Getting Rebooked During A Schedule Change

Filed Under: American, Awards

Reader aussiejosh asked the following question on the “Ask Lucky” forum:

I have a USDM award which just keeps giving me grief. I am booked on an award itinerary, part of which is an AA operated flight from LHR – MIA. I have a separate revenue ticket from MIA – SJO.

I just got an alert that there was a schedule change on my AA LHR-MIA flight such that it now arrives three hours later, and I miss my connection to SJO.

So I called the AA help line, and they transferred me to an ex-USDM call centre.

I asked the guy if I could just be put onto the BA flight that left the same time as the original AA flight, and he said there was ‘no award space available’, and that regardless it would cost me a lot because I would have to pay BA taxes. So I guess my questions are:

1. I thought oneworld – oneworld separate itineraries are ‘protected,’ so to speak, in the case of schedule changes, am I correct?

2. Did the ex-USDM guy know at all what he was talking about? Surely I shouldn’t have to pay more tax due to the schedule change?

Any help would be appreciated!

While this is a specific question, I figured I’d answer it here given that I think a lot of people are confused about the overall “protection” available in the event of schedule changes. I’ve written in the past about general tips for maximizing airline schedule changes, so this will be more specific.

Just to define the above “terms” upfront, “USDM” refers to US Airways Dividend Miles. So aussiejosh booked this award before the US Airways Dividend Miles program was merged into the American AAdvantage program. Do keep in mind that American and US Airways are still on separate reservations systems, though the process of integrating them will start soon.

Nowadays American AAdvantage issues all award tickets for the combined airline, which makes it tricky to change US Airways award tickets, since they were booked through US Airways’ reservations system.

With that in mind, let’s get to aussiejosh‘s questions:

What protection does oneworld offer?

Oneworld as an alliance has a great policy whereby you’re “protected” on awards when you book two separate tickets. To give an example, let’s say you book a paid ticket on American from Los Angeles to London, and then a separate award ticket on British Airways from London to Paris.

If your Los Angeles to London flight were delayed and you misconnect, then British Airways should be willing to accommodate you on a later London to Paris flight, despite the fact that you were booked on two separate reservations.


But what about on awards?

The above policy doesn’t really apply here, though. In the event of a schedule change on American, are you entitled to space on British Airways? Unfortunately the answer is no.

What should you reasonably expect in a situation like this?

  • They should be willing to open up award space on American/US Airways metal, given that the schedule change was within their control
  • They can’t open up award space on any other partner airlines, especially since this was an award ticket issued by American/US Airways, and that airline also caused the schedule change; in some instances if it’s a partner airline that had the schedule change, they can also open up award space, but that gets tricky
  • If there aren’t any better options now, they should be willing to let you make a change at some point down the road when something better opens
  • You can always redeposit the award for free

Realistically speaking, unfortunately the best you can hope for is picking another routing on American, even if it doesn’t have award space.


Paying difference in taxes due to schedule change?

The agent was definitely wrong on this. In the event of a schedule change, the airline should be willing to make an “even exchange.” That means even if the taxes/fees were supposed to go up, they shouldn’t, since the change was outside your control. So if you did theoretically rebook from American to British Airways, there shouldn’t be a change in taxes/fees.


Bottom line

This is an especially tricky situation, given that the ticket was booked before the Dividend Miles program was shut down. Realistically the best that aussiejosh can hope for is space opening up on American, and continuing to monitor for best options. But this change was entirely within American’s control, and since they’re in charge of the ticket, unfortunately this isn’t an area where a partner airline will open up space.

Have you ever been in a similar situation — how did you end up handling it?

  1. I’m confused. Isn’t this protected through EC/261? I was under the impression that even award flights are protected by this, and a 3 hour delay is cause for a 400 euro refund.

  2. In this scenario, might it be worthwhile to see if AA can just rebook him on a later connection with no change fees and keep the original over water flight? Is this something airlines are open to?

  3. Had this same situation the other day. Had booked air Berlin ORD – TXL using avios and then paid british airways TXL – LHR. . I did this purely to avoid heavy taxes on BA.

    Anyway, got an email the other day saying my AB flight was cancelled and I’d been rebooked the following day. This meant a massive misconnect in Berlin. I phoned UK BA help desk (I live in England) to be told the only option I had was to cancel original booking and get 50,000 avios back (booked before devaluation.) and book ORD-LHR-TXL All on BA and pay the current avios rate plus taxes. I hung up and tried the U.S. call centre and was immediately rebooked on to the same BA flights without any additional cost. Needless to say, I will no longer be taking the second leg to Berlin. This schedule change Definitely worked into favour this time.

  4. Just had a similar situation. Was booked on a rev ticked on UA from SFO-DEN, with a two hour layover into a mileage ticket DEN-LHR on BA first using AA miles. 30-minutes before the UA departure, they posted a 4-hour delay due to the crew timing out (aargh!) which meant that we would miss our connecting flight to LHR on BA. Tried dealing with AA platinum desk and they couldn’t see any other available mileage tickets that day and UA customer service wasn’t much help at all. Just as we were about to leave the airport and re-book on AA for the following day, we decided to go over to the BA check in counter to see if they could help. Got a contract desk person who was very helpful and proactive and she was able to book us onto the BA direct SFO-LHR as standby in first. 30 minutes before departure we cleared standby and off we went. Got into LHR 30-minutes before our original schedule would have arrived and had the benefit of not connecting through DEN. Best part was that getting on that direct SFO-LHR BA flight (x2) in first is usually nearly impossible with miles.

    @lucky – BTW, while leafing through the BA onboard magazine, came across an advertisement for a flight safety training course that BA offers. You get to go through a simulated evacuation, go down the slides, etc. More info here: Looks super awesome!

  5. AA has lots of LHR-MIA flights. Pick the one that works for you and asked to be rebooked on that one. If none work for you, pick a later MIA-SJO flight and ask for that. If you really want to get fancy, you could try looking for a connection through another hub (JFK or DFW) and ask for that, but that could be tricky since it would require adjusting two tickets.

  6. Would the same alliance protection apply when you have two paid tickets with two one world airlines?

    I’m flying with BA to Stockholm and then onwards from there with Qatar on the same day. They’re on two separate tickets but there is a 4 hour window of time between both flights. If the BA one was delayed will I be protected?

  7. Does Star Alliance have a similar policy?

    I’m flying HYD-DEL-CDG on Air India and then CDG-SFO on United next January. Two reservations. Both are paid tickets.

  8. @ Chris M. — Technically I don’t believe so, though in practice I think most airlines would still be willing to book you on the next flight if you misconnected.

  9. @lucky Thanks for the answer!

    @tom Problem was the only way to connect was to take the earliest LHR to MIA flight and then the latest MIA to SJO flight, and they delayed the London to Miami leg so I can’t push that forward or push the SJO leg back.

  10. Having a similar issue. Shouldn’t this be covered under the OW policy?
    I was originally booked on the following itinerary:

    4:50 IB3316 TLV-MAD arriving 9:15
    10:55 AA95 MAD-JFK arriving 13:20

    The two flights were booked under separate itineraries (each booked with the operating airline), both as revenue tickets. Subsequently, Iberia changed its schedule, pushing my departure back to 6:30, so that I would miss my connection. There are two later MAD-JFK flights (both operated by Iberia). Am I entitled to a rebook under OW’s policy? When I called the EXP desk, they quoted a $500 change fee.

  11. Interesting to read how difficult American are being – on revenue tickets by comparison they seem to be excellent at handling rebooking.

    On the Oneworld policy side of things, can you provide a link to this, Ben? From everything I’ve read previously this is only an AA policy rather than a Oneworld one. Even BA to BA connections on separate tickets technically aren’t covered although they’d normally help out (not so sure if it then involved extra costs such as an overnight stay though)

  12. @Brian: moral of the story is, do NOT book on United for a position flight before going INTL. We learned that the hard way when we were flying on two separate reservations, ORD-SEA and SEA-NRT (on NH 787). I flew AS to SEA and got in fine, but my friend, booked on UA, was four hours delayed (creeping mx delay) and would misconnect. Similar to you, he begged UA to allow him on the ORD-NRT nonstop, which they gave to him in Y minus. Utter disaster, and this was in 2012! Odd how the situation hasn’t changed three years later.

  13. @ Alan — Don’t have a link, it’s an internal policy, and have verified with oneworld directly that it’s a thing. Not sure how American could have a policy which allows you to be protected on other carriers? They can’t make that decision on their own.

  14. @ Dan — The policy specifically covers day of travel misconnects. That’s different than changes in advance, unfortunately.

  15. Hi Ben – I was basing it on their previously published policy (unfortunately in the website redesign they seem to have taken it down) – has the details, but it seems to be very much to/from AA and another OW airline – I just hadn’t seen anything similar for other OW airlines. Anyway you can get hold of it in writing somehow? Would be a really handy policy and make me pick them over StarAlliance/SkyTeam!

    PS glad to hear you’re feeling better!

  16. Is there a possibility for AA/US to call a partner airline to request release of space when the problem is the partner’s schedule change? I have an award flight to JNB on Qatar. Original routing was MAD-DOH-JNB. All on QR. then QR changed the schedule so that the connection time in DOH was only 20 minutes, less than required for “legal” connection. Ticket was issued by US before programs were consolidated. US rebooked me on a connection that would work– but downgraded the ticket for that leg from business to economy. Agent said only thing I could do was check back later to see if business award becomes available. It’s frustrating since the change was necessary because of Qatars schedule change– I wonder if I need to politely keep calling to ask US to be more proactive.

  17. Today AAdvantage emailed me to notify a schedule change of 70 minutes to a LAX-JFK F award booking. Trouble is they have booked me FORWARD 70 mins, which means I will not have sufficient time to pass immigration, customs, baggage claim and make my way from TBIT to T4 and recheck baggage and get BP and board! Totally unsympathetic AA types insist on $150 to cancel ticket and re-deposit miles, despite it being an involuntary change which is entirely unsuitable. Their alternative to the new 9am flight was 1pm, 4 hours later, arriving into JFK very late on a winter’s night. No thanks! I have checked non-AA flights and find plenty suitable at reasonable times which I will book. I think it is very unfair to not get free cancellation. Have any other readers been caught out on this handy little AA moneymaker??

  18. @ Glenn T — Sounds like its time to HUCA. I had a schedule change on AA recently that I thought would be enough to allow canceling the itinerary for free. Initial rep said no. I tried again later and got the right answer. I think you just need to find a more sympathetic rep, and then grovel and beg appropriately 😉

  19. @ Glenn T. — Definitely hang up and call again. With a 70 minute schedule change they should be willing to redeposit for free.

  20. Lucky,
    Any input would be appreciated. Nightmare involving Alaska and BA. This has happened multiple times. Apparently Alaska made a schedule change and they tell me the process is this: Since I booked using Avios, BA must rebook or revalidate the ticket. They inform BA behind the scenes through a “TTY”, and everything is supposed to work fine. When BA doesn’t reissue the ticket (happened twice and there is no way of knowing unless you call), Alaska cannot reissue the ticket/boarding pass. Alaska will not call BA for me to straighten it out, so I am put in the middle. I had to call BA, they tell me everything is perfect on their end. I then call Alaska back who says it is not. When metal reschedules a flight, why does the ticketing airline have to reissue the ticket? Sometimes flights are rescheduled multiple times in advance of a flight, what a mess.

    Great article about you in USA Today!

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