What to do when the airline changes your flight schedule
So you found the perfect flight with the perfect layover time – not too long, not too short and then BAM! The airline hits you with a nasty schedule change that now has you potentially waiting for 7 ½ hours in Anywhere International Airport for your connecting flight. Or even worse, they stick you on a connecting flight that departs before the time your first flight lands. How in the world are you expected to make that flight??? If you booked with me or another travel professional we would be able to get that fixed for you easily and quickly as we have solid relationships with all sorts of airfare consolidators and airlines. However, if you booked on your own either online or over the phone you’ll need to call the airline asap to get it fixed.
Here’s the deal: the airline is required to provide you with a fair amount of time to connect and get to your destination in a timely manner. Most of the major airlines will provide you with at least a 45 minute connection time which is still considered perfectly legal with them. If you still think you want at least an hour, you may still be protected in that sense by an old airline rule called Rule 240. It was created by the Civil Aeronautics Board (which is no longer active) and it basically mandated that if the airline cancels or delays a flight because of something the airline has control over (example: aircraft mechanical issues) then the consumer has the right to see if they can book another reservation with a different carrier.
Also, they will only do it if the other carrier can get you there sooner than the original airline you booked with. So for example, United delays a flight and it will now take you another 5 hours to get to your destination. You can ask them if they can put you on another flight that will be able to get you there earlier and closer to the original time you had scheduled your arrival. They will then do a search and try to fit you with the next best available option. If they do not find anything that will work for you in their inventory, you can then ask them to check another airline carrier. Keep in mind this should all be done at no additional cost to you and again, they will only do this if the cancellation or delay is due to something they have control over. This will not work if the delay is due to “Force Majeure” events such as weather, acts of war, or acts of nature, etc. They will most likely issue a refund in that case.
Most of the major airlines will still have some form of Rule 240 in their ticket contract so be sure to look for it before you book. It’s important for travelers to be as educated as possible and be careful in their search for the best airfare option. Sometimes, the cheapest flight is not always the best way to go. Each of the airline’s Conditions of Carriage in their ticketing contracts are different and available to view on their websites. If you book your trip with me, you'll have someone on your side to help you navigate any changes or cancellations with ease!