Dana Dee booked a roundtrip flight from New Zealand to Orlando, to visit her family for Christmas. Getting there won’t be a problem, but getting back again could be a trick.
Her original return flight, for which she paid and was ticketed, was scheduled to depart from Orlando at 5:11 p.m. on Jan. 13.
But a few days ago, she received an email from BudgetAir, the online travel agent (OTA) through which she booked the flight, saying that her return flight had changed and would now depart at 7 a.m. on Jan. 13. The email asked her to confirm the change.
As Dee explained to us, she was not amenable the new schedule, since it would mean missing the last day of her trip and a planned dinner with family. She responded to BudgetAir, explaining why she would not confirm, but never heard back. She also claims she was unable to reach the company via phone.
Dee started a dispute with her credit card company, but in the meantime she is concerned about her trip. In her own words:
I’ve now started a dispute with my credit card company, but as we’re nearing Christmas, flights are becoming more expensive and I’m panicking.
I’m OK if the dispute takes its time to return my money, but is what they did even legal?
I don’t want to book another flight if I won’t be able to get my money back from this one, but if I don’t book soon I won’t be able to book at all because of how expensive the flights are becoming.
I feel for Dee, but to answer her question, yes, schedule changes are very legal. In fact, something similar happened to me recently.
My fiance and I booked a trip to the U.K. for February, from Washington to London, with a connection through JFK. A few weeks ago, we received an email saying the departure time for our flight from JFK to Heathrow was changed to leave several hours earlier. Unfortunately, our flight from IAD to JFK would arrive too late for us to make that connection.
We called the airline directly and they rebooked us free of charge.
That’s where Dee is running into trouble. BudgetAir is an OTA. They are not responsible for schedule changes made by the airline.
Dee did not provide us with the airline she’s flying, nor the specific route, but a quick search leads me to believe she’s most likely flying from Orlando to Los Angeles before catching a connecting flight to New Zealand, and that the carrier for the domestic portion of her trip (the one with the schedule change) is either American or Delta.
If you ever run into a situation like this, you should contact the outbound lift carrier (the actual airline operating the flight in question) to address any issues. Some airlines will help, but as Dee can attest, your OTA usually won’t.
We recommend that Dee contact her outbound lift carrier to see whether they can help her get on a later flight that day. Chances are, her flight from LAX to New Zealand never changed — rather, the domestic connecting flight from Orlando to Los Angeles changed and she would be facing a longer layover at LAX with the new itinerary.
She should also check her domestic contract of carriage. When there’s a significant schedule change, she may be entitled to a no-questions-asked refund. That’s a lot less painful than a credit card dispute.
We’d love to hear from Dee to find out if our itinerary sleuthing is correct. We’d also love to hear from you about whether we should take this case.