The truth behind 5 travel myths — including the reason you should always shower before a flight

There are a lot of myths about flying. On the other hand, some stories that seem really outlandish can turn out to be true.

Let’s sort out a few of these fascinating legends. Who knows, this might save you from being asked to leave a plane someday.

1. Are passengers required to maintain a standard of hygiene?

Most folks would agree that flying is more pleasant with a hygienic seatmate, but are passengers required to maintain a standard of hygiene? Yes, say many airlines, including Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest, Spirit and United, all of which have clauses on the topic in their contracts of carriage. According to American’s rules, one must “be respectful that your odor isn’t offensive.” Delta warns that a personal stench “risks offense or annoyance to other passengers” while United bans anyone with a “malodorous condition.” One big exception: If a traveler’s distinctive smell is the result of a qualified disability, they are allowed board.


2. Can someone open a door on a plane?

While it’s a good idea to keep your eyes on anyone who would attack an aircraft door, experts say you shouldn't worry about it as long as the airplane is in flight, because the cabin pressure means the door cannot be opened. Note: You may have seen a recent story about a young woman who did somehow manage to open the door of a Cessna in flight, but that was a small, private plane. This cannot be done on a commercial jetliner.

Experts say you shouldn't worry about someone opening the plane door while the aircraft is in flight, because the cabin pressure would keep it shut.

Experts say you shouldn't worry about someone opening the plane door while the aircraft is in flight, because the cabin pressure would keep it shut. (iStock)

3. Why is flying always so expensive?

Well, that's not always the case. Take a look at these round-trip fares to Europe in October:

  • Boston to Madrid, $233
  • New York to Paris, $281
  • Chicago to Barcelona, $305
  • Los Angeles to London, $323


True, October is a cheap month to fly, but there are other cheap months (September, January, February, March) and lots of ways to make peak season travel less expensive (fly cheaper days of the week like Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday). When you buy matters too; never wait until the last minute or the fare will soar. We also suggest using a deal-finding tool, as we did on those October flights; you select a range of dates you’d like to travel, and the tool pinpoints the best deals during that period.

4. Airlines need to provide vouchers for delays or cancellations, right?

Sorry, it’s a myth that U.S. airlines need to offer vouchers for hotels and dining when something goes wrong with flights. Check out the Department of Transportation’s online publication Fly Rights, which states, “Contrary to popular belief, for domestic itineraries airlines are not required to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled.” But, what the heck, it never hurts to ask if an airline has vouchers — just ask nicely, since the airline reps have probably been dealing with a lot of angry passengers.


5. Do you always have to pay for checked bags?

You usually have to pay to check a bag, but there are exceptions: Bags can be free once you reach a certain status in your airline miles program (but this varies by carrier); bags can be free as a perk with certain credit card (if you’re not sure, check out your benefits online); and finally, two checked bags are always free on Southwest, providing you stay within their weight and size allowances. (Pro tip: I always go with a carry-on, because I like having my bag at my side. Won’t get lost, either.)