Non-stop Bait & Switch

Q. I found a very unusual fare from New York City to Denver at $138 round-trip on a non-stop flight. Needless to say, I was very pleased with myself since I usually pay $250 or more. But then, a few weeks before my departure, the airline called me and told me that I'd now be on connecting flights. Worse, instead of flying in a big 757, all my flights would now be on regional jets. Needless to say, I am now not very pleased. What should I do? Can the airlines do this? And why would they? By the way, I checked on line and there are still lots of seats available on the non-stop for my days of travel, but needless to say they're now charging $700 round-trip. Oh, also the flight times were changed, not surprisingly, and now I have to get up much earlier to make the flight.

A. The airlines spell out very clearly in their contracts of carriage that they can change schedules without notice (at least you were notified!) and that, in one airline's contract, "Under no circumstances shall American be liable for any special, incidental or consequential damages." It's entirely possible that your airline had second thoughts about selling prime non-stop seats at such a low price, and is now selling them to last minute travelers for a lot more. I do think, however, that if you call the airline and are kind but persistent they will put you back on your original flights. If you don't like the answer you get at first, call again and again until they agree. Ask to speak to a supervisor. You might even go out to the airport and see someone face to face. And good luck.