Tight Connections

David Shan, August 16, 2006
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q: I am flying through Philadelphia on my way to Europe on US Air. The problem is that I discovered after booking that my inbound flight to Philadelphia is chronically late, often by up to 50 or 60 minutes, and I only have an hour to connect to my Europe flight. I’ve been checking every day for the last few weeks and the flight that I’m booked on to Philadelphia was late about 80 percent of the time. I’ve asked USAir to reschedule me on an earlier inbound flight so that I can make my connection, but they refuse to do so without charging me a $100 change fee. Since it’s their fault that they can’t seem to run their airline on time, this doesn’t seem fair to me. Does it to you?

    A: No it does not. I’m not sure who you spoke to at USAir (probably a harried reservations agent) but you might try getting in touch with the station manager at your local airport (the one you’re flying out of to reach Philadelphia) and explain the situation to him or her. Perhaps they’ll be more sympathetic. And here’s some advice to everyone who uses connecting flights: every flight is “ranked” from 1 to 10 by its historic on-time performance. A “1” means the flight is late from 90 to 100 percent of the time (and there are indeed many flights that are this late all the time); a “10” means the flight is on time from 90 to 100% of the time. You can ask for this information from your travel agent or the airline reservation agent. If you absolutely must fly on a chronically late flight, then build in a longer layover between connecting flights. Chances are that you won’t be able to do this easily if you book your flight online, so try using a travel agent or see if the airline reservation agent will do it for you (of course, you’ll have to pay extra to book using a real live person, but at least you’ll make your connection).