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Be sure to keep close track of any flights you book

An article today from The Points Guy "5 tips for booking flights to Europe this summer when the EU reopens to vaccinated Americans" includes #4: Keep an eye on your reservation for unexpected changes.

Back in December, in a spate of unbridled optimism, I re-booked my 2020 Italy trip for this September. I also used United Mileage Upgrade Awards to snag (relatively) dirt cheap business class from/to San Francisco (SFO)/Frankfurt (FRA) and wait-listed for 1st between Portland (PDX) and SFO. The legs from/to FRA and Italy are code share economy on Lufthansa, not upgradeable. The economy legs are short; it's the 11.5--12 hours over the US and Atlantic that I cared about.

About a month ago I decided on a whim to check my booking. My last outbound leg from FRA to Bologna had disappeared. No notice from United, and my booking on the web site wasn't even flagged for attention. It just wasn't there. Lufthansa had discontinued that particular departure time. After some quality time on the phone with a United agent I got re-booked on a later flight, but my 3-hour connection is now seven hours.

Then a couple weeks ago I got a email from United: Congratulations, you're now 1st class from PDX to SFO. Seat 1B. Yea!

Except they didn't tell me they moved my flight, and my comfortable 3 hour outbound connection is now 2 hours. I had originally booked with about 3 hour connections to allow lots of time for delays, extra Covid vaccination/testing hoops, etc. Two hours is the minimum I would like to see.

Posted by
4557 posts

From my experience within Europe last year, you are likely to experience more changes, as your trip a some time off.

In November, my return flight from Spain to the U.K. was changed 7 times! It wasn’t just a time difference, the usually highly reliable EasyJet changed the flight frequency from twice a week to weekly, so I had a choice of adding or losing half a week. The flight times also changed by several hours. We only discovered the changes by logging into our account - we weren’t emailed.

Beware if travelling this year as this is likely to continue.

Posted by
3758 posts

I think the reason you aren't notified is due to it not being confirmed. Like a game, they need to move your booking somewhere before slotting it into its final place. This started to happen to me 2 years prior to covid. I don't think one flight I booked 8 or more months out stayed as booked....often with suboptimal alternatives. After those, I vowed I would only book 3 months in advance, but never got the chance to try that tactic. However, when major changes to my bookings happened, I was always able to phone and get new flights for better scheduling, and on flights currently priced more. So the one (and sometimes only) advantage of booking way out was lower cost.
Last week, I had a September cruise changed to May 3 2021...yes, next week....but it was a holding date until they notified everyone that cruise had been cancelled and they were offering a specific alternative.
My tactic is to go back to the website, see my options for flight dates with current options, find one that I will accept and then phone for a rebook. These never cost me anything. Giving them the flight I am willing to take, rather than them search and offer, gets me what I can accept with less time for both. Let's accept that despite them being in a customer service job, sometimes they find it easier to just say 'this is your only option' than give you 5 alternatives that they have to search out.

Posted by
6612 posts

The old airline algorithms used to predict demand based on recent historical data went out the window with the covid hiatus when planes were grounded for almost a year. So, no surprises here with flight changes, cancellations, etc.

Even in normal times, it's best to always check if you're the kind of person who books very far in advance.

Posted by
5023 posts

Yes, we have had a number of flights booked, a couple domestic and now 3 Europe ones.

All of them (through Delta) saw changes, the ones out there, continue to, from minor to major. Our April Italy flight moved all over the map, with the Boston-FCO flight finally dropping off, just prior to a mutual cancellation.

Some of it will be due to reinstatement of flight routes. Our regional airport for example dropped the multiple daily CID-ATL flights, routing everything through MSP, with still a few flights to DTW. They are now adding routes, causing changes.

I just check every now and then, do not get excited about it, figure it will all work out. If something really outrageous happens, then I might call (Overnight layover, big change in cities, etc.) As it is, the scheduling programs are probably churning overtime, so best not to mess with your flight until closer to departure.

Posted by
3074 posts

Even relatively simple plans can get much more complicated by changes. I’m glad to hear the advice being given that more changes may occur, so to sit tight and to see what gives. That has been my reaction when United informed us that our July flight from BOS to SFO got changed from dep. 4 pm to dep 6 pm. Sounds like no biggie, but the earlier time would have gotten us in early enough to take rapid transit to a station near our home. The trains, gracias a covid, now stop running before we will arrival in SF; and the only way to get across SF Bay is a taxi or uber/lyft, probably $100 or more. I found a nice hotel with free shuttles to and from the airport AND free breakfast for $85. Since by then we’ll have adjusted to eastern time and it will feel like 12:40 am, that seems like the most relaxing alternative. If there is another change by United, I can always cancel the hotel. By now we should all be quite adept at coping with the unexpected.

Posted by
827 posts

I have 2 trips booked. One to Portland and one to Keflavik.

My Portland return flight was changed without notification at 4 weeks out. It was changed from one layover to two layovers. I found another one layover flight and called and asked them to change it.

Now my flight to KEF (9 weeks out) was just changed from a 2 hour layover to an 8 hour layover. Ugh!