Q: My husband and I booked a flight to Kona, Hawaii via Honolulu. We also made reservations for the hotel, rental car, and so forth. Last week, five months before the flight, we received a change of schedule from the airline. This change put us into Honolulu after the last flight of the day to Kona. When I called the airline they
gave me three choices: 1) We could overnight in Minneapolis, 2) we could overnight in Honolulu, or 3) they would refund the ticket.
I asked if the airline would be pay for the extra hotel night. They said absolutely not. Refunding the ticket was not an option, because I did not know if I would be able to book with another airline for the requested dates and price.
We decided to leave a day earlier and overnight in Minneapolis so that we could get the earlier flight to Honolulu and fly on to Kona so we'd be able to use our pre-paid first night on the island. My question is, does an airline have any responsibility for the extra cost incurred by us in a case like this?
A: Schedule changes are happening more frequently these days as airlines re-shuffle resources and abandon unprofitable routes and services in order to become profitable again. Since the airline is willing to refund your money without penalty and have given you plenty of notice, there's no legal or regulatory remedy you can pursue. It's possible that if you canceled your original reservations, you'd be able to find a better fare or schedule on another airline that didn't involve any overnight stay (you do have five months, after all, to shop around). Looked on the bright side, the earlier flight will give you extra time on the Big Island.
You might also try calling your airport's local station manager and see if he can do something for you, such as putting you on an earlier flight out on another airline. Sometimes station managers are more sympathetic than anonymous airline reservation agents. It's worth a try.