Tuesday Feb. 11, 2014 @ 10:27 am By

According to an interesting story posted over at The Wall Street Journal website, airlines have been having a tough time sticking to their schedules, and not just because of the recent winter storms. Many passengers who bought tickets months in advance find their itineraries getting switched to different flights.

The changes, cancellations and rebookings, some of which alter schedules by 10 to 12 hours, can create all kinds of problems for customers. Rental-car reservations and sometimes hotels need to be rebooked, often at higher rates. Travelers may have to leave work earlier or lose out on time on vacation time doing the things they had planned to do.

Airlines say they have been making more schedule changes because there’s been so much turbulence in the industry—mergers and partnerships, planes getting pulled out of weak markets and sent to stronger routes, and the closing of hubs, shifting demand for airline seats, selling seats on other airlines as their own, etc. But the problem is, those changes often have heavy repercussions – in terms of costs – on the traveler. It can cause one to have to cancel a trip (a fee) and/or change flights (a fee and maybe higher rates) and/or change hotel or car arrangements (a fee and maybe higher rates) and/or miss out on scheduled vacation activities (loss of time and possible money).

“It’s very one-sided,” said Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights, a consumer advocacy organization

But do the airlines care? Not so much as all of these changes mean forms of revenue to them in terms of fees and cost differences between the flight you had and the one you might have to take due to their rescheduling. Those fees are now crucial to airline profitability. Airlines collected $2.7 billion in reservation change/cancellation fees over the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, up 9% from a year earlier, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Revenue from change fees in the third quarter last year, the most recent period reported by BTS, was up 13% over the same period of 2012.

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