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More Stops, Less Money?

Q. We fly regularly and it always amazes me that the cheapest flights fly you much further than you need to go and with more stops. Can you explain how that is cheaper for the airlines that have to transfer baggage at each stop plus fly me thousands of miles out of the way? For example, I found a flight to Puerto Rico that flew me from San Francisco to New York then to Miami and finally to Puerto Rico and it was the cheapest fare they offered.  And on three different planes!

A. It's not always a question of efficiency or cost, but of profit. The airlines can charge a lot more for direct and non-stop flights and people are definitely willing to pay more for that "privilege."  They'll make much more of a profit if they fill seats on a non-stop route with passengers who've paid a lot more than you.  Passengers who pay less get routed onto planes that are less full, on routes that have more empty seats and are on flights that are flown at less desirable times.  Those flights to San Francisco, New York and Miami were going there anyway, and most likely would have had empty seats had they not filled them with people who were willing to pay less to take a longer (and sometimes roundabout) route to other final destinations.

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Outbound & Return Both Canceled

Q. I just took a round trip flight on American Airlines from Dallas to Richmond. My departure was canceled and I was put on an earlier flight. Although their records indicate they sent me two emails I did not receive them and consequently I missed my flight. Then my return flight (a nonstop on American) was canceled 3 hours before it was to depart and I was rerouted on two US Airways flights. That was annoying enough but to add salt to the wound, US Airways charged me $25 for a bag that was supposed to be free on AA. The attendant said their computers are not compatible (after a year of being “merged”) and I had to pay for the bag. This time at least I was notified of the change but only because I'd set up flight notifications on my app.
I asked for compensation before I got hit with the $25 baggage fee. They gave me $100 voucher. I emailed the AA help desk and they awarded me 7500 miles for the additional trouble I had.
I am still not happy with the situation but I feel like I am over a barrel. Shouldn't the airline do more in these situations?

A. This all sounds like an unusual ordeal and although I wholly empathize, actually, that’s pretty good compensation, or at least more than most people get these days. It’s always a good idea to check online to see if your flight is operating as scheduled. You can use services like or  and other flight trackers, and now that you have the American Airlines app you’ll be in good shape for your next flight.

Above image via Shutterstock

Multiple Schedule Changes

Q. We booked a Delta flight online, traveling from Amsterdam to Bogota, well in advance. Twice now we have received notices of changes to the flight schedule. I've never experienced this before. Can airlines do this freely?

The last change was from leaving in the afternoon to early in the morning (on the same day). This can make big difference if you had a non changeable important meeting planned. What are they allowed to change without any obligations for compensation? We now have an over 8 hour layover in Atlanta. Is the airline obligated to provide anything due to the length of the layover?

A. Unfortunately, the airlines are free to do this without regulation or compensation. Their only obligation is to give you a full refund of your airfare if you ask for it. I have long thought that there needs to be some government regulation about "in-advance" schedule changes.

It is possible that your original flights are operating without a change but that for whatever reason Delta put you on different flights, so I would call Delta and ask if that's the case.

As for your long layover in Atlanta, no, unfortunately Delta is not required to provide meals or any other services. But at least you won't miss your connecting flights and have plenty of time to clear customs and immigration, if that's any silver lining.

Above image via Shutterstock

Schedule Changes to Flight Times

Q. I received two emails this week alerting me to the fact that my flight times on United and US Air have been changed. My layovers en route to Boston went from about 90 minutes each to 3 hours. To me, the difference between getting into Boston at 12:05PM and 1:38PM is actually significant. Do I have any recourse here?

A. I don't think that's enough of a schedule change to request a refund or other compensation. And honestly, assuming you're connecting in Newark with chronic delays, even 90 minutes might be pushing it. If there's an earlier flight that has seats, you could call United and ask to be placed on it with no change fee. Same with US Air. But airlines make it clear that schedules are never guaranteed.

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Rebooking Canceled Flight

Q. My flight was canceled and I was told that the airline could not get me on another flight to my destination until tomorrow, because all the flights were full. How do I get home?

A. Flights are more full these days due to the capacity cuts over the past few years. It can be a major hassle to rebook a flight after it has been canceled, especially at peak travel times when most flights are at or near full capacity. Acting fast is essential and being proactive to change routing in advance of a major storm can help you get to your destination as planned.

One suggestion is to call the airline while waiting in line at the airport to try and get ahead of the line for rebooking. Also, if you are flying out of a hub or there are flights going out to other destinations from where you are, look into other routings. We have a handy list of links to airlines' route maps here. Sometimes you may be able to piece together an odd routing that the airlines' system won't come up with by simply inputing A to B. Have a look at the departure board at the airport and see what flights are actually leaving and see if you can work out a connection. It may mean an extra stop, but it may get you home the quickest.

Also, look into nearby alternate airports and taking ground transportation. A little creativity during flight cancelations can sometimes help you get you where you want to be sooner.

Above image via Shutterstock

Lost and Found

Q. I left my e-reader on my last flight. I was right in the middle of a very intriguing book. Is there any way I can retrieve it or is it a lost cause?

A. Although it may seem that most items left on planes do not get reunited with the rightful owner, there are a few steps you can take to increase your chances of getting your lost item back. First and foremost, we suggest to never put anything of value in the seatback pocket. Those are the blackholes of airplanes. It is just too easy to forget something in there during the rush to exit the aircraft. Another good idea is to label your valuables with contact information allowing the good samaratain who finds your item to contact you.

After realizing you have forgotten something, it is best to contact someone in person at the airport baggage office as soon as possible. If you have already left the airport far behind, we have compiled a list of links to report lost items on airline websites. Check out how to get your items back here.

Above image via Shutterstock

Mumbai Fares Lower Than London? Huh?

Q. Why is it that British Airways currently has a fare from Orlando to Mumbai for $970.00 for the months of Nov, Jan and Feb? I cannot get a round trip to London for less than $1,133. It doesn’t make sense considering Mumbai is twice the distance! I just can’t figure it out!

A. There are a couple of things at play here. For starters, there’s not a lot of competition on the Orlando-London nonstop route. Airlines often charge more for nonstop flights than for connecting flights, because nonstops are in higher demand.

Then there are taxes, a whole lotta taxes! When you depart from any UK airport (excluding Belfast), you pay a passenger duty of about $130. If you’re merely transiting through London, you don't have to pay that duty.

In fact, that duty makes up most of the discrepancy you're seeing.

Above image via Shutterstock

Unlucky in Ireland: Trip Ruined by Fall

Q. I purchased travel insurance for my trip to Ireland. As luck would have it, I suffered a terrible fall before I was scheduled to fly back home. So now I've got an insurance claim that requires documentation for every little thing, which is often difficult to get (especially in rural Ireland) and I'm stuck here in another B&B waiting for an available flight home. If I'm unable to get a seat, I may be forced to stay longer than I can afford. All the documents they want will go through a "counselor" at the hospital; not the doctor. This could drag on for months and I could be broke by then. Is there any way to make them pay me now?

A. Unfortunately, the claims process could take several weeks if not longer. And they won't pay any costs associated with terminating the trip early (via the "trip interruption" clause in most travel insurance policies) until they document your visits to a physician or hospital. Of course, you'd also need to submit proof of any expenses incurred, which can only be done after spending the money. If your policy had an emergency medical evacuation clause and you'd been deemed a candidate for medical evacuation, either by commercial flight or a private medical flight, then you would have been able to get a flight home almost immediately.

Above image via Shutterstock

Trip Booked, Route Discontinued

Q. When Frontier first announced flights out of Washington Dulles in July, they offered a promotional $39 RT flight to Charlotte. I jumped at that since I wanted to visit my sister who has been ill and have her come to see me in DC. So in July I booked two flights---one for mid-January and one in February.  Now I’ve been informed that Frontier flights out of Charlotte are being discontinued in January.  I asked to be booked on a different airline and they said they don’t have “sister” airlines or codeshares. They offered a refund but at that promotional rate, and now that fares seem to be increasing, a refund does little to get us between Charlotte and DC. Do I have any recourse to get them to book me with another airline since they booked these reservations and I paid for them already?

A. Unfortunately there is no compensation for this but there should be. In fact as I have often written I think it's the next big area the U.S. DOT should regulate. All too often people are suckered into buying a vacation with non refundable land arrangements based on a cheap airfare only to learn month later that their $39 intro fare is now on an airline that decided not to fly there any longer and the only alternative is an unaffordable $300 or higher fare. Frontier and their cousins Spirit and Allegiant frequently dip their toes in a market with much fanfare and super low fares and then pull out just as fast when the routes don't live up to financial expectations, leaving chaos in their wake. It's not right and it is not fair.

Frontier image via Shutterstock

Cancel for Any Reason

Q. Should anything arise before our upcoming vacation, is it possible to get travel insurance that would cover cancellations for any reason?

A. There is such a thing as cancel for any reason insurance, however the premiums are considerably higher than for regular travel insurance; plus cancellation typically must be made at least 48 hours before departure and you won’t get 100% of your expenses refunded.

You might try comparing policies on sites like TravelGuard or InsureMyTrip.

Above image via Shutterstock

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