“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

TravelHaven Tips – What if My Flight Is Cut?

Air carriers are cutting flights, according to a November 5 AP report, which can cause problems for passengers who bought tickets on those trips. Airlines will usually rebook a passenger on another flight as close to the original departure as possible, but the change can mean hours of delay, or even overnight. Such disruptions are most common when travelers buy tickets for a vacation or holiday far in advance. What can you do if the change ruins your plans?

“That’s a tough one,” says Glen MacDonell, director of the AAA travel club. “The airline will try to re-accommodate you or offer you a refund. In a lot of cases, neither of those are good options.” Most U.S. airlines offer a full refund if the new flight arrives more than 90 minutes earlier or later than your original schedule, but if air fares have risen since you bought your ticket, that probably won’t cover the cost of a new ticket on a different airline.

“It’s going to happen more often with smaller airports where they’re cutting back service,” says George Hobica, the founder of airfarewatchdog.com. Passengers also may be bumped when a smaller aircraft is substituted for a flight.

More advice from travel experts:

  • If the airline sends a new itinerary, check it closely . Make sure you still reach your destination at a reasonable time and have time to make any connecting flight or other connection.
  • If the new schedule is a problem, call the airline immediately . That way you have the maximum number of options, such as empty seats on more convenient flights.
  • If your airline cancels service to your destination, see if it has service to a nearby airport. You can ask to be put on another carrier, but airlines aren’t obligated to that.
  • Before you accept that refund, make sure you can book an alternate carrier. Many airlines have been cutting flights, which means that flights are more likely to be full than a year ago. Options may be limited — and expensive.

Here’s what some airlines say:

Delta typically offers displaced customers a better flight, such as a nonstop instead of a one-stop, or a credit for future travel. Or they can get a full refund if the new arrival time is more than 90 minutes later than the original one.

Continental will work with a customer to find a satisfactory new flight, or the customer can request a refund.

United says they offer full refunds if the new flight will arrive more than 90 minutes later than the planned arrival.

American says they also offer full refunds if the new flight will arrive more than 90 minutes later and that customers who want to pick another flight can apply the full amount they paid toward the new ticket.

Southwest offers a refund and, if the passenger wants to pick a different flight that now costs more, the airline will honor the original price.

Most airlines say they also waive change fees for replacement bookings. Trip insurance will typically reimburse you for a cancelled flight, which can be an inexpensive way to mitigate your loss.