What a crazy week this has been. I have many flights scheduled both domestic and international from September through June, 2021. There has been one flight change after another and keeping up with them is like playing Whack-A-Mole. I am posting my strategy to make sure that flight changes work in my favor.
Airline flight changes come in many flavors so I will talk about various types of changes that you are likely to incur.
Quarterly Schedule Changes
If you book flights months in advance, you may see some aspect of your flight changing when new airline schedules are published each quarter. You can book flights up to eleven months out so it is actually possible to experience more than one quarterly schedule change. These changes tend to be minor in nature usually involving a minor schedule change – a slight change in time or a change of equipment. All airlines do these quarterly changes so I watch for these to happen so I can react to a change sooner than later.
Minor Schedule Changes
These changes are relatively benign in nature and are minor in nature:
- A change of departure time, less than 60 minutes,
- A change of arrival time, less than 60 minutes,
- A change in the flight number.
These changes are common during quarterly schedule changes and have been a regular occurrence during the pandemic.
Major Schedule Changes
These are serious and need to be identified and addressed as soon as possible. They include:
- Flight cancellations,
- Major changes in departure and arrival times,
- A one-day itinerary becomes a two-day itinerary (forced layover) and
- Equipment changes (aircraft change).
These changes have been happening every week during this pandemic. I have seen all of these changes affect my airline bookings both domestic and international. The airline will rebook you for flight cancellations and may rebook you for major schedule changes. These changes may not be in your best interest. Whether you have fee-free flight changes or not, you should be able to change your airline reservation if the schedule change is greater than sixty minutes. If you have a major schedule change, you are competing with everybody else on your flight trying to get the changes they want. This is why I address these issues early to get ahead of my competition.
Airlines usually refer to aircraft as “equipment” so this change is a change in aircraft. This may be important to you if you have a favorite seating location as these vary by aircraft type. I had a first-class award flight on British Airways that had an equipment change. The problem is the replacement aircraft does not have first class seating. I found this out by checking my reservation on British Airways website. They replaced the Boeing 747 with a Boeing 787-8 that has no first class cabin. In the example below, the flight number, departure and arrival times remained the same, the only change was the aircraft type.
I never got any notice from British Airways of the equipment change and downgrade to business class. I called Alaska Airlines and rebooked first class from another departure city. Since first class award seats are few in number, it was essential that I handle this rebooking immediately.
A forced layover occurs when an airline cancels or significantly changes a segment that results in an overnight layover at an airport. The example below is my outbound flight to Charleston, SC from Portland next week. This was originally booked with having both legs flown on the same day. Alaska cancelled the early morning flights from PDX to SEA. This resulted in flying to Seattle the night before.
Force layovers are caused by the airline. In this case, Alaska Airlines is paying for my hotel and meal vouchers for breakfast the next day. Alaska Airlines offers two hotel options – a voucher from the airline or reimbursement for the cost of staying at a hotel of my choice. I choose to pay for a Hilton Hotel stay using my Ameican Express Hilton Aspire credit card and submitting to Alaska Airlines for reimbursement. A word of caution – get prior approval for the hotel stay in advance of your flight and have them indicate that approval in your passenger record.
During these unprecedented times, flight changes are being made at a fast and furious pace. I am proactive by checking all of my flight itineraries daily. If I have a major change, I want to be first in line at the “return department” and not last. Getting your changes made first will generally mean that you will get the flight or aircraft that you want. The other passengers on your flight may be calling to do the same thing.