2. "Our air may make you sick." The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether potentially harmful fumes have been circulating in airplane cabins. Between 1999 and 2008, air became contaminated on 926 flights, reports the FAA, without specifying any possible health risks. Currently, the agency is looking at a particular type of "fume event" that involves "bleed air," or air that's been compressed by the airplane's engines. If there's a malfunction in plane equipment, the air that's fed into the cabin can be contaminated with chemical residues from engine oil—specifically TCP, or tricresyl phosphate. "Passengers may have symptoms like tremors," says Clement Furlong, a research professor of genome sciences and medicine at the University of Washington. So far, federal reviews of the research have been inconclusive about whether bleed air actually endangers the health of passengers and flight crews, though two civil lawsuits about fume events are under way.
3. "That nonstop flight you booked? We can add a layover to it—without explanation." Think you scored a sweet fare on that transcontinental flight? Think again. You may be making a previously unscheduled layover. Airlines can cancel your nonstop and rebook passengers onto flights with connections, which are obviously less desirable. Advises Brett Snyder, author of and a former pricing analyst at America West: As soon as you find out that your nonstop flight has been canceled, check to see if there's another nonstop option. If there is, call the airline and ask—nicely—to be put on it. But if nonstop service on the route has disappeared, threaten to switch to another carrier for the trip. Major airlines will typically agree to refund your money without any fees if you refuse to accept a new, multistop flight that will arrive at your destination more than two hours later than you were originally scheduled.
4. "We wouldn't tell you right away if there's an emergency." The FAA leaves it up to the airline to decide if it wants to tell passengers about an engine failure or other significant crisis. And many flight crews opt to keep their lips sealed. The reason? Flight crews don't want to scare passengers or say something they'll regret later. "In one recent emergency, the cockpit crew was faulted for making a public announcement before some of the required procedures were accomplished," explains Kent Wien, a pilot for a U.S. carrier. So attendants tend to err on the side of being secretive to avoid trouble. Last June, passengers traveling from Brussels to Newark on Continental Airlines were not informed when the captain died during the flight. The plane continued along its scheduled route with nary a peep from the rest of the crew, beyond a cryptic question: "Is there a doctor on board?"