The good old days are long gone so if you're expecting special courtesies from the airlines when bad things happen, think again. If it's a weather problem, the airline has no responsibility, but even if a cancelation is due to a problem "within the airline's control", don't hold your breath.
For example, from American Airlines' contract of carriage: "[If] we do not get you to your final destination on the expected arrival day, we will provide reasonable overnight accommodations, subject to availability." Note that last phrase.
However, it never hurts to ask. Remember when Iceland's volcano erupted last year, stranding thousands around the globe? European discount airline Ryanair said it would go to court rather than hand out vouchers to its passengers, then did a complete u-turn and handed them out anyway. So you never know.
And you never know what you might get. Recently, some passengers in Dallas were "rewarded" with hotel vouchers last week when vicious storms battered the area. I know, because my editor at FareCompare was there when the American gate agent at DFW handed them out (there were only a few and my employee didn't get one). The vouchers weren't exactly freebies, but they were good for a "special" room rate of $60 a night at a local inn. On a hunch, my editor called the hotel to find out the room rate for regular paying customers and guess what? It too was $60.
By the way, my editor said all the American employees she met during this stressful day were unfailingly kind and helpful. I think that's worth more than a voucher any day. 5. MYTH: Cell phones in flight can cause big, big problems
The answer to this one is a little bit murky; while the FAA (and the FCC) continues to ban cell phones on U.S. airlines, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates they don't cause big problems. In fact, some international carriers including Emirates do allow cell phones on planes with no reported ill effects (though those who must sit through conversations about the latest singer voted off "American Idol" may have a different opinion).
Here's what the FAA has to say: "There are still unknowns about the radio signals that portable electronic devices (PEDs) and cell phones give off. These signals, especially in large quantities and emitted over a long time, may unintentionally affect aircraft communications, navigation, flight control and electronic equipment."
The biggest problem with cell phones on planes? If you don't turn them off, you'll face the wrath of the flight attendant - and quite possibly, indelicate language from your seatmates.
6. MYTH: Shop for flights on weekends to get the cheapest airfare
My regular readers know this one's a myth. Weekends are the worst times to shop, since the airlines know you have extra time to do so and they usually make you pay more.
The best day (and time) to shop? Tuesdays at about 3pm eastern time. According to the historical data we collect at FareCompare.com, one or more airlines usually launches an airfare sale on Monday evening; by Tuesday afternoon, carriers on competing routes match those sale prices since they don't want to risk losing your business. The process is complete by Tuesday afternoon.