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Flight schedule changes: your rights and compensation

To the point Here are the different rights for air passengers when there is a change of flight schedule by the airline.

Are you aware of your rights when an airline cancels a flight or makes a flight schedule change? Knowing the rules of the game is key to taking advantage of these changes. Especially given the current situation at the airports.

What to do in the event of a flight cancellation or schedule change?

Understand the changes in flight itineraries

Flight schedule changes are not new, although they are more common with the pandemic. Indeed, carriers have “carte blanche” to readjust their flight schedules up to 14 days before departure.

They can change the frequency of flights, modify the take-off time and even cancel some flights in order to optimize the use of their fleet. The planes follow an extremely strict schedule and must be in the air as much as possible.

Avion en vol

For example, the same plane could do this in one day:

  • Paris-Montreal
  • Montreal-Toronto
  • Toronto-Montreal
  • Montreal-Paris

Therefore, airlines will adjust the flight schedule to allow the aircraft to maximize its utilization, to allow time for crew rotations or maintenance, etc.

IMG 6200

In some cases, a trip booked well in advance could be subject to flight schedule changes several times!

In fact, flights are scheduled several months in advance in order to generate bookings even if the carrier is not certain to operate the flight.

Staying tuned for flight schedule changes

Most of the time, airlines will send an email (depending on your communication preferences) to inform you of a change in flight schedule, even if the change is minimal.

However, I recommend that you ALWAYS check the schedules yourself, and periodically. To do this, the ExpertFlyer tool is excellent for notifying you of flight changes without you having to do it manually.

For example, here is a message I received from the Expedia website warning me of a 5-minute change in my flight schedule from my original itinerary.

Changement d'horaire de vol

What to do when a flight schedule change occurs?

The company’s main mandate is to get you to your destination in the class you paid for. So, in the eyes of the carrier, the itinerary (one day later or one more stopover) does not matter.

Your rights when the flight is modified

When making a change, you can:

  • Acknowledge change ;
  • refuse and modify your itinerary to your satisfaction (same class and destination);
  • refuse and obtain a full refund, regardless of how you paid for the ticket (in cash or points).
YUL AMS modification

Under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), the change in schedule must be significant in order to be eligible for a refund or change.

Depending on their policies, each company has its own definition of “significant change”. A thumb rule to remember is a minimum of two hours delay or an added connection.

That being said, when Delta Airlines changed my flight by 5 minutes, I was able to make a change and have an itinerary that worked better for me! Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Another example is when I went to Sydney to celebrate New Year’s Eve: there was only availability for a departure on December 25 with Aeroplan award tickets. So, I patiently waited (and hoped) for a flight schedule change in order to shift my departure to a different day and reduce my stopovers!

Tip: If you want to cancel a flight, wait until the last minute to do so. This way, you may be able to do it for free if a flight schedule change occurs!

Small details to remember

When we change our flight, the carrier must put us in the same class (cabin).

However, since there are multiple fares within a booking class, the new booking may be more advantageous. Depending on the company, there can be a dozen different economy class rates!

In fact, your initial reservation at the base rate could be at the latitude rate, following the modification.

Therefore, you could:

  • earn more points as a result
  • need fewer credits for an upgrade
  • benefit from advantages related to the new fare (baggage included for example)
  • etc.

In my case, I was able to earn Aeroplan points on an award ticket! My original flight was cancelled and the new booking was categorized as a cash ticket. Therefore, you must always enter your membership number.

Allowances and compensation for changes in flight schedules

Flight schedule changes, cancellations and delays that result in late arrival at destination are eligible for compensation if the carrier is responsible for the cause.

The different types of situations

Type of situation Duties of the carrier
Situation attributable to the carrier
  • compensation
  • passenger processing standards
  • obligation to ensure that the passenger reaches the final destination
Situation attributable to the carrier, but necessary for safety reasons
  • minimum standards of passenger processing
  • obligation to ensure that the passenger reaches the final destination
Situation beyond the control of the carrier
  • obligation to ensure that the passenger reaches the final destination only

Situations attributable to the carrier

According to the law, financial compensation must be paid for changes for which the customer is informed less than 14 days before the scheduled departure time.

The following is a complete list of situations where compensation may be claimed if arrival at destination is delayed by 3 hours or more:

  • commercial overbooking
  • mandatory regular maintenance of an aircraft
  • mechanical failures raised during regular maintenance of the aircraft
  • delay or cancellation of a flight due to lack of crew
  • notice of change or cancellation within 14 days of departure

In Canada, large carriers must compensate passengers as follows:

  • 3 to 6 hours: $400
  • 6 to 9 hours: $700
  • 9 hours or more: $1,000

The allowance is calculated based on the time of arrival at the destination when there is a change in flight schedule.

These rules apply to both domestic and international flights to and from Canada. It should be noted that the European rules are different.

IMG 7753

Finally, compensation for the inconvenience caused by the changes should not be confused with additional expenses caused by the flight delay.

In the case of additional expenses incurred, you will need to look into credit card insurance for these unexpected expenses.

Bottom Line

In short, carriers are free to change or cancel your original itinerary up to 14 days before departure. However, you will have the big stick to get your money back or to find something better!

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
I'm Aline, an experienced traveller, a foodie at heart, an Avgeek, a photography enthusiast and an expert on credit card programs. I use Reward Points to travel on a budget and to save money on everyday life; writing about these topics allows me to share my passion and help you. ~ 7 continents and 75 countries ~

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