Airlines ground flights, passengers re-routed


Wednesday, July 23rd 2008, 4:04 pm
By: News 9


By Amanda Taylor, NEWS 9

As gas prices continue to climb, many are cutting back on the time they spend on the road, as well as in the air. Airline carriers have felt the pinch on their pocketbooks and are grounding flights already scheduled.

When Shawn Miller heard that his brother was getting married, he immediately booked a flight.

Not only was he hoping for a low fare for booking so early, but the departure time was critical in his scheduling.

"We wanted to work through the day and leave for the airport and get on a flight later on that evening, but not too late because we have four kids," Miller said.

Miller found what he thought was the perfect itinerary and booked his seats. Before his flight was set to leave, the airline cancelled both legs of his trip and automatically reassigned new flights and times.

"I was surprised that airline could do this after we paid," Miller said.

The airline industry said a carrier can change your itinerary at any point.

"Carriers do adjust their schedules and they adjust them based upon operational needs as well as market conditions," said David Castelveter of the Air Transport Association.

Big changes continue to happen. The major airlines, reeling from high fuel prices, are announcing significant cutbacks. They reduced the number of planes in their fleets, lowered capacity on certain routes, and even canceled service to some airports.

"In addition to pulling out of cities they serve, they'll be reducing the number of flights on particular routes," Castelveter said.

The ATA said ticket prices are likely to increase and customers should realize there are no guarantees.

"It's really a jungle out there when it comes to knowing if your flight is actually going to go where you want it to go," said George Hobica of AirfareWatchDog.com.

If the airline no longer flies a scheduled route, the customer may be switched from a non-stop to two or more connecting flights to get to the destination.

"If a flight is canceled, you will get a full refund," Hobica said. "Unfortunately, you're going to have to buy a ticket on another airline or drive or find another way to get there."

The airline could also cancel customers' flights and automatically book them on earlier or later departures. If the times don't work with the customers, the carrier will typically work with them.

"If you had a two o'clock flight that now is leaving at five and you were going to miss a cruise, you were going to miss an engagement, absolutely, the airline will work to put you on an earlier flight," Castelveter said.

The Millers were able to readjust their flights to better meet the needs of their schedule.

"Our airline was actually pretty good and rescheduled to time frames that would work for our family," Miller said.