It is no nightmare that a day comes when you are taken aback with surprise after learning that the flight you booked for your business trip or holiday with family, now your flight’s time or date has been changed by your airline. Whether you realise this or not, but, uncertainties do occur with airline carriers that can also have a direct or indirect impact on passengers (customers).
Know What Your Rights Are When Airlines Change the Time or Date of Your Flight. Passengers are regularly affected by a change in their flight schedule, now more than ever as a result of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. With most flights being cancelled because of coronavirus disease widespread, passengers are left with the option to either get a refund for flight cancellation or change the flight schedule.
For instance, take a moment to imagine that you booked a flight to visit your partner in Paris just days before Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, your airline changed their flight’s schedule and there’s no chance that you can make it to your destination before this day, and you may end up spending Valentine’s Day at the airport. This can be very disappointing and upset you.
In this guide, we are going to take a look at what causes airlines to change their flight schedule, and as a passenger, what are your rights to overcome such inconvenience.
Common Reasons Your Airline Can Change Your Flight’s Itinerary
It is seen that airlines frequently change their flight’s schedule just minutes or hours before departure. There may be one or more reasons why airlines do so. However, passengers are informed via e-mail of the difference in the flight that was originally booked and the new flight. Airlines sell tickets as far as a year in advance of the flight’s departure date. However, they do not finalise flight slots until about a couple of months ahead. Thus, a lot can happen in that given time period, for example, from an aircraft going in and out of action, mergers, new routes and strikes etc., which may cause airlines to even shift their scheduled services one way or another.
It is also important that passengers make sure they have given the correct contact details to the airline, so that they do not miss any important notifications via e-mails detailing changes to their flight’s itinerary.
In the United States, the civil aviation laws and regulations are governed by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is an agency under the U.S. DOT. The regulators clearly state that airlines may not guarantee their schedules due to several reasons that could prevent their flights from reaching their destinations on time.
A few common reasons that can compel airlines to change their flight’s itinerary are:
- Bad weather
- Mechanical or technical issues
- Air traffic control management
An airline can change its flight’s schedule either in the form of scheduled change or unscheduled change. A scheduled change is where an airline has made a change to your flight. Scheduled changes are always notified to passengers at least 14 days in advance. Also, such changes are made on the flight’s time or date and not the flight number. If they do not give you 14 days notice, you should be entitled to a refund.
As with so many such amendments, airlines and operators ensure the right to change the flight time is enshrined in their relevant terms and conditions and other policies. However, if a flight number is changed, it might mean the flight has been cancelled, and therefore, you might be eligible for compensation or a refund.
On the other hand, an unscheduled change in a flight’s date or time is not made voluntarily by the airline, such as in the event of unprecedented circumstances.
What to Do When Your Airline Change the Time or Date of Your Flight
If your airline is suddenly compelled to change your flight’s time or date, with or without prior information, in such a situation, being a customer, there are a few rights that you can exercise. These rights allow you to claim refunds, compensation, change flight and more.
However, please do note that the rights that you bear, as a customer of the airline, may differ from one airline carrier to another. Therefore, it is advised that you read your airline’s policy thoroughly before purchasing a reservation.
(a) Re-book or Cancel your Flight
In the event your flight’s itinerary is changed by the airline carrier, you can choose to board an alternate flight or cancel your current flight altogether. To do so, you simply need to contact your airline’s customer support service and provide the necessary details, after which the customer service representatives can assist you in finding an alternate flight to the same destination or cancelling your flight. The process may vary with the airline you purchased your flight ticket.
Most airlines will often give you the option to re-book a flight, should you be unhappy with the changes that were made to your original flight’s itinerary. However, depending on the situation, normal re-booking rules and costs could also apply. So, you may need to be extra careful on the decisions that you make.
(b) Request a Refund
If your flight’s time is changed by 60 minutes or more, or the airline is unable to schedule you on a different flight, then you are eligible to have your flight cancelled and request a full refund.
However, you must also remember that even if you are given a refund, you might be left without a flight that is bound on the same course. In case there are no flights with the same departure date, then it is also possible that you may end up having to pay more than you had anticipated purchasing reservation for a last-minute flight.
(c) Claim Compensation
Generally speaking, the further in advance you book your flight reservation, the higher becomes the chances of having a schedule change.
While this may affect your travel plans, you must also know that when such things happen, passengers can sometimes claim a flight schedule change compensation. Most airlines offer compensation to passengers, if their flight’s schedule is changed for longer, or under certain circumstances, cancelled. One possible instance can be cited where your flight number is changed, then this indicates that the flight on which you were supposed to travel, has been cancelled. Also, you become eligible for a compensation or a refund under the obligation of the airline carrier.
(d) Have your Concerns Addressed
There may often be a situation where passengers whose flight schedules have been changed, are left with little or no options at all, and find themselves in need of assistance. Thus, if you feel yourself being in such a situation, then there is help available to you, almost round the clock. All airlines have a dedicated customer support service that may offer assistance 24 hours. There are also different ways you can reach them, such as phone and e-mail, and nowadays, they even offer assistance via social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook.
So, this is where you can address your concerns and have the airline’s customer service find a solution for you as quickly as possible. You can ask them questions, help you book a flight, manage your flight’s schedule, or even have them process refunds and compensation for you.
Given that airline carriers have to go by their policies, however, they also provide some sort of convenience to their customers that is in the form of what is known as rights. Although it is possible that alterations to your flight’s schedule may usually be relatively insignificant, however, sometimes, this could reach to 12 hours or more, and heavily affect your travel plans. Also, keep in mind that your rights toward such changes in your flight schedule may not be more extensive, should this be the case.