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Shifting airline schedules

I booked my United Airlines flights to Europe this summer (May 28-July4) in early January because I wanted to get the schedules I wanted in each direction and use the fewest amount of miles (30K each way). It seems like every year I do this, they always change some part of the flight schedule, usually to my detriment. This time my flight to Lisbon is now arriving three hours later, and this morning I found out that they cancelled my flight coming back from Houston-Lubbock and put me on the last flight out, now arriving home at 11:15PM instead of 7:25PM like I originally booked. Fortunately I was able to get them to switch me to the second flight out of LHR instead of the first so I wouldn't have an 8-hour layover in Houston. I can't figure out any way to make the process less frustrating. I spend a huge amount of time when I'm planning my trip each year to base it around the optimal flights over and back since I have total freedom over when I can take my vacation. No matter how well I plan, it seems like the airlines always change their schedules and all my planning was for naught. So frustrating!!

Posted by
21644 posts

It is called being flexible. Sounds like you may be a very rigid planner. I learned a long time ago that if it is out of my control, I don't worry about it. Change happens. Try to make the best of it when it happens. At least your airplanes are flying. On our last trip, two flights in a row were cancelled. Lost two days and a connecting fare. Just have to roll with it,

Posted by
11280 posts

"I can't figure out any way to make the process less frustrating."

I don't think there is. We're all at the mercy of the airlines, and these days if a flight isn't full enough for them to deem it profitable, they drop it or change its schedule - leaving all of us holding the bag.

Good for you for catching these changes and being able to get them fixed!

Posted by
869 posts

Hi Bill- funny thing I saw your thread..... We experienced the same thing a few minutes ago.

I am going on a Amawaterway cruise end of May, flying into Chicago then on to Paris via United (because I have their credit card and used points for this trip). Then I am meeting up my Husband for the RS Barcelona and Madrid 8 day tour in June. My cruise trip ends up in Barcelona. He just came down stairs a few minutes ago and said he got an email from united that they changed his flight going over to Barcelona. We live in the Tulsa area, so we always have horrible connections anyway. Usually we can get a flight to Chicago from here and then a flight to our destination in Europe. Now looks like his flight was cancelled from Chicago to Barcelona. He has to go to Tulsa - Chicago - Dulles - Barcelona. Coming home we have to travel Madrid - Dulles - Chicago - Tulsa.

Arrggh. I feel your pain.

For us who live in smaller regional airport areas, we have to have more connections to Europe. Joys of Traveling!! :)

Kim

Posted by
6850 posts

The only way to make it less frustrating is to not get frustrated. Like you, I call the airline and try to get the second best choice. I'm glad to report that it has always worked itself out, and I've had multiple changes over the years. The airline will work with you and I've found that it takes getting the right person on the phone sometimes. If you hear a "no", then call back and try with someone else. Have your second best itinerary in mind (including flight numbers). It helps just to be as specific as possible...e.g. "Could you please put me on flight #"x" leaving at "y" and connecting at "z"....?" So you'll have to do research again and have all the info as your fingertips before you make the call.

If you have total freedom over when you take your vacations, consider yourself quite lucky. Lots of people get hit with changes that could impact their work schedule. Airlines actually don't guarantee a certain schedule...they only guarantee they'll get you there and back. Surprising, but true if you read the small print. They have lots of leeway to make changes.

Posted by
4339 posts

Bill, sounds like a lot of us unfortunately can relate. I just had it happen on Delta last week - cancelled my Malaga-to-Amsterdam flight but now no longer cover that route.

When they sent me their on-line feedback survey, I asked them to view the Seinfeld show on youtube - Car Reservation. "You can take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation. Anyone can take reservations. Keeping the reservation is the most important part."

Posted by
2058 posts

Yes, that is one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes-

hilarious!
Judy B

Posted by
2058 posts

Yes, that is one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes-

hilarious!
Judy B

Posted by
1928 posts

Airline staff (typically the more experienced supervisors) will tell you that schedules (and equipment) are not really firm until about 90, maybe 60 days, before departure.
The only thing you can do (as you have done, and I always do in similar circumstances) is call the airline, hold your own and get a better routing. And, negotiate from a position of strength by looking on the airline's web site to see what flights/seats are available. When you are inconvenienced, also negotiate overnight stays, meals, cost of a taxi home from the airport (if it means family/friends cannot pick you up due to late hours, conflicts with work, etc.). Hold your own within reason. Often extra FF mileage points can also be layered on top, depending on how outrageous you have been treated...such as if you spouse/travel companion has been routed on an entirely different plane/day (yes, that happened to us, and I just happened to notice it by clicking randomly on our reservations one evening).

Sometimes, you can negotiate an upgrade to Business Class, but that's usually only in the most outrageous of situations (such as when I was told that we were being changed because the flight no longer existed, yet I could see it was still available on line......lying to customers is never good.)

Yes, VERY frustrating. I always try to book two-leg journeys with specific seat formats, but seems more often than not, I get the dreaded email that routes me to Atlanta then to NY, then to the final destination. When the entry airport is Atlanta on the way home, I really cringe.

And, of course, if you don't like your re-routing at all, and if the routing changes by more than an hour or more (depending on the airline's specific policies that seem to vary by carrier), you can ask for an entire refund (but obviously one would want to be ready to instantly commit on another more attractive routing/price with another carrier (and then pray the same rerouting does not happen with that carrier).

Flying used to be fun, now it is just a necessity ;o

Posted by
3487 posts

At least they didn't just cancel one of the flights and not put you on another one. That happened to me.

How is all your planning now for naught? You are still getting there for the bulk of your vacation. How close are your timings on your travel arrangements??

How do I make things less frustrating? I don't book things so far in advance. Flights change. Sometimes multiple times. The closer to departure you book, the fewer times things can change. Also, I don't worry so much about an exact schedule. I am flexible. Sure, I want my flight to be on the day I originally scheduled, but a 3 - 4 hour later arrival is nothing (or should be nothing) in the overall scheme of things.

Also, think of this. You moved your flight to Houston later in the day. So now what happens if your flight from London is late and you miss the last flight of the day to Lubbock? Now you are stuck overnight Houston.

Posted by
6850 posts

Flexibility and resilience with some of the minor "thistles" of life make for a happy person IMHO. Don't make perfection the enemy of the good.

Posted by
747 posts

Thanks in part to reading the experiences of others on this forum, when the same thing happened to me recently, I took a deep breath, stayed calm, figured out our options and moved on. And now we have an extra day in Venice. Life happens, not always as we expect.

Posted by
312 posts

Mark, I have to book that far out in advance (at least with United) because I'm using FF miles to travel. When I look now at their website, all the flights left for the lowest level of miles are way worse than what I selected originally. Meaning that if I waited until closer to my departure date to book (so that the schedules would be more firm), the choices wouldn't be very good. And on my return trip home from LHR, I currently have a 3.5 hour layover. Obviously things can change on the day, such as last year when I was returning from Munich through Houston to Lubbock. On the approach to Houston, there was a bad rain storm and we were diverted to Austin. I had a similar amount of layover time last year, so I didn't think it would be that big of a problem. Until we were kept on the ground in Austin for six hours. On the plane. Not allowed to disembark. I guess that rule about not being able to hold passengers hostage on the tarmac for more than three hours doesn't apply to international flights.

Posted by
1879 posts

"I guess that rule about not being able to hold passengers hostage on the tarmac for more than three hours doesn't apply to international flights"

You guessed right. If you get diverted to an airport without customs/immigration the airline cannot let you off by law so it's not their fault.

Posted by
7205 posts

It happens so much now that it's just part of our ritual of buying airfare. We buy the cheapest fare as far ahead as possible knowing the schedules are going to be changed around. We also know that when those schedules change and throw you several hours off your original times it's fairly easy to call reservations, explain what your original time was and how your new schedule is just not going to work...they're fairly flexible to work with you and change you to a different flight. It's worked in our favor on several occasions. It's just all a part of the airline game these days.

Posted by
11613 posts

I usually book as far ahead as possible, and get at least a half-dozen emails about schedule changes. I don't panic until 30 days before my flight - if anything needs to be attended to re: contacting the airline, I do it then, expecting that other emails will still arrive with changes up until flight time. This is one reason why I like to spend the first night in whatever city I fly into.