What the Airline Companies Don’t Want You To Know

Flying is one of life’s great pleasures and privileges. But it can also be a pretty big headache. The excitement of landing in a far-flung locale ready to explore is often tempered by the many concerns that go along with air travel these days: Will I get bumped? Will my carry-on fit? Will my checked bags make it? Will I miss my connection? The reality is flying is a lot less glamorous than it used to be. And airlines aren’t necessarily doing anything to make it better. In fact, air travel is poised to get even less enjoyable than it already is. But fret not! Refinery29 asked travel experts for their tips to help make your next trip a breeze. Read on for our favorite takeaways.

1. Air Fares Are Going Up 

It may be true that the cost of flying has decreased over the past 20 years, but fares don’t include many of the things they used to. We all said goodbye to free checked bags long ago. But according travel writer Joe Brancatelli, fares don’t even always include the basics like a guaranteed seat or a carry-on bag. All told, when you compare “the price of a flight in 1975 to one today, prices increase some 35% for the cheapest flight possible.” If you want to get the best deal, “you can’t just look at the fare anymore,” Brancatelli points out. Make sure you’re looking at the entire cost of the trip: the fare, the baggage fees, etc. And if you want to make sure you’re paying the lowest price possible, buy your ticket 54 days before your flight – that’s when your fare is likely to cost the least according to CheapAir.

2. Airlines Lose a Lot of Bags 

The number of lost bags has decreased since 2007. Nonetheless, “airlines mishandled 21.8 million bags” in 2013. And if the airline does lose your bag, you can expect to receive a mere $25 to $50 in compensation. The solution? Keep track of your bag yourself. Bill Rinehart, CEO of the luxury travel service DUFL, recommends using a tracking device such as a Tile. It’s smaller than a credit card, and can be easily tossed into your bag. You may still have to live in your sweats for a couple of days, but at least you won’t have the added stress of wondering where your bag is.

3. Bag Fees Are Increasing 

You’d be surprised by how much airlines make off of baggage fees alone. For example, according to Rinehart, “United States airlines made about $3.35 billion on checked bags in 2013.” What to do? You can opt for one of the few airlines that offers free checked bags, such as Southwest. But if you find yourself flying with one airline most of the time, try “getting a credit card tied to the frequent flier program,” Brancatelli suggests. For a small fee, members typically get “priority boarding, free checked bags, and a shot at a better seat,” says Brancatelli. It’s cheaper than paying for each of these “amenities” on every flight you take.

4. Seats Are Getting Smaller 

It might seem impossible, but airline seats are shrinking. According to Brancatelli, the Boeing 787 was originally meant to seat eight people across, but “then, it went to nine seats across. Meanwhile, seat pitch, or the space between rows, used to be at a standard of on average 34 inches. Now, it’s 30, or sometimes, even 29.” Sadly, paying for a more expensive seat is probably the only thing you can do to get more space. But in the summer, you may be able to score a first-class or business-class seat for much less than you would during other times of the year. The reason? “Business travelers travel much less in the summer, so business class seats are empty during July and August,” Brancatelli says. While these seats tend to get more expensive again in the fall, you can get more legroom, access to the lounge, and other amenities, for just a little more money.

For more travel tips to help you get through your next flight, head over to Refinery29.

What do you do to make air travel more enjoyable? Tell us in the comments below!