In this month’s edition of our travel advice column, Check Your Baggage, we discuss who needs a second seat on an airplane. Also: airport changes, oxygen masks, bringing batteries on planes, and more.
Batteries on a Plane
Q. “Can I bring batteries on a plane?” —AP
A. Yes, you can bring batteries on planes, although how you pack them depends on the type of battery. The TSA’s “Can I Bring” search tool breaks it down for you: Dry batteries (your common household AA, AAA, C, and D batteries) are allowed in both carry-on and checked bags. Lithium batteries with 100 watt hours or less in a device are allowed in carry-on bags and checked bags, with some limits. Lithium batteries with more than 100 watt hours are only allowed in carry-on bags, under the same limits as above. Non-spillable wet batteries are allowed in carry-on bags with limits on quantity and size, and in checked bags with no restrictions. Spillable batteries are not allowed to be brought on the plane, except for those in wheelchairs.
Buying a Second Seat
Q. “What are the rules on size and weight before a heavy person needs to buy a second seat?” —EL
A. Rules for needing to purchase a second seat vary by airline; you can read our round-up of policies here.
As a general rule, most airlines require people who can’t fit in a single seat with the armrest down to buy a second seat, but enforcement is varied.
Q. “Hi, I just read your column on flight changes. I have twice booked a flight out of San Francisco airport, and the flight was changed to depart from Oakland airport. I’ve had gate changes, flight changes, even terminal changes … but flying out of a different county? Alaska Air did this twice, and both times blamed FAA, and didn’t even offer a comp cocktail for the diversion and inconvenience. Is this common? Does a passenger have any recourse?” —JH
A. Good news: Changing the airport from which a flight departs falls under the Department of Transportation’s schedule change rule, which states “a passenger is entitled to a refund if the airline made a significant schedule change and/or significantly delays a flight and the passenger chooses not to travel.”
If you don’t want to cancel your flight, you should be allowed to change to a different flight flying out of your originally scheduled airport, but you’ll need to call your airline to make the change.
As for your specific case, I reached out to Alaska Air and a representative responded: “Airport changes can happen, especially when Air Traffic Control (ATC) delays get severe. If a guest doesn’t want to travel from a newly-designated airport, we’ll work with them on new arrangements—and waive fees.” So you should be able to get on a new flight from your original airport without penalty.
Dizziness After Disembarking
Q. “I took a flight recently and was terribly dizzy every time I moved my head or lay down afterwards. Can flying cause vertigo?” —CT
A. You know that feeling you get when the airplane is taking off or landing, when you feel like your ear needs to pop? That’s called barotrauma, and it happens when the air pressure in your middle ear and outside aren’t in equilibrium, which can cause pain, reduced hearing, or even vertigo. This sensation usually goes away once the plane levels out or lands; or you can yawn, chew gum, or pinch your nose while gently blowing with your mouth closed to help speed along the pressure equalization.
If you’re still dizzy after you land, you should go see a doctor, as rare, severe cases of barotrauma could require surgery.
When Do Oxygen Masks Deploy?
Q. “I watched the scary footage of the recent Hawaiian Airlines flight where smoke filled the cabin, but it didn’t look like the oxygen masks came down. Why not?” —MT
A. Although it would be terrifying to be stuck on a smoky plane, seeing the oxygen masks deploy in the midst of smoke might be scarier. Oxygen can accelerate fires, so according to a statement from Hawaiian Air, the crew didn’t want to add oxygen into the plane cabin if there was a fire causing the smoke.
In Search of Warm Weather
Q. “I’m not ready for cold weather yet. Where should I go in November that’s going to be warm?” —SC
A. November is the perfect time to get away somewhere warm—hurricane season is coming to a close in the Caribbean, shoulder season makes other not-yet-chilly destinations affordable, and school is back in session so you don’t have to fight with families for space on the beach. My recommendation? Buenos Aires, where average temperatures reach a comfortable high of 76 in November, the city is relatively empty, and the famous purple flowering trees are in bloom.
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Got a burning travel question you want to see answered in next month’s column? Do you vehemently disagree with my answers to this month’s questions? Comment below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Check Your Baggage.
Editor’s Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and length.
Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that oxygen is highly flammable. It has been corrected.
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