Friday, September 21, 2018

What Happens When Your Flight Disappears From the Airline's Schedule

Good question. And one I just recently had to deal with. So what can you do? Basically, nothing!

We are traveling to SE Asia next year. The outbound air was easy. We are flying into Hong Kong first for a few days and I was able to get Business Class on Cathay Pacific with American Airlines miles  :)

From HKG we then fly to Saigon and with an alert set up on, I was able to grab a flight for $217 pp.

But planning the return was agonizing. Part of the problem was trying to decide if we go straight home or head off to one of the Thai beaches for a couple of days and/or spend some time in Singapore. That meant some research and while I used to enjoy sitting at my computer, digging through links, looking for the neat hotels and best things to do ... well, not so much anymore.

I started to do some research on the Thai island of Koh Samui. Which hotel? Which beach? I started to do some research on Singapore. Which hotel? What to see/do? I became overwhelmed. Because a couple of months on either side of our SE Asia trip are cruises and those ports of call require research and planning too. So in the end, decided we'd come straight home from Bangkok.

Air from BKK to home was cumbersome. Lousy departure times. Long layovers. Unless we wanted to pay exorbitant prices. I had enough miles to get Main Cabin on AA from HKG to home. For this long a flight we wanted Premium Economy so I figured I'd get the mileage seats then pay to upgrade to PE. Should be no problem. After all, we did just that on Delta last year. So the plan was to fly BKK to HKG, stay overnight near the airport, and fly home the next day on America in PE seats.

Called AA and guess what? You can't pay to upgrade on AA. So I'm now back at square one.

More air research. Pros and cons of flying all the way from BKK or stopping overnight in HKG. The big disadvantage of the later is that we'd have to go through HKG Immigration and Customs and then go through Security the next day. So finally, after many comparisons, found a flight on Air Canada that had one of the best prices in PE and a short overall flight time of 'only' 22 hrs. We would fly from BKK to HKG to YYZ (that's Toronto) and then home.

Now we come to the subject matter of the title of this post.

I get on the Air Canada website and the flight is not there!!! It was just there a couple of days ago. I know because I almost booked it at that time. I expected to get on the site today and find a price change but not the whole itinerary disappear! So I checked the segments. BKK to HKG. HKG to YYZ. The first could be done with now one stop instead of none. The later also had one stop instead of the previous none. So I called Air Canada and spoke to a rep. He couldn't find anything either. I told him I had almost booked this a couple of days ago. What would have happened to my reservation? He said we would have either been rerouted or we could get a refund. So guess what? There is NOTHING you can do except yell and scream (not helpful), accept the new routing, or ask for a refund if you don't like the rerouting (like a 22 hr trip going to 30+ and four changes of planes instead of two) and be, like us, back to square one.

Well, after more time on Kayak and airline sites, we now have our flights home. What did I end up doing? I got to thinking about why change planes in HKG? Suppose we changed planes in the U.S.? And spent the night at a hotel near that U.S. airport and next day security is a breeze because we have TSA Pre-Check.  Plus it meant only the U.S. Immigration and Customs which we'd have to do anyway.

I checked flights from BKK to Chicago, JFK, Newark, and Atlanta. What I learned was a big advantage of doing it this way, using an air search engine like Kayak, is that I got options on non-U.S. airlines. The end result? We are flying BKK to Newark on Cathay Pacific in PE seats. We will stay overnight at the EWR airport Hampton Inn 1/2 mile away and fly home on United the next day.

And the end $ result? Air Canada from BKK to home in PE was (when it existed) $1757 pp. Presently the only other viable option was AA at $1854 pp with BKK departure times we didn't like and, most options, with 3 plane changes. The air on Cathay Pacific from BKK to EWR, changing in HKG, in PE is $1440 pp. The flight on United is $126 pp and the baggage fee, assuming we have to check 2 bags, is $30 pp. With the hotel at $60 pp, the grand total is $1656 pp, $100 less than the Air Canada fare I was willing to book.

On top of that, we get to fly Cathay Pacific which is a top rated airline, we leave at a reasonable hour of the day (1:05 pm - Delta had flights leaving 1:05 AM), arrive in the U.S. at a reasonable hour (9 pm local time) and get home the next day at a reasonable hour (3:30 PM instead of midnight) for friends to pick us up at the airport.

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