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Did you get bumped from your flight? Only take cash, never a voucher

Chances are good that every flight you take these days is overbooked. Airlines need planes that are at least 85% full to start making a profit on airfare. And they won’t consistently achieve that level if they don’t account for missed connections, people oversleeping, or simply choosing not to show. You’ve likely heard a gate agent announce that the airline is offering vouchers when a flight has too many checked-in passengers. Most times, that takes care of the problem. But don’t take those vouchers yourself.

Only about 10% of people get bumped against their will. If that happens, the airline will have to pay up (unless it can still get you to your destination on time.) If you’re involuntarily delayed for two hours or more, the Department of Transportation requires that you’re compensated up to 400% of your ticket value. Compensation is capped at $1,300. If the gate agent or customer service rep places you on another airline, you aren’t required to pay anything extra for your seat or baggage. (In-flight food, beverages, and entertainment don’t apply.)You’ve probably noticed that many airlines don’t offer free upgrades even when they have empty seats. That might make you think the days of free upgrades are over. As Boarding Area reports, “The only circumstance under which you’ll consistently see free upgrades is when it’s for operational reasons, like a cabin being oversold, and them needing to upgrade people.” Airlines want people to pay for upgrades, not to expect to get them for free. But don’t lose hope. You can still get a free upgrade if you know what you’re doing.

Independent Traveler notes there’s often not a big difference between first class and the main cabin when you’re flying domestically. But an upgrade is well worth it when you’re flying internationally. While it’s difficult to score a free, unearned upgrade, you can still do it — especially if you ask politely and directly.

You can also increase your chances of getting a free upgrade, according to Skyscanner. Travel at quiet times, for instance. Sign up for your airline’s loyalty program. Arrive early for your flight. Dress nicely. And always speak politely to the gate agents and flight attendants. Remember, though, that if the flight is almost empty, your chances of getting a free upgrade are pretty slim. You’re more likely to be successful when asking for an upgrade on a full or almost-full flight.hange. But depending on the ticket class you purchase, some airlines make it sound like you won’t get a refund if you change your mind. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation has a rule that requires airlines to “allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty.”

Airfare Watchdog reports that “in order to take advantage of the 24-hour cancel or change rule, it’s best to book directly with airlines, either online or by phone, rather than through third-party websites.” So even after you’ve booked a flight, you have a day to think about it carefully and make sure that you want to hold on to the reservation. Also of note? You don’t have to pay the change or cancel fee if the airline cancels or significantly delays your flight.
The food served on airplanes is pretty notorious for leaving a lot to be desired when it comes to flavor and selection. But most of us put up with it. What other options are there? Plenty, it turns out. You’re actually allowed to bring your own food onto the plane.

Years ago, the New York Times advised that when flying, “the practical thing to do is to pack your own meal.” USA Today reports there are no formal limits on how much food you can take on board. You can pack as much food into your carry-on as you want.

Packing your lunch is a pretty attractive alternative to overpaying for a meal on the plane or at the airport. But there are some rules to keep in mind. The most important of those is TSA’s regulation on liquids. Foods such as yogurt and hummus count as liquids. They need to be in a clear bag when you go through security. If you’re flying internationally, you’ll want to check the flight regulations to see which food items you can bring on and off the plane.

Plus, you should think about odors and allergies when you’re choosing what to pack. Although you might love a garlicky pasta lunch, it probably won’t make you popular with your neighbors. Try to be considerate of your fellow travelers.

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