Flight Rights

How To Make Flight Changes To Your Advantage.

When airlines cancel your flight with no viable alternative, you are entitled to a refund.  If the airline makes a “Significant Change” you can negotiate for a more convenient departure time, a route with a shorter layover, or fewer connecting flights. Whether the change is a Cancelation, a Voluntary or Involuntary change determines your compensation.

Here we discuss how to turn a pain into an opportunity if you are flexible and persistent.

Most of us know that when we need to make a change or cancel the reservations, the airline and even the third-party consolidator we booked through will apply a change penalty.

Fortunately, some airlines such as Delta and Southwest have temporarily changed their policies during this pandemic eliminating change fees for all but basic economy.

Know the different types of changes: Cancellations, Voluntary Changes, Involuntary Changes and Tarmac Delays.

Cancellations

Cancellations are rare but if your flight is cancelled you get a refund. The refund for the unused portion of your trip in the same method you paid (cash for cash, miles for miles).

In the United States the Department of Transport (DoT) regulations on canceled flights states:

If your flight is canceled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets.

You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.

You can accept another flight they offer, find a better flight for your route or cancel for a full refund of the unused portion of the trip.

USDOT

Involuntary Changes

Airlines have their own policies and it will depend on the class of ticket you booked. If they change your itinerary in a significant way after booking, they’ll work with you to get you on the best flight for your schedule.

What Is a “Significant Change”?

When an airline makes a “significant change” to your flight you have the right to a) a full refund or b) to ask to be put on a different flight without a change fee, and often without having to pay regardless if the flight is more expensive.

If you want to cancel, you qualify for a refund by the same method you paid. If you do want to take the trip but do not like the change offered you have the opportunity to change to a better one, free of charge.

Say you booked a red-eye flight, now you can offer to change to another time. Or, if your flight had a layover, you could offer to change to a non-stop flight or one with a shorter layover.

If the significant change moves your departure to the next day, you can ask for a hotel stay and shuttle expenses. If the change forces a longer layover, you can negotiate for lounge access so you can have a meal and rest more comfortably.

Before you negotiate your compensation, track down your airline’s individual policy and see exactly what they offer.

These can be found online in your Contract of Carriage Agreement. Next, find other flights that are available from that airline and its partners/codeshares and select the best option for your schedule.

It does not matter if the new flight is more expensive than what you booked; if there’s an available seat, the airline will likely allow you to move to the flight you request for free, regardless of what it costs.

Once you’ve decided on a new flight, call the airline to get your itinerary switched.   Bring an offer. 

Show the airline you already have other potential flights picked out instead of leaving it up to the reservationist.  Of course, listen to what they offer first, it may be better.

If the change is significant and there are no other flights get you to your destination on time you do have the option to request a cash refund (even with non-refundable basic economy flights).

Considering airlines often wait as long as possible hoping the customer may change plans voluntarily, and that last-minute flights are usually more expensive, there may not be flight available to get you to your destination on time and you are in a better negotiating position to ask for a full refund. 

Significant Changes Vary from 30 minutes to 4 hours

  • United –  significant change is over 30 minutes
  • JetBlue – significant change is over 60 minutes
  • Alaska Airlines -significant change is over 60 minutes
  • Delta – significant change is over 90 minutes
  • American – significant change is over 4 hours but American will compensate for changes less than hours.

PointsGuy.com says:

Airlines wait until the last minute to process flight cancellations.

If you want to voluntarily make a change wait until the latest you can, monitor the flight for any changes forced by the Airline (not you).

If the airline changes the flight and it is a significant change—you can be compensated.

zach Griff at thePointsGuy.com july 25, 2021

And Scott’s Cheap Flights says here’s what to do:

• Step 1: Hop on Google Flights and find an alternate flight on the same airline that you prefer (remember to ignore the price, you’ll likely be able to switch for free)

• Step 2: Call up the airline, tell them that their schedule change won’t work for you (you don’t really need a reason), and ask to be switched to your preferred flight

• Step 3 (if necessary): Hang up, call again. Airlines have thousands of call center agents, and each has discretion. Countless times I’ve been told no on the first two calls, only to be told yes on the third call. First, hang up and call again. Agents often have discretion about who gets refunds. Many times you will have better luck with one agent than another. Be friendly and remember the agent isn’t to blame.

scott’scheapflights.com

How many times have you been given 3 different answers by 3 different people? Work it to your benefit.

Call back and get another answer. Being nice and you’ll get a better response. Agents often have discretion about who gets refunds. Next , you can file a complaint with the DOT.

And you can dispute the charge with your credit card. Most banks guarantee that if you paid for something and didn’t receive it, you can dispute the charge and be reimbursed by the credit card.

You may be interested in: 12 Ways to Waste Time on a Layover + Give a Lonley Robot a Job.

Booking Directly with the Airline is Best

Often to get the lowest price or the exact route we want we book through a consolidator such as Expedia, Kayak or Skyscanner. Booking through the airline directly may cost more but you get a number of advantages.

One of which is priority dealing with many problems and often preferential treatment in reassignment and compensation.


When you have a change or cancellation issue and you booked through a consolidator, you have to deal with 2 companies and 2 separate policies and rules.

When you book directly with the airlines you only need to deal with them and their policy on changes and cancellations.

Example: we all know there are only between 2 and 6 spots available for pets flying in cabin.

Take the situation when there is a last-minute change of planes and the passenger and pet need to be rebooked, the traveler who booked directly with the airline will get preferential for those few coveted spots.

Denied Boarding at the Gate?

There is a difference between the airline giving you notice of a change in your flight and being denied boarding at the gate.

If you are at the airport waiting to board and you are bumped, you can negotiate for compensation.

The airline will do their best and find a flight as soon as possible to your destination. For the time between the first flight and the new flight you may request lounge access, or if the flight is the next day, you can request a hotel stay near the airport and transportation costs, even a meal.

Tarmac Delays

Tarmac delay rules that U.S. airlines must follow: carriers are not allowed to hold a domestic flight on the tarmac for more than three hours

or international flight for more than four hours, barring a couple of exceptions (like if the pilot deems it’s for a safety reason).

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)

For a tarmac delay of three hours in the U.S. or four hours outside of the U.S., you must be given the option to deplane.

If you choose to leave the plane, the airline is not obligated to let the passenger back on board. This means a passenger who chooses to deplane may miss their flight and be separated from any checked luggage.

You have many more opportunities than you may realize when an airline cancels or significantly changes your flight.

   

Published by Stephanie Fling

Everything Pet Travel Related by Air, Sea and Land.

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