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18 Airline Industry Facts You Perhaps Never Knew Or Cared About

It’s tough being in the airline industry. Working for an airline is all I ever wanted to do. I got my feet wet in 1995 with Delta Air Lines (DL) as a ramp agent and a gate agent in Washington National Airport (DCA) and never looked back. Yup, it was not always called Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport; that happened in 1998. Some people are still not happy about that, but I digress.

I see comments about airlines sucking, charging fees [looked at your utility bill or car rental contract lately?] and losing bags and being delayed and while I understand people’s reactions, its weird to me…

Car Rental Fees at IND Airport
Car Rental Fees at IND Airport

I don’t think we really appreciate the airline/aviation industry as much as we should, so here are some facts to think about:

1). Yup, your bag will get lost at some point; its just the law of averages. And yes when its your turn, it suck! On the other hand, the vast majority of passengers arrive with their checked bags. I assure you the airline losing your bag is not intentional, unless perhaps you tick off the check-in agent, just kidding :-). It’s quite expensive to track your back and deliver it to you; but the classy airlines do it every day. It’s not the end of the world, just a slight detour. You just need to know what to do when your bag is lost/delayed. Remember to fill out a form before you leave the airport, remain calm, give them an address where you will be and they will find the bag if they can and deliver it to you. Also, when you check-in ensure that you see that your bag is tagged with the right tag. Good agents will re-iterate your destination to confirm it. Also, try to get to the airport early so they have enough time to get your bag to the airplane. Avoid really short connections on different airlines since it usually take a little longer for your bag to make that connection when you are connecting to a different airline.

Bags in a hotel lobby
Bags in a hotel lobby

2). There are a few thousand departures and landings every day all without incidents. This is a remarkable feat in and of itself. Pause for a moment to think about that. An airplane perhaps just flew over your head although you did not see it.

Singapore Airlines (SQ) Boeing 777-300ER landing at IAH
Singapore Airlines (SQ) Boeing 777-300ER landing at IAH

3). It’s truly amazing that an airplane can leave the gate on schedule and land on schedule. This is no small feat, so please be thankful. And yes, delays WILL happen. The Bureau of Statistics says that 80.11% of the flights from Jan to Nov 2015 were ontime. Sorry if you were on one of the 19.89%. If your flight is cancelled, typically you are entitled to a refund. You can find out what else you are entitled to from this post.

Airport Line in Newark-Liberty (EWR)
Airport Line for a shuttle bus in Newark-Liberty (EWR)

4). Weather happens. I’m sorry. There is a greater power. Only 0.62% was due to weather in that Jan to Nov 2015 timeframe.

Landing in Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
Landing in Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

5). The gate agent has a family too and don’t want to stay there and get yelled at by you. I’ve been yelled at a few times, just for saying hello; people are strange, you never know what will make them yell at you.

6). People are interesting; just watch on your next trip; and you can’t make everyone happy, even in the best of times.

Dog in Stroller
Dog in Stroller
Guy sitting in girlfriend's chair in LAX
Guy sitting in girlfriend’s chair

7). The same people you are mad at may have commuted long distances and live in crashpads, so you can take that vacation you planned and your trip of a lifetime, appreciate them as it goes further than complaining. The people who work in the airline industry do it as they love it; not because of the money. It’s a thankless job.

8). Yes, there are bad employees, no different than your current workplace

9). You’d get upset too if you’re asked the same question by everyone, everyday, every moment of the day :-). Use the airline-provided tools to help you through your journey. Download the Apps for your phone, use them to check-in, set alerts, etc. This is the reason they are designed.

10). Be respectful; bite your tongue, write a letter and complain if you have an issue, be succinct, trust me, you will get much better results.

11). There’s a science to airline food, unfortunately, its not an exact science. Some airplane meals are better than others. Choose your airlines wisely.

Singapore Airlines Breakfast
Singapore Airlines Breakfast

12). Be loyal. In the airline industry (and in any industry), loyalty pays. Typically, you get what you pay for. If you want more, pay more. A $99 fare to fly 2,500 miles in a metal tube, does not even start to pay for any portion of your flight. Plus you are perhaps paying $500/night for a room on the other end. Does not compute at times :-). Then you tell your friends how you scored a deal. Cool, but think about the others at the end of that deal. I have a deals email that is sent when there are deals available and I let you know if the deal is worth it. Check it out.

13). Yes, the airlines can do better; some do, some don’t. Find the ones that do and fly them more. Don’t fly the ones that don’t and complain as that’s just counter productive. Research what you are buying before you buy it. Here’s an example of an airline that excels with service.

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Amenity Kit
Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Economy Class Amenity Kit

14). Bad service will happen, its the nature of the transportation industry. Any service-based industry really. I hate bad service just like the next person, but there are ways to correct it. Yelling is not one of them.

15). We are a forgetful bunch. I’ve left lenses, jackets, check book (back in the days) and even my computer onboard a plane. At train stations, we leave umbrellas behind the most, on airplanes, its car keys; really hard to return, but some airlines try anyways. Most airlines have a lost and found page. First check with the gate agent if you are still at the airport, then head to the Web site and fill out a report. If they find it and can identify it, it will be returned to you. Here are two examples: British AirwaysDelta Air Lines | United Airlines.

16). Yes, travel is stressful. It used to be better. I’m sorry. TSA Pre is how it used to be; its not the greatest thing since slice bread. Get over it. Global Entry and similar services around the world serves to help with the stress that travel brings.

17). Many, many dedicated people are behind that ticket you hold in your hand. That gate agent for the 5:15a flight, probably got up the same time you did or earlier. So chill and be nice.

18). The check-in podium is a “no whining zone.” Please make a note of it!

So the next time you get on a plane, say hello, how are you, how’s your day. There are many others you can’t and will never see who made your flight possible. And when you land, thank the pilot and crew as they just saved your life!

What say you? Please leave a comment below. What have you seen on your travels?

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