KEEPING up-to -date with the latest developments in the sky is no easy task as the choices available to travellers take off in a new age of air travel.
Seemingly by the day, extra services are being introduced, policies are being amended and new rules and regulations are appearing.
In this ever changing aviation world, Flight Centre has scoured the fine print and compiled a list of some of the more unusual airline policies and services that you may not have heard about.
1) Pets in the cabin – a falcon may be ok, but leave the gorilla in checked luggage
Many airlines throughout the world allow pets to be carried as hand luggage, subject to restrictions and additional fees.
Delta lists cats, dogs and household birds as acceptable pets in the main cabins.
According to Delta’s website, primates, including lemurs, monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees, are among the animals that will not be allowed in the cabin, but may be transported as checked baggage, again subject to conditions.
Leading UAE-based carrier Etihad allows falcons – of the winged variety – in its cabins.
2) Don’t lug the luggage – try door-to-door baggage
If you don’t feeling like lugging the luggage to or from the airport, United Airlines in the USA has a solution.
United customers now have access to a door-to-door luggage service, which covers 48 states in continental USA.
Fedex provides the luggage transportation service, which United says is the ideal way to travel with bulky sporting goods in particular.
According to United’s website, the door-to-door service costs between $US79 and $US99 for each bag each way.
3) Refunding government taxes
If you’re unable to travel and cancel your ticket, don’t automatically assume that government taxes will be automatically refunded – several airlines now apply processing fees.
In Australia, Tiger Airways says it may charge up to $50 in Refund Administration fees.
4) Travelling with a wedding dress or a hat for race day?
Travelling with an item that is too bulky to fit in your hand luggage and too delicate for the cargo hold? You may need to buy an extra seat for it.
Wedding dresses are among the items that some airlines list as being best placed in seats of their own. Naturally, the extra seat must be purchased.
5) BYO alcohol?
You will be hard pressed to find an airline that encourages a BYO alcohol policy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to shop for refreshments after you reach your destination.
According to Virgin Blue’s website, travellers can bring a maximum of 5 litres of alcohol (in retail packaging) as carry-on or checked-in baggage on its Australian domestic flights. Naturally, the drinks cannot be consumed during the flight.
If you feel like taking a feed of prawns or sausages for your holiday, Virgin Blue also has a solution.
The airline will accept seafood, meat and frozen products as checked baggage, subject to conditions.
6) Outgrown an economy seat?
Too large for an economy seat? You may need to buy a second seat.
Several US airlines now have Customer of Size policies that, in general terms, apply to anyone who encroaches on the adjacent seat or aisle while armrests are lowered.
While customers of size need to buy a second seat initially, they don’t necessarily end up paying twice the price. Southwest Airlines allows customers of size to apply for a refund for the second seat if the flight is not full.
Other options for customers of size include premium economy or business class seats.
7) Pre-paid baggage
Fees for checked luggage are not new, but some airlines are taking a different approach to the new-age model of paying each time you check in a bag.
United Airlines has a Premier Baggage service that allows you to pay an annual luggage fee in advance. After paying the fee, you and up to eight companions can check up to two standard bags each without charge, where applicable, every time you travel in the United States or internationally on United during the year.
According to United’s website, the service costs $US349 for one year.
8) Spell your name correctly – beware the typo
Airlines have strict policies and fees when it comes to changing names on tickets.
These policies and fees typically apply, even if the change is simply a correction following a spelling mistake or typo.
It’s worth taking the time to ensure your name is entered correctly.
It’s not unusual internationally to be bumped from a flight that has been overbooked.
A new federal government protection plan that is close to being implemented in the USA will ensure you are compensated if it happens to you in America.
The plan also requires airlines in the USA to provide passengers with food and water if they spend two hours on the tarmac waiting for their delayed flight to take off.
10) Passport maintenance
While not an airline policy, airport check-in staff pay close attention to your travel documents before allowing you to board an international flight.
A passport with stamps on every page may impress your friends, but it will not necessarily impress immigration officials when you land overseas.
In some cases, you run the risk of being denied entry and sent home.
Some countries require travellers to have blank pages in their passports, while others require documents to have at least six months’ validity.