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First post-COVID International Flight - Is this the new normal?

My family recently returned from a 2+ week trip to Italy, the first international travel we've done since 2017. Italy was wonderful, of course, but our airline experience with Delta was dreadful. The airline rebooked our flight twice, and we had approximately 20 schedule changes between December and April. For the second rebooking, the airline placed my sister on a completely different flight from my husband and I. And of course the flights that we were rebooked to had to be changed because the schedule was far inferior to what we had originally booked, as were seat selections. I spent probably 7 hours on the phone with Delta fixing these issues relating to these rebookings. We also received a lot of conflicting information from Delta reps. We were told twice that gate agents could assist with upgrades and seat assignments, only to be told that no, they cannot, twice in two different airports.

We'd flown with Delta 4 times to Europe prior between 2012 and 2017. We had no issues or complaints whatsoever with those flights. So, to my question: is this the new normal for travel between the US and Europe, or were we just very unlucky?

Posted by
2516 posts

I personally didn't have that many schedule changes but I did have quite a few +/- 30 minute adjustments to my last two Delta flights (2022 and 2023). My 2022 flight was oversold and a human from Delta actually called me the day before my flight to see if I would be willing to change my route (I declined as I had a direct flight).

What route were you flying? Some airports in Europe have had to make many changes to flight schedules due to capacity issues, so it could be related to that and not just a Delta thing. Plus fuel prices, lack of staff, high demand, etc. all affect schedules. It is hard to say if you just had bad luck or if it's a new normal.

Posted by
18785 posts

I don't often fly Delta, so if it's specific to them I wouldn't know.

In the last 5 years I suspect I've flown US to Europe 15 times. That's 60 individual flight legs on maybe 6 airlines, but not Delta. I never had a schedule change of more than an hour or two or a seat change òr a lost bag (but I don't check bags more than 25% of the time).

Recently I did have a flight within Europe rescheduled to the next day, which worked better for me, by Air Serbia. And my flight from IST to Sydney left 3 hours late because the flight went over Iran at the time they were shooting missiles at Israel (my assumption of why). So I missed a connection and got put up at a 5-star hotel for the night n Kuala Lumpur courtesy of Turkish Air.

So I am a happy camper for the most part.

Posted by
7013 posts

I do think there are more flight delays and cancellations now that there used to be, but I would not limit it to Delta.

I've been flying Delta for years, including 3 overseas trips in the last 3 years. The only problem I had was the cancellation of a flight from AMS to MSP at the last minute in 2024 due to mechanical issues, but I was able to get a new flight out within 5 hours, and was promptly reimbursed for the delay, plus the cost for the Confort+ seat I lost, and 16k miles, so I was happy about that.

Posted by
2242 posts

I have had horrendous issues with Delta the last two years. Same issues, where one in our party kept getting dropped off, and then the flights being rebooked with horrendous itineraries, and the kicker is they sold me a ticket to a place they admitted they can't get us to. I have to say, I am absolutely dreading two upcoming trips with Delta due to all of this. If they pan out, even remotely close to what was booked, I will be relieved, but I am not holding my breath. FWIW, I have not had anything remotely like this with Icelandair or Alaska, which we use both them often.

Posted by
330 posts

I've had this problem with American. They were a real problem for a flight we booked to St. Vincent. Our original flight from SFO to Miami was a redeye, because the flight to St Vincent required us to be in Miami by about 9:00AM. They kept messing with the first flight, and then canceled it completely so that we had to spend the night in Miami a the airport hotel (NEVER do that!!!).

Then they messed with the departure flight from St. Vincent to Miami enough that they changed our outbound flight from St. Lucia - an entirely different country, though nearby on a map. When I called to point out we wouldn't BE in St.Lucia, the rep said we would only have an 1:45 in Miami, and couldn't make the passport transition fast enough. American needed two hours between flights.

So we were forced to bok another night in the godforsaken Miami airport hotel. Lo and behold, with the Global Entry, we were through passport control in Miami faster than TSA precheck in SFO, so could have easily made the original flight.

I believe all of this first-world misery was the result of buying the airline tickets so far in advance that American (and perhaps ALL airlines) has to constantly juggle their flight schedules to meet load demands and the availability of equipment at the cost of customer service.

Posted by
16902 posts

There definitely was a “new normal” when people started traveling in 2021; I recall reading many accounts of problems forum members had with flight cancellations, especially with British Airways. But I believe those issues have been cleared up. We have flown to Italy and back 3 times since the pandemic, each time with British Airways. A couple of flights were late, including one from London to SFO that earned us around $750 in compensation under EC 261. No complaints there.

They did cancel one flight, from bologna to London, and move us to a 7 am flight from the same airport. That was not acceptable to us, so we changed it to a flight out of Milan instead, and that worked out well.

I did have problems reaching customer service by phone in 2022; the hold times were an hour or more. but they have resolved that and each time I have needed to talk to someone the agent was very professional and helpful.

Posted by
107 posts

I find that Delta is the worst for changing schedules. Pre-pandemic they would change our domestic flights multiple times, some with wildly different schedules that were not convenient for us. It was particularly bad when my child was young and I planned our schedule carefully to manage naps and food times.

When we flew to Italy on Aer Lingus, we didn't have any of that. But I suspect that is because Aer Lingus has a limited flight schedule between the US and Europe.

Posted by
14251 posts

I've flown Delta 5 round trips since the Pandemic. I had one flight segment cancelled at the last minute, mechanical issues, and by the time I'd realized it they had already rebooked me on an itinerary thru SLC instead of Seattle and landing at a similar time in Spokane. I trust Delta's safety and maintenance records and to me that is the most important factor in deciding who I will fly.

Posted by
674 posts

Just a note - to insure (or at least minimize the possibility ) that parties are not separated when airlines make aircraft or schedule changes seek to book everyone at the same time under the same confirmation number and receipt. With separate confirmation numbers some airlines are willing to merge passenger info but are not obligated to maintain itineraries. It can be quite unsettling when the best plans are torpedoed by service interruptions.

Posted by
11488 posts

Delta is not an option for most of our travel, so my comments are limited, but as Lola said, things changed a bit starting in 2021 for us with fewer changes now. Still, since we book 330-odd days out using miles, a change or two is inevitable. It can be a 5 minute schedule adjustment or a complete change of equipment which just happened on our British Air flight for Aug 31. Our seats were changed, not to my liking, but I was able to grab a better option as I acted as soon as I got the notice.

Posted by
930 posts

I believe all of this first-world misery was the result of buying the airline tickets so far in advance that American (and perhaps ALL airlines) has to constantly juggle their flight schedules to meet load demands and the availability of equipment at the cost of customer service.

Bingo! My belief / experience as well, and the last time I booked tickets to Europe before the pandemic (so this is not just something that is happening since the start of the pandemic), tickets I bought in July 2019 for December 2019, I had the same experience of multiple shifting schedules, nothing too major, but still I had to pay attention and also had to call them to change our domestic connection that got drastically shortened to not allowing enough time between flights.

As a result, since that happened to me in 2019, I no longer buy tickets for Europe with domestic or European connections that far in advance (more than 3 months). I monitor prices on google flights, get a feel for them, and hold off until maybe 2 months prior, rarely longer, and often shorter - a couple of weeks in advance - too. I once bought tickets one week prior to departure, and pricing was no higher than it had been months prior - I wasn't playing Russian roulette with that late purchase, it was a spur of the moment trip, and I acknowledge that we got lucky in that one case. But I have never been "burned" on price by waiting until much closer to the time of the trip than most people here report doing. Some folks here buy tickets a year in advance, and I just can't see the sense in doing that.

Posted by
1481 posts

We've been flying Delta to Italy once or twice a year for many years and I will risk jinxing myself to say, with only very minor changes of schedules both before and after COVID. We flew six of us back and forth without any problems before and after Christmas last year, except they misplaced my suitcase at the Minneapolis airport on the way home for about an hour, then delivered it to our house. Our layovers are almost always in Amsterdam, sometimes Boston --- I don't know if that makes any difference to our better experience with Delta. KLM between AMS and Italy. I hope you have good luck next time!

Posted by
594 posts

Just flew Alaska Airlines from a small regional airport to Phoenix, AZ. Both flights (1 to Seattle and one from Seattle to Phoenix) to Phoenix were changed, making me arrive much later in the evening. Then on the way home both flights were changed so I don’t think it’s just Delta. I have always had a high regard for Alaska, but hadn’t flown them for a while. Apparently, they’re just like every other airline now.

Posted by
960 posts

I've had a number of European, Asian, and domestic flights post - covid as things opened up, 2020 or so forward. None on Delta, but United, American, several different Asian and European carriers.

When ever I have booked "far" in advance, say 6 months or more, the schedules have changed. Luckily, very little for me. Anything I've booked closer to departure, roughly 4 months or more as flown as scheduled.

Full agreement with the several others noting that time to departure is a major factor. Lots of moving parts for all carriers that only solidify closer to departure dates.

Posted by
89 posts

Thanks for all of the replies, this is very helpful information for me as I am certainly hoping to fly to Europe again in the near future!

Posted by
224 posts

We recently flew Boston to Heathrow, and return flight from Heathrow to Seattle, on British Airways, and both flights were just fine - no changes or issues at all. Delta has some fixin' to do. What you have described does indeed sound dreadful.

Posted by
184 posts

We made reservations in March for flights to and from Munich in October. I fully expected by booking this far out there would be changes. And there have been. Our first flight from our regional airport was changed last week from first flight out to second flight out. I called and changed it back to first flight out which was 6 a.m. (We took this flight in April.) I did have an unforeseen problem as changing the first flight cancelled out our main cabin extra seats that I'd paid for. So I had to buy my seats all over again. And I cannot apply for a refund for the cost of my original flights until after I return home from my trip. I try to check flights at least once a week for changes so if I need to adjust any portion I am onto it in a timely manner. I will not be the least surprised to find another change at any time. The flights are with American Airlines.

On a side note. We've had two trips to Europe since covid, all on American. American Airlines has always been helpful, cheerful and a pleasure to work with from the reservation agents, gate agents, and flight attendants. My Dad worked for United at a small airport so I'm always respectful and polite to them as I know it is the right thing to do and sometimes that pays off in the long run when a favor is needed. Oh, and I have not observed any obnoxious passengers at any airport or on any flights.

Happy Travels and may all flights go smoothly (and I don't mean just no turbulence).

Traveler Girl

Posted by
1837 posts

I think schedule changes, cancellations, and the like are common across most carriers. I've had issues in the past year with AeroMexico and Emirates where I had to rebook after flights were changed.

I try to make lemonade out of the lemons. Think of it as a game. How many changes will you have to endure? And how smoothly will you resolve the complications?

Flights aren't the only things that can change and require you to be flexible or improvise. Stay organized with your trip details so you can keep track of things that change and not get befuddled.