Watch Out For Changes To Your Flight Itinerary

Alexandros received an update from Orbitz about his trip and realized that United had changed the time of his flight. For various reasons he couldn’t make the new time, so he was lucky to have caught it—not to mention he could have missed the flight entirely had he not seen the change.

Orbitz sent me an email to remind me of an upcoming trip. What they and United Airlines failed to mention was that the flight had been rescheduled. It now departed 40 minutes prior to the originally scheduled time. I immediately called Orbitz to find my rights with United as far as getting to the airport in time.

I live outside of DC and do not have a car. As such, I booked the flight so I could take public transportation, rather than take a $50+ taxi ride. The 9:00 flight would the the very latest I could leave and still make it to the airport. Thus, those 40 minutes made the world of difference.

Orbitz said they could contact the airline for me to see what could happen. After being on hold for a few minutes, Orbitz informed me they could rebook me on another flight. This is where United decided to continue to make everything worse. They tried to book me on a flight that would change my air travel time from 2.5 hours (direct) to 6.5 hours (1 connection). I then suggested they give me a flight that leaves from the other airport in DC that would drop the time down to 5.5 hours. I will be carrying food so time is of the essence. It was a different initial flight, but the connecting flight would be the same. United said this change was not available to me. I kept insisting for a further explanation. After they refused to give it to me a few times, they finally caved in.

While in the process of trying to book me on the flight, the Orbitz representative kept coming back on the line saying they were still in the process. After being on the phone for 53 minutes, I asked her to just call me back. Oribtz was wonderful in calling me back promptly. The only problem is she came back saying United wanted $33 to change the flight since it would be leaving in a different airport. The reasoning was based on the change in the ticket price. I refused and suggested they pay for my taxi instead. Orbitz is still having trouble negotiating with United to even pay for the taxi. I will send an update as it becomes available.

In this whole ordeal, Carmela from Orbitz has been very patient and courteous. She has also been wonderful at calling me back. I hope she can help me work everything out.

A little while later, Alexandros wrote back in with an update:

United decided not to charge me the fee and gave me the flight. It is very strange to me that they would have tried in the first place. I was very patient with Orbitz in the whole process and was even willing to more than double my travel time. It would have been much easier for me if United just paid for my taxi. I was trying to be flexible to ensure I reached my destination. United made the whole process difficult and stressful.

The moral of this story: stay up-to-date on your flight information, and be prepared to spend some time fixing any problems the carrier might cause; with any luck, and a helpful CSR, your perseverance will pay off.

(Photo: Simon_sees)


Edit Your Comment

  1. junip says:

    I only flew United once. They changed my flight time and seats THREE times. I’ve never been so angry at an airline before, mainly because the ticket prices are more or less depending on the time of day and I paid for specific travel times and seats that I didn’t end up with.

    Stick with jetblue or virgin if you can.

    • Toof_75_75 says:

      I fly with United a fair amount for work because they have a direct flight I need. I’ve been happy with them up until this last flight I took. They let you choose your seat on the plane so I chose a window seat just behind “Economy Plus.” Well, after a one hour delay on the flight, they changed plane types which put my row into Economy Plus instead of Economy. Their solution? Move me to the last row of the plane but not tell me about it until I try to walk onto the plane. They didn’t even offer me to “opportunity” to pay for an upgrade, which I’d have happily done to not sit in the back. Maybe I was just having a bad day, but that really annoyed me.

      • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

        USAir pulled that crap on me once, except they didn’t even notify me — I found my seat number, and somehow it was leather and contained a child. And yeah, I ended up in a middle seat in the back of the plane. This particular flight was full, so once they’d screwed it up there was no way to unscrew it. But gosh, an apology would have been nice.

  2. Ronin-Democrat says:


  3. pop top says:

    I’m flying on NWA this weekend and they made a time change to my outgoing flight, but e-mailed me to let me know of the change. It was nice to receive the e-mail, and I’m lucky that the change in time didn’t affect anything else.

  4. partofme says:

    Do travelers have any broad protection in cases like this, as we do with overbook compensation?

  5. hoi-polloi says:

    I hate that airlines exert so much control over your itinerary, and want to charge you for changes when their adjustments aren’t manageable. I’ve been in a situation where the window between connections kept getting smaller and smaller. In the end, my first flight landed a few minutes early, and I was one of the first passengers to deplane. I literally ran from one terminal to another, and made it just as they were seating for my section. If I had limited mobility or if my initial flight was even slightly behind schedule, I would have missed my flight. A reasonable person might have seen the narrowing window and been hit with a charge to change their booking.

  6. Shivver says:

    Working at an airport, I’ve seen this happen a few times. Someone shows up for their 6 am flight, but that flight now leaves at 7:30 am with no notification from the airline. I’ve also seen people show up ~90 minutes before their flight only to be told that their time had been changed and they’re now too late to check in for that flight, forcing them to pay $100 per ticket to rebook on a later flight. I even once saw two women show up to fly to a destination that Delta no longer services out of my airport. That must have been embarrassing for the ticket agents to explain.

  7. coren says:

    I’m a little confused, and maybe this was just a miscommunication in his letter, or the reporting but

    “…that the flight had been rescheduled. It now departed 40 minutes prior to the originally scheduled time.”

    Ok, his flight leaves time X, and it should have left at X+40, with it so far.

    “I live outside of DC and do not have a car. As such, I booked the flight so I could take public transportation, rather than take a $50+ taxi ride. The 9:00 flight would the the very latest I could leave and still make it to the airport. Thus, those 40 minutes made the world of difference.”

    He says it is the *latest* he could leave to make the flight. Am I really slow or did I just write this whole post because he meant earliest, or what?

  8. hansn says:

    Almost the exact same thing happened to me (except I booked through Expedia).

    I arrived at the airport about 20 minutes before my now-rescheduled flight (international flight no less) was to depart. Fortunately the agent saw not only that my flight time had changed, but that they had not been able to notify me. She changed it with no fee for the next flight out (adding about 4 hours onto my trip–not too bad for international travel).

  9. John Stracke says:

    This isn’t new, unfortunately; I remember my brother running into this 20 years ago. And, of course, he didn’t get an SMS notification.

  10. Billifer says:

    The real moral of the story is that United (and other companies we consumers are forced to rely on every day) would have been much better off if they’d been cooperative and understanding in the first damned place. Instead, they made a big stink of it and when Alexandros wouldn’t drop it, they had to finally admit they were wrong and give him the whole flight for free. Companies don’t understand that all we want is just a LITTLE consideration and to be treated FAIRLY.

    Orbitz, on the other hand, mostly gets it. I always book with them myself, and they’ve always been friendly and accommodating when I’ve needed assistance.

  11. Conrad says:

    We had all sorts of problems due to last years weather cancellations. Hopefully this year is smoother. Equally my wife had problems with flight changes when her plane caught on fire.

  12. El_Fez says:

    It only seems to be domestic carriers that do this. My flights with British Airways – rock solid departure time, and I booked nearly a year in advance. My overseas flight with Delta? I got a notification in the mail every month or so.

    Also – and I cant stress this enough – get yourself a good travel agent! Seriously, the price between the Do-It-Yourself expedia/priceline/whatever method and going through someone even like AAA is pretty much the same and you get someone who runs all the legwork for you when something like this comes up. I’d never book travel any other way.

    • agent 99 says:

      Agreed. A travel agent could have refunded the UA flight and get you on another carrier if UA didn’t have any options that worked for you. I’m a travel agent.

  13. ckaught78 says:

    I fly United all the time and on numerous occasions they have changed my flight times. Sometimes multiple times on the same itinerary. The worst case was when they changed my non-stop from BWI to SFO by adding a connection in Chicago.Flight changes are more likely to happen when you purchase your tickets way in advance.

    With all the flight reductions happening over the last couple of years, changes are becoming more and more prevelant. Just make sure to go onto your airlines website often and check your itinerary. I believe if the change in your flight results in a difference of 2 to 3 hours (which could be a lfight leaving at 9a now leaves at 6a) or if the original was non-stop and now isn’t, they will allow you to change the flight for free, however it needs to be from the same airports. In my example above I was able to change to another non-stop flight with no hassle.

    Let this be a lesson, check your itinerary often.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      “Flight changes are more likely to happen when you purchase your tickets way in advance.”

      There’s the catch 22. If you book further in advance, you’re likely to get a better deal. You’ll also more likely to have changes which can complicate your itinerary.

  14. Winter White says:

    I don’t understand. The 9am flight was the LATEST he could leave? So why on earth couldn’t he take a flight that was 40 minutes EARLIER?

    And flying with food? What?

    • Speak says:

      I doublechecked the website of the DC metro, and it looks as if stations don’t open until 7 a.m. (!) on weekends. Maybe, if this guy were traveling from outside DC to the airport, and he’s taking public transportation (metrorail specifically), he couldn’t be sure he’d get to the airport before the flight started boarding, assuming an hour of travel. As for the food, maybe he’s taking something home for Thanksgiving?

  15. WaldoJeffers says:

    I got married in Ecuador in 2002. My flight down there was scheduled to leave Newark at 3:00PM on continental. I got to the airport 2 hours early, only to find out the flight had been rescheduled to 1:30PM, and was starting the boarding process. I had no notification of any kind from Continental about this, and had been too busy that day to log into my email to look for any changes (if I had even thought that there might be such drastic changes in the first place.) I was lucky- I was able to pesuade them to let me get to the beginning of the check-in line, and they walked me through security, and I just made it onto the plane. Had I been there a few minutes later, I’m sure the story would have been different.

  16. barfoo says:

    I once had the time of a flight booked on Expedia changed (substantially, from something like noon to 10 am). The change happened several months out, and they sent me an email. Fine. But the itinerary accessible through the web page didn’t change, so when I checked again a few days before departure it still had the old times and we planned around that. Fortunately something was nagging at me and I double-checked the morning, and we rushed to the airport and made it. But if we hadn’t I think it would have been a Consumerist post.

  17. Winter White says:

    I’m trying to think of all the times I’ve had flight times changed…probably at least 50% of my flights. The last two I know were right, and I’m flying Virgin to SFO in four weeks, so I imagine that will be pretty good. But I know it’s happened dozens of times that my flight time has been changed, which is why you just don’t schedule anything else the day of unless you absolutely can’t avoid it.

    I’m confused why he wanted united to pay for his taxi. It’s their fault you don’t have a car? Or that you don’t want to leave earlier? I’m still confused. Maybe next time I’ll try to get them to pay for a car service to the airport because my rideshare didn’t work out?

  18. Jevia says:

    I’m amazed in this day and age with electronic tickets and such that its so hard for the airlines to email people with itinerary changes. I had this happen with Lufthansa a couple of years ago, when they moved my family’s tickets to a flight 4 hours earlier than we had booked. Lufthansa “claimed” that the 75 minute layover my family had between flights changed to 70 minutes, so they had to move us from our first flight by 4 hours earlier because 75 minutes was the ‘minimum layover time’ allowed back to the US.

    However, they didn’t email us about the change and when we checked on line, the flight was still listed with the same scheduled times as when we booked, so we didn’t know about the change till we showed up for our previously scheduled flight time, now 2 hours too late to catch the earlier flight. It was fortunate that we were staying with family, so were able to stay an extra day, since Lufthansa refused to put us on our original flight, so we had to wait till the next day to get another flight.

    Personally, I think Lufthansa just saw an opportunity to sell more seats on the later flight and moved us without there being a real change on the layover time. Both my family and my husband’s family have taken the same time flight previously several times, and the layover time is always the same and sufficient.

  19. ORD75 says:

    Schedule changes are a part of life when it comes to air travel. I don’t think 40 minutes is worth any compensation… if 40 minutes makes the difference between making it to your flight or not, then you’ve picked the wrong flight. By now even infrequent travelers should realize that you must consider delays, schedule changes, etc. and book accordingly. If the bus doesn’t arrive on schedule and I don’t make it downtown at the time the public transit website says I will, I don’t get my money back either.

  20. 2 replies says:

    Happened to me just last month with my Northwest Christmas reservation.
    I paid extra for two direct flights, and they decided to switch me to a 4 hour layover.
    I called and pitched a grand maul fit, which resulted in them fixing it.
    But the next day I find out they canceled my return trip (the one that wasn’t the layover), so now I just had a DIRECT ONE WAY trip.
    Another two hour bitch-fest had them finally fixing it and putting free flight protection on it.


  21. AdmiralKit says:

    After the last time I flew United, I swore I would rather castrate myself with a rusty spoon than fly with their airline again. I was flying to and from a minor airport, and both flying to and from the city United couldn’t be bothered to get the planes to the airport on time. As such, I encountered 45+ minute delays which were enough to cause me to miss both of my connecting flights. I even planned for potential delays and they still ate up all of the planned time and then some.

  22. Mexicotraveler says:

    Traveling has become a way of life for many of us. I have to go to San Diego from Orlando quite often because i work helping people with dental tourism in Mexico. I help people to go to Tijuana dentist in Mexico. Because of this, I have to help people to find good deals on air travel every week. I found a website that is very useful. It is called You can easily compare the flight information and prices of every ticket agency.