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What to Do if an Airline Changes Your Flight Plan

NEW YORK (AP) — It's the ultimate travel bait and switch. You book a ticket on a non-stop flight but the airline cancels it a few weeks later, leaving a computer to automatically rebook you. Your new itinerary includes a layover, turning a five-hour trip into an eight-hour journey. ( Plus d'info...

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"Schedules flexible to stay profitable" Damned passengers, they are such a problem.
Michael Fuquay 0
This is exactly what happened to me last month! I was moved from an afternoon flight to an evening flight. No reasons, explanations, nothing. What really fired me up though, was that the previous flight wasn't cancelled! It still took off on time with my empty seat! United stinks!
jmilleratp 0
They should certainly have a system where travelers are notified immediately of the change, are told what the flight they will be switched to, and shown other options in case they want a different flight.
John Hale 0
That happend to me about 4yrs ago on Continental. Booked a round trip Houston to nashville. Because the flight were on erj-145's and I'm 6'2" I wanted as much legroom as I could get so I booked early and got 1A for both flights. Well a little over a month after I booked the flight they droped it and put me on the flight before my original and got stuck in the back and when I called they said they couldn't move me back to 1A because it was already booked. So I understand what there saying it does suck sometimes.
Gene Nowak 0
Happened to me also on a convention trip to San Diego. Lost the additional registration fee paid for a special session I wanted to attend.

Maybe we need a little more regulations in this deregulated industry. How about a flat $1,000.00 penalty payment to every passenger that is bumped or rescheduled, including children. If you like it, write your Congressman.
sparkie624 0
Working in maintenance, I have been the cause of Cancellations... I mean really people, do you want to fly on a plane that Can't Navigate, Leaks all the Hydraulic Fluid from the plane. Maybe we should get a plane with all of these people, tow them to the runway since they can't taxi. Line them up and let the go.... Most cancellations are due to weather or maintenance. I have worked the Line, and Maint. Control. I have never seen a plane cancelled due to a non profitable flight. If the crew got in late, or no crew available due to a sick call... What do you want them to do! Maybe an unlicensed passenger can fly the plane.
Daniel Baker 0
@sparike624 -- your point is worth mentioning, but I think the article (and complaints above) are when the airline makes a schedule change weeks (or months) before the trip, purely as the result of a chance in schedule/business plan rather than any operational issue.
Michael Fuquay 0
Exactly, Daniel! This is happening, possibly months before departure, with nothing but headaches for the paying customers.
Sparkie624, if you tow the airplane to the runway since they can't taxi, then how do you line them up and let them go???
I'm surprised you're in maintenance since you obviously can't read and decipher anything. READ THE ARTICLE AGAIN, MAINTENANCE ISSUES DON'T HAPPEN MONTHS PRIOR TO FLIGHT!!!
Chris Bryant 0
Personally, I'd hate to be a dispatcher for the airlines. What a painful, thankless job that must be. And if your crystal ball is off just a bit... Woe be unto you!
lou nagy 0
**RE: IN THE CASE W/UAL. Not so long ago, soon after the announcement from BA about their new NS svc from DEN to LHR, UAL decided to pull out of that market offering ONLY connxs. IF I WERE a customer in that market and from all the previous HUPLA and my NS was xld, I WLD EITHER "DEMAND" a refund or to be reacommadated on BA'S NS service. A connx wld be UNACCEPTABLE! AFTER ALL; THEY ADVERTISED THIS NEW N/S SERVICE, I PAID FOR THAT, AND THAT IS WHAT I WANTED. If that airline CANT deliver what they said, then i would go elsewhere; such as BA'S N/S svc. Before the arrival of their N/S svc, i could have gone w/AA thru connxs, DL w/connxs; then, CO (before the merger) w/connxs. IN THIS CASE, the airline (UAL) was wrong; NO, the public was wrong for not STICKING UP FOR THEIR WRIGHTS! THANKS.
kevin swiss 0
Your best bet is to call the Airline and try to negotiate a different route/flights. If you have status on that airline, you get better help and options, if not, good luck being a number to them.
Gotta be flexible and go with the flow. During snow in IAH, was routed thru 6 different flights in 45 minutes thru 3 hubs (1-IAH, 2-DEN, 3-ORD), last one worked that day - got lucky and watched the local monitors for problems.
Victor Engel 0
A solution to keep this from happening is to offer nonrefundable tickets. Planes are overbooked because people don't show up. Then they shuffle things around to fill the planes up as much as possible, etc. If tickets were nonrefundable, then they wouldn't be able to do this, and you'd be guaranteed your place on the plane. People won't go for this, though. The ability to change plans is too valuable.

I was going to say that I usually fly SWA in order to avoid this type of situation, but then I remembered an incident where I was sending my wife off on a SWA flight. As usualy, they issued boarding passes in numerical order and boarded the plane in the three groups. The plane wasn't filled up, so they offered people on the next flight to board this flight if they wanted to. There were a few takers.

The plane left the gate, and in about 5 minutes returned again. Nobody deplaned, but they allowed even more people from later flights on if they wanted.

This happened one more time, and then 15 minutes later, there was an announcement that there was an issue with the landing gear that needed to be looked at and everyone would deboard. Boarding passes were issued as people deboarded and were told the boarding passes would be used to board the replacement plane orderly.

The replacement plane was located in Houston and would take about an hour to arrive, so people were encouraged to go to the cafeteria and get a snack.

Right after we sat down with cherry pie, there was another announcement. A replacement plane was found locally and was immediately available for boarding (at the next gate over). First come, first served. There was a stampede to the gate area, as they apparently forgot they'd issued the boarding passes.

Everyone ended up getting to their destination with the number of stops they were expecting and arrived only about 10 minutes or so late.
Tom Richardson 0
Here's the most obnoxious part of the article:

"The airlines say such schedule changes are necessary to keep their operations flexible and profitable."

If I, as a passenger, need to change my schedule as "necessary to keep [my] operations flexible and profitable" as my business needs dictate, it costs me a change fee that can be over $100. Yet the airline can change my schedule and the schedules of 100s of other passengers to fit it's business needs with little to no recourse owed to its customers.
Jay Link 0
This spring, JAL changed our destination airport 10 days after we paid. When we complained, they blamed the changes on the Sendai earthquake, although none of the airports involved were affected by the quake.

@Tom Richardson -- It's the Golden Rule: those that have the gold make the rules. Banks and CC companies pull similar scams, in terms of late fees only applying to the user, and being able to change the terms at any time, even if you already have a balance that was made under previous terms.

@Victor Engel -- Aren't most tickets non-refundable?

@Gene Nowak -- Right on!
Victor Engel 0
@Jay, maybe non-refundable was the wrong word. And no. Many tickets are refundable. But maybe I should have added non-changeable. Suppose you miss your flight for whatever reason. In most cases that I'm aware of, you get credit for the ticket your purchased that can be applied to a new ticket. The point of my comment was to give the airline predictability. Currently, if the computer shows 100 tickets purchased for a specific flight, it's unlikely those 100 tickets will actually be used. If they were non-refundable/non-changeable the way I intended to describe them, the airlines wouldn't have to worry if the passengers showed up or not. They still get their revenue.

Like I said, this scenario will never happen. The point is that the airlines are doing a bit of gambling or statistical modeling or however you want to describe it in order to optimize capacity on the planes. If they stop using that model, they'll have to jack up ticket prices to compensate.
In defense of mechanics everywhere, I would like to apologize for "sparkie's" uninformed comments I would hope he simply misread the article, and perhaps had just come of a long shift and was tired.

As to the basic problem, I realize airlines are struggling to remain profitable in difficult times. (Yes, they have to remain profitable to stay in business. That's the way it works, isn't it?) Still, though, they do need to become more sensitive and pro-active to their customers' concerns. After all, the flying customer is their prime source of revenue, and irritating your paying clientele is never a good idea.

Years ago, when airlines operated under the regulatory rules of the old Civil Aeronautics Board, they lived in something of an ivory tower world where they could offer many customer perks for (essentially) free, without having to worry too much about profits. Then came deregulation, increased competitive pressures (both domestic and foreign), corporate raiders, labor issues, difficult economic times, and ever-increasing labor and fuel prices. In many cases, the airlines' response was foolishly naïve, leading to even more financial problems. Increased insistence on "i"-dotting and "t"-crossing issues by the FAA (brought on in many cases, admittedly, by the airlines' lack of attention to regulatory details), increased security concerns (not really the airlines' fault), sometimes poor choices in new aircraft purchases (the cheapest one is seldom the best one!) increased operating and maintenance costs, and sometimes ill-thought-out responses to media-led "public pressure" created even more problems.

Now, we see the result of this combination of changing circumstance and poor business practice. The airlines react to decreased profits by charging more and more for basic services, leading to more people decidning not to fly, causing decreases in passenger miles, and leading to even lower profits. Attempts to "cut costs" by lowering employee wages and benefits results in poorer employee performance, incrasing costs even more. Archaic business models, inefficient flight scheduling, poor employee relations, and tunnel vision on the "bottom line" create more problems. Now we are seeing airlines merge into "super-airlines", creating an even more insular business environment where passengers and employees are simply numbers on a spreadsheet.

I don't really have a solution to the problem. It's a very complex situation, and it's out of my pay-grade! Maybe it's time for the airlines to stop being run by accountants and lawyers, and get some real "airplane" people in the executive levels again. It couldn't hurt, and who knows - maybe it would help?
It happened to my wife and I, too. We solved the problem. DRIVE or don't go.
Of course being retired helps.
It happened to my wife and I, too. We solved the problem. DRIVE or don't go.
Of course being retired helps.
RLevy 0
Charter is always an option. There are lots of charter operators flying small aircraft that can be just as affordable as airfare if you fill most of the seats. Scheduling is entirely up to the passenger, weather and maintenance are the only delays, and you get to keep your shoes (and dignity).
Gary Paquette 0
Air Taxi is the way to go... Cheaper than charters, most are new airplanes. Like a taxi flexible schedule for anything under 2 hours. Plus you get the plane to yourself or a few colleagues or friends added. I am platinum wit Continental and Gold Elite with US Airways. The days of good services is gone. The greyhounds of the sky... in fact Greyhound is better you still get movies!
Jerilyn Nikiel 0
Since when does Delta offer refunds to passengers who don't arrive within 90 minutes of their originally scheduled time? I'd be rich if that were the case! Late, but rich.
David Renfroe 0
And the Airlines can't figure out why Corporate Aviation is thriving
Ralph Addison 0
Of course, its all about profits for any corporation. Yet airlines are going to the extreme in charging for everything now, expect SWA. Our government needs to start regulating airlines and other key industries again. My son flys Delta at least twice weekly and they treat him like royal, well almost. They make there money on these type travelers.
AWAAlum 0
What a bunch of babies. Things happen! You all sound like airlines change flights and do what they can to rebook you and get you to your destination just for giggles. Think they enjoy the bad press? Grow up and appreciate the fact they put aircraft safety ahead of your tender feelings.
jack haley 0
For MACGSO; sure sounds like you identified the problem. It is poor management! Been going on for years and, unfortunately, not enough of the SOBs failed to make room for the ones with good management and effective leadership. What is so different about JetBlue and SWA? Good, effective management and leadership, that's what. We need more of the legacy carriers to fail and be put out of their (and our) misery. New players who provided value could then enter the field and try their hand at making a buck while providing value to the guy who pays for it all... you and me, the customer.
joncon25 0
I booked my wife and me, and another couple on a Continental flight from EWR to Athens and using our FF mileage to upgrad to Business Class about 6 months prior to the scheduled flight. Continental suspended their Non-Stop to Athens and confirmed the four us only to Rome, with connecting flights out of Rome.

We had a change of planes and airlines. My wife and I were on Alitalia and our friends on Olympus. All of us were now in coach! My wife's leg was in a brace and in a wheelchair. We recieved no assistance down the 2 ramps to the aircraft, (I was told that I would have to go back to the main ticket counter to make wheelchair assist arrangments and go through security again). Alitalia booked her a middle seat, whereas I got the window seat. She could not bend her leg, and the F/A could care less.

We finally got a young American student who offered to give up her aisle seat for my wife. No one, and I mean NO ONE offered any assistance. Customer Service? An oxymoron! No longer a fan of Continental, or of Alitalia, their gate personnel and F/A's.

Jeraboam 0
We saved up our Aeroplan points and splurged on our first time travelling first class on Air Canada from Toronto to Ireland. A few months after receiving our e-mail flight confirmation, we received what appeared to be a duplicate version which had one minor change in the seat allocation. A phone call confirmed that the airline had decided to switch planes and the replacement was an unconverted version with no first class suites, just business class seats. We were now seated across an aisle , not side by side and I had no adjoining seat. After boarding, the adjoining seat (which was not on the manifest) surfaced beside me. Neither seat would fully recline, the sound system was either full blast or mute, the video was a bulkhead screen seven rows ahead and displayed a washed out B-movie. Service and food were superb and my wife's fully reclining single window seat was the most comfortable she has ever had; mine was miserable!!! Six months and numerous phone calls and e-mails later, we received a token 20% discount code for our next Air Canada flight. when we tried to use it on line for another flight to Europe, it was not recognised by the system!!! At least my wife enoyed her only flight in business class...
Ralph Addison 0
Folks, airlines are not service oriented anymore. It about how much money they can suck out of you. Profits
pnschi 0
It's the usual hypocritical behavior of business in this country, and the airlines are among the worst. If you don't show up for one leg, they have the right to cancel your entire trip, since the remaining leg is not "the product" they sold you. But then they can turn around and unilaterally provide your with "a product" that you didn't buy. I know some of you will whine about "job killing regulation" when I say this, but wouldn't be reasonable to have government impose some equality between business and individual here? For example, if an airline provides you with "a product" other than the one you bought at a specific price, due to their own fault or choice, they should have to provide you with substantial compensation for the difference.
Roger Tener 0
I found it interesting that the article had a quote "If the economy becomes markedly worse, fuel costs remain high and business travel demand slackens". I wonder if the airlines realize that the days of flying from everywhere to everwhere every hour is a thing of the past. Business is realizing that airlne travel is no longer in thier best interest.

The ability do business while in flight, travel at the most convient time and often able to land at airports much closer to the job site (especially if you are flying in a King Air) make non-airlne flying much more attractive.

We will know when the airlines figure this out when the airlnes "attack" General Aviation in an attempt to bring back the corporate travel.
Randy Brown 0
My similar experiance was on a trip to Virginia for a high school reunion. Frontier airline cancelled the return flight months prior but did not notify us. We showed up at the ticket counter for the return trip and it was empty. Empty except for the dozen or so stranded passengers who were not informed of the change. WITHOUT informing anyone there they secretly changed our flight from Sunday to Monday. Costing us a nights hotel and a days lost wages. USAir got us a morning flight Frontier would have held us hostage on a standby basis 24 hours. Frontier could have notified us as we left Denver. With 3 days notice we still could have gotten out on time. The "screw you" attitude displayed by Frontier has kept me safely off their planes ever since.

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