4 Ways To Cope With Frustrating Airline Cutbacks

What should you do when your airline calls to let you know that they’ve decided to randomly cancel your flight? Travel guru Christopher Elliott gives us the following nightmare scenario:

“The only option that they’ve offered is a refund, which is useless at this point, since the tickets are twice as expensive as they were when I purchased them,” he says. “Delta is claiming their codeshare partner changed the schedule and that they’re under no obligation to offer us new travel dates, unless the partner airline has tickets with the exact same fare code.”

In other words, Peterman didn’t pay enough for his ticket.

This scenario is likely to repeat itself more in the coming months. Airlines have canceled twice as many flights in the first half of 2008 as they did last year — about 65,000 — and they have no intention of tapping the brakes. In fact, domestic airlines are expected to cut the number of flights by up to 15 percent during the next year, which is the biggest reduction in service since 9/11, and maybe ever.

But these cancellations don’t have to ruin your trip. I contacted Travelocity to find out why Peterman had been left high and dry by Delta. A Travelocity spokesman promised to find out what had happened to his flight. “Regardless of the outcome, our agents shouldn’t be telling a customer to call the carrier,” he added. They might take a moment to read their customers’ e-mail signatures, too. Peterman is a lawyer.

Elliott says that airline, with Travelocity’s help, should have rebooked Peterman’s ticket… but they didn’t. Shocking, we know.

Here are quick summaries of 4 helpful strategies for dealing with the inevitable airline cutbacks:

  1. Call your airline to confirm your flight at least two weeks in advance.
    Calling to confirm your tickets earlier will help you rebook at a cheaper price in the event that your flight has disappeared into the ether thanks to someone’s quarterly-profit-blah-blah-cutback report.

  2. Know your airline’s contract of carriage.
    Being familiar with your airlines legal nonsense will make it easier to negotiate.

  3. Work with a good travel agent.
    They cost more, but they’re you’re best defense against an increasingly hostile world– er, a hostile airline anyway. For crazy important life-changing trips consider using a good travel agent.

  4. Avoid often canceled flights.
    Look up data about flight cancellations here.

For the full explanation behind these tips click here.

4 secrets for coping with airline cutbacks [CNN]
(Photo: meghannmarco )