How can I change my flight with­out a charge?

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Christo­pher El­liott

A: This is an ab­surd prob­lem. You shouldn’t have to pay Amer­i­can air­lines to drop the last leg of your flight. It should pay you the value of your missed seg­ment.

I see two pos­si­ble so­lu­tions. First, you could go for the re­fund and find another way to travel to Wash­ing­ton. Or you could give Amer­i­can a chance to re­book you on a dif­fer­ent flight.

I re­viewed your itin­er­ary. It in­volves mul­ti­ple air­lines, in­clud­ing Amer­i­can, Bri­tish Air­ways and Ibe­ria. With so many car­ri­ers, some­thing’s bound to go wrong. (My ad­vice: Hold on to your lug­gage. It’s easy to get lost be­tween air­lines.)

Why is Amer­i­can charg­ing you a change fee? Any

Q I have a ques­tion about my rights as an air­line pas­sen­ger. My part­ner and I have ar­ranged a trip to Europe. It’s a six-seg­ment air­line trip. On the fifth leg, we’re sup­posed to fly from Lon­don to New York.

Our con­nect­ing flight leaves New York at 10 p.m. for Wash­ing­ton. How­ever, we found out that Amer­i­can Air­lines can­celed its 10 p.m. flight to Wash­ing­ton. There are no other flights that leave New York af­ter we ar­rive. In­stead, Amer­i­can has resched­uled us for a flight from New York to Wash­ing­ton at 6:54 a.m. the next day. That means we now have an al­most 11-hour lay­over in New York, mak­ing it a 26-hour trip.

I spoke to an Amer­i­can rep­re­sen­ta­tive and asked if there would be any penal­ties if we just dropped the last leg of our trip from our reser­va­tion. Since we would not be tak­ing part of the trip, I thought we might ac­tu­ally get a bit of money back. In­stead, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive told me there would be an ad­di­tional fee of $325 each for “chang­ing our reser­va­tion.” Imag­ine my sur­prise! Can you tell me how to change a flight for free? time you change your sched­ule, Amer­i­can charges a fee. That’s how air­lines make money.

But why is Amer­i­can keep­ing the money for the last seg­ment? It prob­a­bly re­cal­cu­lated the fare to end in New York, which might have been a more ex­pen­sive ticket.

Like I said, ab­surd. Come to think of it, there’s an op­tion three: You could have dis­em­barked in New York and thrown away the last part of your ticket. If you do that, make sure you don’t check any lug­gage and don’t give Amer­i­can your fre­quent flier num­ber. The air­line might ask you to pay a change fee and, if you don’t, might sus­pend your ac­count.

Fi­nally, you might have ap­pealed this odd re­quest by Amer­i­can. I list the names, num­bers and email ad­dresses of all the Amer­i­can Air­lines ex­ec­u­tives on my non­profit con­sumer ad­vo­cacy site.

I con­tacted Amer­i­can on your be­half. It went with op­tion two and helped you re­book your flight so you would avoid a long lay­over in New York.

It turns out you didn’t have to know how to change a flight for free. Good luck with your trip.

Christo­pher El­liott is the om­buds­man for Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Trav­eler mag­a­zine and the au­thor of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Trav­eler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, el­liott.org, or email him at [email protected]­liott.org.

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