Airline Schedule Changes
Seems not a day goes by without airlines announcing schedule cuts, mergers or bankruptcies.
In recent weeks, Delta said it would reduce domestic capacity by 13 percent in the second half of 2008. United will cut service by 14 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. US Airways is going to cut its capacity by eight percent, and Continental will reduce flights by 11 percent.
Travel between major markets hasn't been affected as much as to smaller cities, and domestic travel has been impacted more than international. American Eagle, for example, is ceasing service to Albany, N.Y.; Providence, R.I.; Harrisburg, Pa.; and San Luis Obispo, Calif. United will cut off-season service to Myrtle Beach, S.C. American is pulling out of Oakland, Calif. But even some of the larger markets are taking a hit: American, for example, has announced major cuts in service at New York's LaGuardia, Chicago O'Hare, St. Louis and Dallas-Fort Worth. Internationally, Air Tahiti Nui says it will suspend its flights from JFK to Tahiti in the off season (November-April). And the French airline L'Avion, which offered cheap all-business-class flights from New York to Paris, has been acquired by British Airway's OpenSkies.
So what does it mean to the average air traveler? Higher prices, fewer choices and more schedule changes. Our advice:
* Don't depend on the airline to inform you of schedule changes. Keep checking your itinerary up to the time you depart, and check your return before you show up at the airport.
* Don't expect the airlines to make it right. If a schedule change means you'll need to spend an extra two nights in a hotel, you'll have to pay for that. If you'll suddenly need to connect twice, the airline is not going to put you on a competitor's more convenient flight. Read carefully the airline's contract of carriage, which spells out its legal obligations (it's not a bad idea to carry a copy with you). Most now contain language such as "at our discretion," which gets the airline off the hook. About the only recourse most will offer is a full refund, but that isn't going to help if your flight is just days away and you've plunked down hundreds for a hotel.
Share your stories about how schedule changes and cancellations have affected your travel plans, and how you've handled it. Maybe your tip will help!
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