Schedule Change Policy: American, United, Delta

A few weeks ago we covered how to handle a rescheduled flight or schedule change in general with airlines. However, it’s important to know each airlines policy as well. Some airlines make this easy to find. Some don’t (cough, American). So here I wanted to cover the “Big 3” airlines when it comes to rescheduled flight change policies.

American Schedule Change Policy

American_Airlines_Boeing_777-300
Ah, the best example of an airline that doesn’t like to notify me with schedule changes

American’s is the most difficult to find so I have put their policy first.

SCHEDULE CHANGE IN THE EVENT, AFTER TICKET ISSUANCE, SCHEDULE CHANGES ARE MADE BY AA THAT:

  • (I)AFFECT A PASSENGER’S DEPARTURE AND/OR ARRIVAL BY 2 OR MORE HOURS
  • (II) RESULT IN THE ADDITION OF AN INTERMEDIATE STOP ON THE PASSENGER’S ITINERARY;
  • (III) RESULT IN A SUBSTITUTION OF EQUIPMENT NOT ACCEPTABLE TO THE PASSENGER; OR
  • (IV) IF A CANCELLATION OR A CHANGE IN EITHER AIR OR TOUR ITINERARY IS INITIATED EITHER BY AA OR ITS TOUR OPERATORS WHICH IS UNACCEPTABLE TO THE PASSENGER, THE PASSENGER WILL HAVE THE OPTION OF CANCELLING WITHOUT PENALTY, OR REROUTING ON DIFFERENT FLIGHTS TO/FROM THE SAME OR DIFFERENT DESTINATION.HOWEVER, THE PASSENGER MUST PAY ANY ADDITIONAL AMOUNTS RESULTING FROM THE REROUTING.

There are some key parts bolded above. These give you a lot of flexibility to sweet talk an agent into getting what you want. As I mentioned in my previous post even though there are rules sometimes speaking to a sympathetic agent and stating why a change is inconvenient can still get you what you want.

Delta Schedule Change Policy

Delta’s policy should be straightforward. Yet, in their contract of carriage the change states 90 minutes or more. But here, it states one hour. Because the contract of carriage is more of a binding document I would assume that is correct but 60 minutes may be too. Either way the 90 minutes or more does entitle you to a refund.

Delta’s Liability in the Event of Schedule Changes, Delays and Flight Cancellations

In the event of flight cancellation, diversion, delays of greater than 90 minutes, or delays that will cause a passenger to miss connections, Delta will (at passenger’s request) cancel theremaining ticket and refund the unused portion of the ticket and unused ancillary fees in the original form of payment in accordance with Rule 260 of these conditions of carriage. If the passenger does not request a refund and cancellation of the ticket, Delta will transport the passenger to the destination on Delta’s next flight on which seats are available in the class of service originally purchased.

At Delta’s sole discretion and if acceptable to the passenger, Delta may arrange for the passenger to travel on another carrier or via ground transportation. If acceptable to the passenger, Delta will provide transportation in a lower class of service, in which case the passenger may be entitled to a partial refund. If space on the next available flight is available only in a higher class of service than purchased, Delta will transport the passenger on the flight, although Delta reserves the right to upgrade other passengers on the flight according to its upgrade priority policy to make space in the class of service originally purchased.

Airlines can never be clear or easy, can they?

United Schedule Change Policy

Surprisingly United’s policy actually is the easiest one to read and understand. It is found here and clearly states:

Rebooking options if a schedule change has affected your itinerary

If your scheduled departure or arrival time changes by 30 minutes or more, we’re happy to try to find other available flight options that meet your needs. Please keep the following in mind when you call:

  • Your origin and destination will have to be the same as on your original itinerary.
  • If you have a connection, you may be able to choose a different connecting city or airport.
  • Alternative flights must be operated by United or our United Express® partners.

If we aren’t able to find any other flights that meet your needs, requesting a refund may be an option. See the section below for more information.

Ticket refunds

When a schedule change happens, we try our best to provide you with options that minimize the disruption to your travel plans. In cases where the new flight options don’t work for you and one of the following scenarios applies, we may be able to offer you a refund:

  • The scheduled departure or arrival time changes by two hours or more.
  • The change causes issues with the overall length of the trip, such as making the connection time too short or significantly longer than it originally was.

Bottom Line

Always call and see what you’re offered if you don’t like the option given. It is good to know each airlines policy to make sure you get what you deserve, but always ask politely for accommodation even if your change doesn’t technically fall within the policy. And remember to check out this post for more tips on how to leverage a schedule change.

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