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July 18, 2012

Air Travel Safety Tips

by: Mary F. Schiavo

While fighting for safer skies, we aim to raise awareness regarding the many safety guidelines that passengers can control.

Air travel is now a mature and saturated industry in which all airlines are very much alike. Therefore, customers have no airline loyalty, and airline service is no longer a luxury but a commodity. The high-rollers are on private jets, and airlines know it, so remember to lower your expectations and be patient.

When it comes to your interactions with any airline, say it with a smile. Many airlines keep a record of their passengers, so be careful what you do or say. There are massive numbers of false charges by airlines. A few harsh words can result in false charges of assault on a crew member and a black mark on your passenger name record—or even the no -fly list. Never threaten, and do not touch airline employees.

Whether in weather? Let's face it—planes crash most often in bad weather. If you can wait it out, the statistics (and your stomach) reward you.

Here are more of Motley Rice attorney Mary Schiavo 's air travel safety tips:

Booking Your Flight

  • Choosing the airline
    • Fly only on carriers of developed nations. Developed nations are more likely to have safety oversight and legal systems that value their citizens and protect the rights of those harmed or wronged by their nation's carriers or manufacturers.
    • Avoid African, Russian (former Soviet Union), Middle Eastern or Latin American carriers. If you've never heard of it, don't fly on it.
  • Purchasing the ticket
    • Use a travel agency with a 24-hour desk. They are often faster on re-booking.
    • Buy your ticket in the United States or with a credit card issued in the United States.
    • Do not use a travel credit card linked to your bank account.
    • Originate your ticketing and travel in the United States, even if you have all foreign segments on your ticket.
    • Flying non-stop will cut your risk of accidents in half. Most accidents occur on take-off and during landing.
    • Size and age do matter. Get the biggest, newest aircraft you can book.
    • Pick jet service over propeller service. Statistically, it's safer and better in icing.
    • The statistically safest seats on an aircraft are those nearest the greatest concentration of exit doors, usually over the wing or near the tail depending on the aircraft.
    • Check your tickets twice to make sure that all information exactly matches your passport and drivers license.
  • Other Booking Considerations
    • Don't travel "with" someone you don't want to be "found" with. Airlines keep records of your travels.
    • Reconsider letting your child fly alone. It's legal for a child age five or older to fly alone, but children have been misconnected and molested in the care of airlines. If you must let them fly alone, teach them precautions.

Packing and Preparing for Your Flight

  • Put liquids, 3 oz. or less, in one clear quart-size bag. Also, watch out for golf bags and golf shoes; fertilizer will set off explosive detection equipment.
  • Use only one credit card while you are traveling. Keep a back-up card in a separate location in case your wallet is stolen.
  • Leave a copy of all identification documentation and credit/bank cards (front and back) at home with an emergency contact.
  • Wear long pants on the flight; these will give you an extra layer of protection in a plane crash from debris and fire.
  • Keep money, a cell phone, smoke hood and flashlight with you at your seat on the plane, even better—in a handy bag to grab.

On the Plane

  • Wear your shoes during takeoff and landing. Although many people remove shoes for comfort, you should wait until you are at cruising altitude to do so. An unexpected accident on takeoff or landing will not allow you time to locate and put them back on, affecting your chances of escaping to safety.
  • Place infants in a car seat or a harness to secure your child in your lap during flight.
  • Do not put small children in an aisle seat. Thousands of people are injured every day by bags that fall from the overhead bins.
  • Do not drink a plane's tap water; drink bottled water only.
  • Don't put the plane's blankets or pillows on your face. Because no regulations require airlines to wash the blankets, replace paper pillowcases, disinfect or wipe the tray tables, or clean their water tanks, they often harbor bacteria, viruses and pesticides.
  • Walk at least once every two hours to avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

In an Emergency

Despite the common perception that airline crashes are overwhelmingly fatal, the truth is that most accidents occur during takeoff or landing, and statistics show that some or all of those on board will survive. However, if you are caught in an emergency situation on a plane, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • If instructed to brace for a crash, tuck and brace your feet beneath the seat, not in front of you. This will minimize the risk of your own legs injuring you.
  • Turn on your cell phone camera or recorder. Having a record of the actual events of what went wrong can serve as evidence if needed and can also serve as evidence for altercations that are not your fault.
  • Save yourself -get up and run to safety if you are able. There are many flammable/explosive materials in aircraft that could ignite once the craft has downed. Do not assume that authorities will rescue you.

Passenger Rights: Handling Cancellations and Delays

  • If you are on a plane and your flight is delayed or canceled, call from the plane and book a backup flight immediately. The airline carrier will require a credit card to confirm your reservation. If you call and reserve your space, however, airlines are required to put you on that flight, or if you miss it, the next available flight at no extra cost. Those who paid the most for their tickets are given priority in re-booking.
  • Memorize your airline's rules concerning passenger rights and courtesies: "Re-book me on the next flight, even if it's on another carrier."
  • Memorize your airline's rule about when it give you an airline-paid hotel room. Most major carriers will give you one night lodging for "schedule irregularities," such as the plane being broken or the crew being over duty time limits, but never for weather delays.