airport without filling out all those claim forms.
Tip: before you travel, make an inventory of your checked-bag's contents and saving all receipts. Better yet, use a carryon bag and avoid all this insane hassle.
3. MYTH: Big payouts await those who are bumped from flights
You might get a big payout, if you're involuntarily bumped and if you can't be quickly accommodated on another flight. In fact, starting in August when the rates go up, you could get as much as $1,300 in cash for being booted from an overbooked flight, but if you're rebooked on a plane that gets you to your destination within one hour of the originally scheduled arrival time, you get zip.
Voluntary bumping, of course, is a whole other matter, where you accept what the airline offers if you like the offer - or, in the case with a new scheme from Delta, you bid on what you'd accept for being bumped (careful: this method tends to favor the airline).
4. MYTH: Canceled flights mean free hotel/meal vouchers