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What To Do When Your Flight Gets Changed Unexpectedly

Hello from Chicago.

I am officially back from France, so unfortunately it is now back to the real world for me : (

Before getting to today’s post, I just want to give 1 more HUGE thanks to all the Guest Bloggers who were kind enough to write posts while I was gone.

I really hope you enjoyed their posts and learned something new!

While I have 1 million things I need to write about including many new trip reports, there is one extremely important topic I think I should address first.

So if you were following me on Twitter while I was gone, you know when I woke up last Thursday at 6AM, United had canceled my flight without any notice. They then took the liberty of switching me to a flight that got in at 9PM instead of the original 6AM, with a long 5 hour layover in Germany.

A similar thing happened a few weeks ago when I was going out to LA on United, so I figured I am not alone and this might be happening to other people.

Since I now have 2 flights switched under my belt, I thought I would share some tips in the event that it happens to you.

If Your Flight Gets Changed Without Notice

1. Stay Calm

While it is extremely annoying when flights get canceled or changed without your notice, remember to remain calm and don’t lose all hope.

Although it is easy to take out your frustration on the Phone Agents because of the incompetent organization that they work for, unfortunately they are your lifeline to getting rebooked on a flight that works for you.

So I highly recommend being really nice to the Phone Agents and again REMAIN CALM.

Regardless of how terrible the flight is that you have been rebooked into, there are usually much better options if you just ask.

So don’t freak out, because 9/10 times you can still fix it and get to your destination on time.

2. Call The Airline

While it would be really nice if you could just make all the changes online, I have found that you almost always have to call it in, because if not then the Airline will try to charge you for making a “change” online.

Once the Agent picks up, remain calm, and explain the situation and that your flight changed and that the new option for which you were rebooked into, does not work.

3. Go Online & Check Availability

While you are on the phone with the Agent, I’d highly suggest heading to the Airline’s website and pulling up the availability.

Don’t assume the Phone Agents will know the best options for you because they don’t know your schedule.

For my last flight that got canceled, the Agents first option was to try and rebook me for a flight that departed in 1 hour. Obviously the Agent didn’t know that it would take me at least 45 minutes to get to the Airport, so there was no way that option would work for me.

If you have the website puled up, many times you can simply tell the Phone Agents the flight number of the flight you want, and they will book it.

This is much easier than them giving you all the options and you trying to narrow it down. 

Also by looking online, you can see for yourself when flights get in, layovers, etc. instead of having the Agent verbally explain all that.

In terms of Award Travel, having the Airline Website up is also extremely useful because typically Airlines will only rebook you on flights with open Award Availability.

When my France trip was changed because it was an Award Ticket, I couldn’t just get on the next available flight because there had to be Award Availability.

Therefore I booted up United.com and checked to see my options.

When the United Agent told me there was no Economy Class available for the flights I wanted to be switched to, I saw online that there was Business Class availability, so I just opted for that.

Had I not been online, I wouldn’t have known about the Business Class availability because the Agent was only looking for Economy space for me.

4. Check Alternate Airports

In the event that the Phone Agent isn’t able to rebook you on a better flight from your Home Airport, I’d suggest trying Alternate Airports.

For International Travel, this includes New York, Washington D.C, Chicago, and Houston.

Since Airlines typically have tons of hourly flights between their big airports, if you can find availability at a Alternate Airport, simply book that and the Airline will fly you there from your Home Airport for free. 

5. Cancel Your Flight And Rebook On Different Airline

If you absolutely have to get to your destination at a certain time (like the cruise ship is departing or you have a huge non-refundable deposit), then I’d suggest telling the Airline because of their re-scheduling, you would like to flat out cancel the reservation.

They should cancel your flight without any “cancellation” fees. 

Obviously before doing this, make sure you have another Award Flight in-queue or another Revenue Flight ready to book.

Although for Award Tickets some Airlines impose close-in ticketing fees, sometimes paying $75 to switch to another Airline and getting to your destination on time is worth it.

Recap

Hopefully you never have to deal with the “2 Minute Hour Drill” of finding out your flight has been changed a mere 2 hours before you are to depart for the Airport.

Basically, always get up a little bit earlier on the day of your flight to make sure nothing has changed and don’t leave packing until the morning of.

Also remember to check your email for any unexpected surprises.

In the event that something has changed, hopefully using the tricks above, you should be able to lessen the impact and hopefully get to your destination on time.

-Parag

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