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Airline cuts lead to troubled travelers

July 21, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
High gas prices are making it more expensive to hit the road and more expensive to fly. In addition, airline schedules are changing and flights are being grounded.Bigger airlines like American, Delta and United recently announced plans to eliminate flights as early as this autumn. Airlines have also said they may begin using smaller planes, so fewer seats will be available.

Air traveler Shawn Miller booked his flight immediately for his brother's wedding.

"We wanted to work through the day and leave for the airport and get on a flight later on that evening but not too late because we have four kids," said traveler Shawn Miller.

Shawn found what he thought would be the perfect itinerary and booked his seats. However, before his flight was set to leave, the airline canceled both legs of his trip. The company went on to automatically reassign him with new flights and times.

"I was surprised the airline could do this after we paid," said Miller.

Consumer experts say airlines can make these changes. In fact, the industry claims a carrier can change a passenger's itinerary at any point.

"Carriers do adjust their schedules and they adjust them based upon operational needs as well as market conditions," said David Castelveter, Air Transportation Association.

Due to high fuel prices, major airlines have announced significant cutbacks.

"In addition to pulling out of cities they serve, they'll be reducing the number of flights on particular routes," said Castelveter.

The Air Transportation Association said ticket prices will likely rise. Consumer experts also warned that if travelers have already booked flights, there are no guarantees.

"It's really a jungle out there when it comes to knowing if your flight is actually going to go where you want it to go," said George Hobica, airfarewatchdog.com.

If the airline no longer flies your scheduled route, you may be switched from a non-stop flight to multiple connecting flights to get you to your destination. However, some experts said getting to your destination may not be possible at all.

"If a flight is canceled, you will get a full refund. But unfortunately, you're going to have to buy a ticket on another airline or drive or find another way to get there," said Hobica.

Another possibility is the airline may cancel your flight and automatically book you on an earlier or later departure. If the new times won't work with your schedule, the airlines will typically work with you.

The Air Transportation Association should contact you if there are changes made to your itinerary. However, consumer experts say you should still check on your reservation before your departure date.

 

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