Airlines: Expectations vs. Reality


There are a great many expectations we have of Airlines (and flying in general). As you fly more and more, you’ll start to learn the ins and outs of the airline industry. Flying is a complicated, interconnected web; here are a few expectations you might have when flying, and how to manage situations when airlines don’t meet those expectations.

Expectation: Airlines have unlimited means to make sure you get to your destination on time.

Reality: Airlines have no control over a lot of things - like the weather.  Travel companies try their best to fulfill your destination needs, but sometimes there’s just no way around your bumped flight or longer layover.  

Luckily, flights are planned well in advance and other airlines share the same airport.  You can look for last minute tickets, or wait for your airline to find you the next best flight.  Additionally, know your rights when it comes to airline-fault complications.  You may be eligible for compensation much higher than what they’re offering you in a voucher!

Expectation: Arrival time says 2:20, so I’ll be in London exactly at that time.

Reality: Airlines are trying to get full flights back and forth from destinations within a set time frame, yes. There is a large margin for fluctuation though, and most airlines set the arrival time a fair amount later than they actually think you’ll arrive.  A smooth flight can arrive as much as 30 minutes early!  

If you must schedule meetings or appointments soon after you land, make sure you allow plenty of time for any delays.  When you (most likely) arrive early, grab a cup of coffee and relax!

Expectation: An airline ticket is equivalent to a seat reservation on a flight.

Reality: While we like to think of air fare this way, it’s actually not true at all.  Airlines are always looking to maximize profit margins - a full plane is a profitable plane.  Some airlines overbook flights by as much as 50%, expecting most of that allotment to no-show.  It’s fairly common to be denied boarding on popular flights due to this reason, so know your rights!

Expectation: A seat on this plane is worth ‘x’ amount of dollars, and everyone on my plane paid the same amount.

Reality: In reality, air fare is driven by computer programs and can fluctuate by hundreds of dollars per ticket in the same day. These programs take into account everything, right down to the time of day and day of the week.  

The more seats are open, the lower the ticket price is likely to be.  A last-minute ticket will probably be much pricier than a ticket booked 20 days ago. Getting the best bargain takes some guts; keep an eye on prices for flights like the one you’d like to book for a month or two.  This way you’ll have a good idea what the best price looks like when you’re ready to book!

Expectation: Flying is expensive!

Reality: Considering how much air flight regulation has changed in the past 50 years, flying is actually extremely cheap. The US government relinquished full control of flight pricing about 30 years ago and prices plummeted by more than 50% in some areas.  International flights are often still pricey, simply because of customs and longer distances. 

Countries in the EU soon followed suit, and took things a step further to optimize efficiency; while flights may be cheaper in the EU than the US, it’s been noted that customer service and comfort while travelling have taken a hit in the process.  Just remember:  as with any product or service, companies are constantly competing for the lowest cost - this can, and often does, lead to cutting corners.  Manage your expectations based on your ticket price.

Above all, know your rights when you fly. Understand the contract you enter into when you purchase an airline ticket.  Contact the airline you choose for a rundown on their policies and procedures. Fly smart, and fly safe!



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