¨I’ve got stuff about airline mergers, which just shows that my stand-up is getting more insane by the minute.¨
Why Are Airline Schedule Changes So Common Nowadays?
For the last six years, many passengers who bought tickets months in advance only to later receive notification of airline schedule changes, even months later.
About 60% of the time in my experience the airline schedule changes were minor. (Many times the difference is a matter of a few minutes). However, frequent airline schedule changes have dramatically changed my plans. (Some flights have left as much as 10 to 12 hours later or airlines have forced me to take connecting flights after I deliberately bought a non-stop ticket (my pet peeve).
These changes can create all kinds of problems for customers, including:
- Rental-car reservations, and sometimes hotels need to be rebooked, often at higher rates.
- Travelers have to leave work earlier or lose time from vacations.
- Travelers miss connections to tours or cruises or arrive late at significant family events.
- The sheer frustration of increased travel times, delays, etc.
Why Do Airlines Change Schedules?
Industry experts report that airlines increasingly make schedule changes after customers bought their tickets for the following reasons. (Note: before 2012, these changes were rare):
- Mergers often result in airlines closing or expending hubs resulting in massive changes in airline schedules. Also, competitors add or reduce flights to address these flight charges. (For example, after American closed its Saint Louis hub, other airlines added flights to Saint Louis).
- Market changes. Planes get pulled out of weak markets and sent to stronger routes in response to economic changes.
- Governments revoke the rights of an airline to fly a specific route.
Improved Airline Performance
- Flight rescheduling. Airlines change times to better coordinate other routes operated by the same planes and crews.
- Improved on-time performance. Poor on-time performance ratings cause problems with regulators and public relations. Airlines may change times (though airlines deny doing this) on flights with bad on-time performance ratings to a time when it is easier to ensure that flights arrive on time. (Experts maintain that airlines extend their flight time by 20-30 minutes to make it appear that the flights arrive on-time).
- The chain effect. Since airplanes fly multiple trips each day, changing the time of one flight may force readjusting ten other flights a day. Changing ten flight schedules, in turn, can result in changes to connections for thousands of passengers.
- Airplane equipment changes. Some airplanes take longer to turnaround due to the size of the plane or mechanical design. For example, swapping out a 737 for a 777 means that there are now 100+ more seats to clean, hundreds of gallons more fuel to fill up, and many more bags to process. All this extra work results in longer turnaround time at the airport and thus changed flight departure times.
- Changes in personnel availability.
- Flight connections. By changing flight times, airlines can better accommodate connecting passengers. If an airline finds that a flight is routinely delayed, they change the flight time to ensure smoother connections.
- Weather. A harsher than expected winter on the East Coast of the US may result in slower turnaround times for flights.
- Special events. Special events or even the arrival/departure of a dignitary’s airplane cause multiple flight delays. (Particularly special events that do not occur regularly, i.e., the Olympics, World Cup, etc.)
What Can You Do About Schedule Changes?
Consumer advocates argue that airlines should have to compensate travelers when airlines make substantial route changes after passengers have booked a flight. They say that these changes can cause significant passenger delays and problems. These advocates want the airline to have to provide compensation. (Similar to the compensation airlines have to pay passengers who are bumped off a flight).
I doubt these advocates will ever be successful. Thankfully, though, you can get your money back or book a different flight without any additional fees if airlines either:
- change the flight’s departure time by more than one hour.
- increase the total flight time by more than an hour.
You can learn more details about your rights in my post about schedule changes.
You can also find useful advice from NBC Miami.
The Travel Economics 101 Posts
Here are several posts designed to give Fifty-Plus Nomads a basic idea of how Travel Economics works. Being armed with a better economics education should make you a better travel consumer. (These can be read in any order) .
- Why Alliances are Essential to Travel Providers. Are they Good or Bad for Consumers?Travel industry alliances are essential to the business´s survival. However, alliances have both good and bad implications for consumers
- Extra Fees: What are Ancillary (Extra) Fees and Why Are They Increasingly Becoming A Travel Industry Lifeline?More and more the travel industry depends on the sale of other products to expand and maintain its profitability. Expect to be bombarded with hints to buy other things (ancillaries) on your next cruise, flight, etc.
- The Internet Has Changed the Face of the Travel Industry More than Any Other Major IndustryThe internet has changed the travel industry probably more than another industry. This article discusses how these changes affect the consumer.
- Travel Industry Cost Saving Techniques: The Good, the Bad, and the UglyThe travel industry has made several changes to save costs in recent times. Some like using more fuel-efficient planes do not affect consumers that much. Others like reducing staff have made the experience worse for consumers.
- Business Travelers Versus Leisure TravelersThe travel industry gets most of its clients from leisure travelers. However, it makes more money from business than leisure passengers. The airlines put up with us leisure travelers because they couldn’t survive without us. However, they don’t hide their preference for business travelers.
- Why Are There So Many Connecting Flights? A Discussion of Why Airlines Love the Hub-Spoke Model More than ConsumersUnbeknownst to most consumers, the cause of most of our airline-related complaints is the hub-spoke model. Unfortunately, however, the hub-spoke model is also essential to the airline industry’s financial viability.
- Airline Schedule Changes: Why Don’t Airlines Keep their Promises?Learn why airlines change their schedules after you buy your tickets and what you can do about it.
- How Many Taxes, Fees, and Other Charges Do Consumers Pay For Airfare, Hotels, and Other Travel Services?The amount and number of travel taxes, fees, and other charges added to your bill will probably surprise you. Many are hidden and like everything else, taxes keep going up.
- Airline Consolidation: What Are the Disadvantages and Advantages For the Consumer?The airlines have consolidated so fast in the USA and Canada that only 5 players dominate the market. Learn what this means for consumers.
- Travel Industry Consolidations (Non-Airlines): The Effect on Consumers (Negative or Positive)?Probably the most significant change in the travel industry in the past couple of decades has been the industry’s rapid consolidation. Read this post to discover how few travel players really exist in the market today. and how this rapid consolidation has affected consumers.
- Why the Sharing Economy Has Become So Popular in the Travel Industry?The sharing economy like Uber and Airbnb has made a major influence on the travel industry and will continue to affect the industry far into the future.
- Third World and Chinese Travelers: The Biggest Future Travel TrendThe biggest change affecting the travel industry is the gigantic increase in emerging countries and Chinese travelers. These travelers will change the future face of tourism more than anything else.
- The 3 Reasons Travel Prices Are So Radically Different than Other Products: Perishability, Capital Costs, and Yield ManagementHave you ever wondered why travel products seem to be priced so crazily? Learn the three economic factors that contribute to the pricing of travel products: perishability, high capital costs, and yield management.
- Travel Economics 101: Learn How the Industry Works and Save Yourself Money and HeadachesPaul Heller, the Fifty-Plus Nomad founder, has developed a series of posts about travel economics. Reading these posts will help Fifty-Plus Nomads deal with some of the problems with the travel industry they are likely to encounter during their long-term, round-the-world journeys.