9 dirty little secrets of the travel industry

(Photo: Confidential Folder via Shutterstock)

It's not all glossy brochures and white-sand beaches out there. Here are nine dirty little secrets that airlines, rental-car companies, cruise lines and others don't want you to know. Hint: "Don't drink the water" is good advice in more places than you might think.

Airlines Lie About Estimated Arrival Times

How many times has your plane taken off late only to "make up the time" in the air and arrive on schedule? Turns out, your pilot might not be speeding through the sky: Airlines often say a flight will take longer than it really does in order to inflate their on-time-arrival stats.

Why is this a problem? Because flights that are actually on time (as in, flights that do not use those extra minutes) may have to wait longer for a gate, since they tend to arrive earlier than scheduled. According to USA Today, the average scheduled flight time in 2012 was longer than it was in 1995 on 93 percent of domestic routes — and that's not because planes are slower.

(Photo: Budget Desk at Airport via Songquan Deng/Shutterstock.com)
There Are Really Only Three Rental-Car Companies in America

Think you have lots of choices when it comes to selecting a rental car? Think again. There are actually only three major rental-car companies in America — and those big three control 94 percent of the market. No wonder rental-car prices are pretty much the same from company to company. Are you now trying to name all the ones you've seen ads for? Most of them are actually part of the same companies: Avis owns Budget and Zipcar, Hertz owns Dollar and Thrifty, and Enterprise owns Alamo and National.

(Photo: Old Airplane via Shutterstock)
Your Plane Is Probably Old

While boarding a flight these days, you're more likely to be greeted with an old plane than a shiny new one. According to The Airline Monitor, the average age of the major airlines' fleets (including American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest, United and US Airways) is about 14 years old. If you're looking for a new ride, avoid American and Delta, which were found to have the oldest planes (16 years old, on average).

Don't worry too much, though. A plane's age is more likely to affect your comfort than your safety. Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia told CNN, "From a safety standpoint, a lot of the older planes were built tougher, and with proper maintenance, there's no reason why a plane can't stay safe for 25 to 30 years."

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