web Musings of The Global Traveller

Friday, May 15, 2009

2 flights cancelled and 1 paper ticket

Flights Cancelled

Why oh why do airlines cancel flights and not tell their customers? The other day I found out that 2 of my flights for next week were cancelled months ago. I found out only by checking my bookings on the internet, something I routinely do a couple of weeks before departure.

I don't think it is too much to expect an email notification that a booked flight has been cancelled. Such a simple measure can save a lot of grief for both passenger and airline.

In this case, had I failed to check, I would have flown the first flight of the day with Qantas only to be stuck in the Australian outback, at an airport with only a couple of flights a day and miles from anywhere, with no onward flight to take.

Qantas isn't the only airline that doesn't do a good job of notifying customers of flight cancellations - for example I've previously blogged about a non-notified Lufthansa flight cancellation. Yet other airlines manage to inform customers of flight changes. Just yesterday I got a phone call from Singapore Airlines saying a flight had been retimed by 15 minutes. The minor retiming had no effect on me (no need to change flights) and yet they made sure I was aware of it.

Check Your Bookings

I consider myself fortunate that I managed to avoid a nasty mistake, although it did take some work to get an alternative routing. There simply aren't many flight options in the outback, let alone at relatively short notice.

Lesson learned : Regularly check flight bookings for changes and cancellations. Don't leave it to the last minute - more on this below.

I blogged a few years ago about how to check for changing schedules. I think it is worth repeating and updating here.

1) Check if the airline you are flying with has a "Manage Your Bookings" functionality on their website. You may need to open each booking and scan for changes as they may not be obvious. Nowadays most major airlines have this functionality.

2) As above but using the website of the airline whose frequent flyer program you have associated with the booking. Some airlines have this functionality (eg Qantas) while others do not (eg Air New Zealand).

3) Look up individual bookings using one of the websites that link to the CRS (Computer Reservations System), aka GDS (Global Distribution System) of the relevant airline or online travel agent below:

  • Amadeus CheckMyTrip - Air France, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, SAS, Continental, America West, British Airways, Qantas, South African Airways, Opodo, Expedia
  • Apollo (aka Galileo) ViewTrip - United, Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Alitalia, TAP Portugal, CheapTickets
  • Sabre VirtuallyThere - American Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Dragonair, EVA Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, Silkair, US Airways, American Trans Air (ATA), Midwest Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Air Malta, Frontier Airlines, Aeroflot, Expedia, Travelocity
  • Worldspan MyTripAndMore - Delta, Northwest, (Expedia), (Orbitz), (Hotwire), (Priceline), Swiss
  • Other - some airlines (such as Air New Zealand) have their own systems, use the airline website to look up bookings.
4) Check the schedules of the airline you are flying with. While this will find cancelled flights it will not necessarily identify changes made to your bookings (eg if a flight has been retimed your next/previous flights may have been rebooked due to minimum connection times, or if the airline has bumped you to a different flight due to overbooking).

Paper ticket!

A year ago IATA, the airline association, had a big push for 100% e-ticketing. All sorts of changes were imposed on customers in pursuing this aim, some good and some bad.

I've commented on this blog and elsewhere about some of these negative impacts. One is the restriction to 16 "coupons" per ticket, which resulted in a significant devaluation of some alliance fares (which previously allowed 20 or 24 or more flights per ticket and the price of which was not adjusted to compensate). Another is the problems created when airline computer systems fail to talk with each other - the passenger can be left stranded at check in if the computer says ticketing wasn't completed. I've had this happen a couple of times lately.

Last week I got yet another paper ticket. Yes 100% e-ticketing is not yet reality.

Apparently the airport ticket counter can only handle electronic tickets these days and instead of my past practice of arriving at the airport early for the flight to get the ticket issued I had to arrange for their ticketing office to issue it and mail it out to me. This took about a week, and I was fortunate I was home to pick up the ticket before the trip. If I'd have left it closer to the departure date to organise, or had other travel immediately prior to this trip, then I would have been stuck.

In my case the push for e-ticketing has resulted in more cost and less convenience.

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