NOTE: This post originally ran in 2015 but I’ve recently had some questions about schedule changes so I thought I would rerun this post to show the power of the involuntary schedule change!
My wife and I are planning a trip to Europe next month. Thankfully I think that we have all the details ironed out, but I wanted to share something that happened regarding our flights home.
Managing our flights
While we typically are economy class travelers (except for when we’re not), for this trip we thought we’d splurge and fly in Business Class. We are flying into Dublin on Aer Lingus, and making our way across the continent before having our final 3 days in Rome, and flying back from Rome to Cincinnati.
I had QUITE the hard time finding 2 business class seats ANYWHERE on the dates that we were looking for. Originally I had found 2 seats flying back on airberlin from Dusseldorf to Chicago. That would have required an overnight stay the night before in Dusseldorf, which prompted me to ask: 10,000 SPG or 50,000 Hilton points: which would you rather spend?
I was waiting for my US Airways points to be merged into American Airlines AAdvantage, and when that happened, all of a sudden, the DUS-ORD availability was GONE!
Eventually I found availability flying FCO-LHR-ORD-CVG
That had us leaving Rome on Wednesday night around 5pm, and staying the night in London before continuing on to Chicago Thursday morning, arriving in Chicago around 1pm and back to Cincinnati by 5pm.
Why this wasn’t a great flight
There were 2 reasons that this flight wasn’t my ideal choice
- Having to leave Rome Wednesday night. We’d have several hours in London, but we’ll have already BEEN in London on this trip, and with that short amount of time, and Heathrow’s distance from the airport means we wouldn’t really have time to do anything – that time would essentially be “wasted”
- Flying from the UK back to the USA means a hefty UK Air Passenger Duty. On our tickets, the fees ending up being $168.10 / person, not as bad as it could have been, because our itinerary was part of a layover in London.
(SEE ALSO: 4 ways to not pay UK Air Passenger Duty (APD))
Still, it was all I could find, so I booked it. Since American Airlines allows you to change award tickets for free, as long as your origin and destination remain the same, I was hoping for some extra space to open up.
Enter… the involuntary schedule change!
They canceled my Chicago to Cincinnati flight, and replaced it with one 30 minutes earlier. So it was time to spring into action!
Calling to get a new schedule
With an involuntary schedule change, you can often get American (or other airlines) to open up award space, as long as you’re flying on their metal (and not a partner). It did take me a few times of HUCA (Hang up, call again) before I finally got an agent willing to work with me. Most of the other agents I spoke to wouldn’t open up any revenue space, because the change was so minor.
I prepared by listing the different alternate flights, as well as by stressing that now I’d have a lot less time connecting in Chicago O’Hare, and how I was “worried” that I wouldn’t have time to go through customs and immigration, get my bags, move from the international to the domestic terminal, etc.
Eventually, I was able to get an agent who opened up space on the direct Rome to New York (JFK) flight on THURSDAY MORNING! So instead of leaving Rome at 5pm on Wednesday, we get to stay the whole rest of the day in Rome and fly out at 10am on Thursday!
Even better, because we don’t transit through London, buh-bye UK taxes! Our new itinerary is only $64 / person, a total savings of over $200!
Talk about a win-win! $200 in savings AND 16 extra hours in Rome!
So the moral of this story is if you’re booking something with American miles, just book what you can find, as long as it’s tolerable. Odds are good that you’ll either get an involuntary schedule change like me, or extra award space will open up, and you’ll be able to get better flights!
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