In the film, the arrival of the rescue helicopters comes as an overwhelming surprise to the survivors in the fuselage. In real life, they actually heard in the news on their radio that Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa had reached safety. The survivors then prepared for the arrival of the rescuers by putting on the best clothes they could find, and even brushing their teeth and combing their hair.
During their westward trek out of the mountains, Canessa tells Nando he sees a road to the east; nevertheless they continue towards the west. A 2005 expedition recreating their journey from the crash site confirmed that Canessa was actually correct and what he saw was indeed a road.
The cross shown in the end credits is not the real cross that stands at the burial place. You can see the real cross on the Wikipedia page for 1972 Andes Flight disaster. The cross and crash site are reachable in the South American summer via horseback. There are guided trips to the site. The cross is surrounded by items visitors have left in honor of the victims and the survivors - as well as parts of the wreckage of the plane.
A script for this story was kicking around Hollywood from 1981. The subject matter (cannibalism) and a schlocky Mexican adaptation Survive! (1976) (Survive!) were the two main factors for keeping it off the screen until 1993.
This film was the first co-production of Paramount Pictures and Touchstone Pictures, which would collaborate on five more films in the 1990s (three of which starred Nicholas Cage, two of which starred John Travolta, with one film starring both). Disney created Touchstone Pictures in 1984 in response to the normally family-friendly company receiving criticism for releasing several films that had themes that some considered inappropriate for a Disney film. One such film was 1981's "Dragonslayer", which was also co-produced by Paramount Pictures.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
For the critical scene in which the fateful decision to eat the dead is made, the actors involved all fasted for two days to give them a level of understanding of what the real survivors must have felt.
Director Frank Marshall was discussing the film on his car phone, when he was cut off by a truck with a bumper sticker that read "Rugby Players Eat Their Dead". Frank Marshall decided to make the film, saying "You have to go with those kinds of things."
The names of the people who died in the crash were changed for the film. There were three exceptions, Nando Parrado's mother and sister, Eugenia Parrado and Susana Parrado respectively, and Javier Methol's wife, Lilliana Methol.