Capacity Cuts: Taking the long way home

Tracy Stewart, August 04, 2009
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. I bought a flight on United from but they changed my itinerary on the way back from Europe, forcing me to layover in Chicago for six hours, which means when I get to Albuquerque, my final destination, at 10 p.m., I'll need to get a hotel overnight at my own expense. United claims they have no earlier flights and there are not any other convenient connections that would avoid the layover. I guess this illustrates the risk of dealing online with a company like Cheaptickets. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    A. Actually, this has nothing to do with Cheaptickets. What you've come up against is that airlines are cutting service to smaller cities such as Albuquerque, and unfortunately we're going to see more and more of this as the airlines cut capacity over the next few months, especially for travel after Labor Day. Addressing your itinerary, there are flights that depart Chicago O'Hare earlier, but they require one or two connections and they actually arrive later than the flight you've been rescheduled on. Even United's connecting flights arrive in Albuquerque at 10:39 p.m. now, later than the nonstop you've been put on. Even if you were to beg United to put you on another airline, your only option to get you there sooner would be an American nonstop leaving at 7:05 p.m. and arriving at 9:05 p.m. And chances are that United wouldn't do that.

    If you're desperate to get home earlier, the only option is to head over to Chicago Midway and take a Southwest Airlines flight leaving at 5:05 p.m. that arrives nonstop at 7:10 p.m. But at current prices, that'll set you back $188 plus tax. The only silver lining is that if your incoming flight from Europe is delayed, at least you'll have a better chance of making your connection.