Fighting Airlines When Their Changes Cost You Money - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

Fighting Airlines When Their Changes Cost You Money

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When you buy an airline tickets and want to change your flight day or time, you'll probably pay a hefty fee.

In fact, we found airlines collected close to $3 billion in reservation change and cancellation fees just last year. But what happens when it’s the airline making the changes to your flight day or time?

In a KMPH FOX 26 News investigation, we uncovered that you could also be stuck paying more, because of changes you never wanted to make in the first place.

When Nicole Tarczanin took a Caribbean cruise with her family, they all had a great time. But getting there was not exactly smooth sailing. "Our mother immediately called us, my sister and I, in a panic, saying 'What are we going to do?'," Nicole said.

Months after they booked flights, the airline changed the schedule. Their plane would land 10 hours later than initially planned. And that meant they would miss the boat… literally. "We called the airline and they basically just told us there wasn't anything else that they could do, that all the flights were booked," said Nicole.

The airline refunded the frequent flyer miles Nicole and her family used for the tickets, but now they had pay more than $700 for seats on a different airline.

So, what are your rights if you're like Nicole and a schedule change doesn't work with your schedule? We're not talking about delays due to weather or mechanical problems, but changes made in advance that might mean your plane will leave hours earlier, or hours later, even the next day.

Jean Medina with Airlines for America said, "If the airline has changed your flight and that flight is not convenient for you, you can absolutely get a refund."

But travel experts say a refund might not get you to your destination on time or cover possible additional expenses like an extra night in a hotel or a more expensive ticket on another airline. One couple emailed KMPH and said they had to cut their wedding reception an hour short because of a schedule change.

Air travel expert, George Hobica said, "Airlines can change their schedules without any repercussions whatsoever. There's no federal law that prevents them from doing so."

If you check the fine print on an airline's websites they have warnings like: "Flight schedules are not guaranteed." The airline industry association says schedule changes rarely happen, but one expert says they could be on the rise. "Increasingly airlines are eliminating flights; they're not flying where they used to fly," said Hobica.

Major carriers told KMPH schedule changes are an inherent part of the airline industry and they make adjustments as necessary based on crew and aircraft availability. The industry association says two million people fly 25,000 flights each day and the vast majorities go as scheduled.

"Airlines want to get their customers to their destination as quickly and as efficiently as possible," said Jean Medina.

But when changes do affect flyers, the advocacy group Flyers Rights is now calling on the feds to require airlines to pay for some of the extra costs passengers incur. Nicole is on board with that idea. "I don't think schedule changes are a very fair thing for airlines to do."

The U.S. Department of Transportation does not track the number of airline schedule changes. The agency tells KMPH it not working on regulations that would require airlines to compensate passengers for schedule change expenses, but dose note consumers can often file in small claims court to seek reimbursement from an airline.

Experts point out most travel insurance policies don't cover expenses related to schedule changes either.


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