Last-minute ticket changes can mean future problems.


last-minute ticket changesNobody likes starting off a trip with last-minute ticket changes at the airport. But stuff happens at the beginning of a trip — whether it’s a check-in problem, nearly missing a plane, a ticketing issue, a flight delay, or something else. We all breathe a big sigh of relief when airport agents resolve the issue.

After any last-minute ticket changes make sure to recheck the rest of the reservation. Or, contact your travel agent. Don’t relax. Do it the same day or the next day. Sometimes there’s more than one issue. And worse, sometimes the solution to one problem just might have created another.

Here are examples to illustrate the unintended consequences of last-minute ticket changes.

1. A client this week was returning from vacation on the East Coast with a few hours layover in San Francisco before going on to Asia for business. He had booked his own flight from the East Coast to San Francisco, but had me do the work ticket from San Francisco to Asia.

He also asked if I could book his small dog on the first leg only, as he would give it to a family member before continuing. It took the United agent a few extra minutes, but she was able to book the pet only for the first flight and charged the fee correctly.

Click here to subscribeAt the airport, however, the agent was confused and had a hard time figuring out how to get the dog correctly checked in for half the trip.  My client emailed me from the air because the lengthy process had worried him. He was right to be worried. Her solution, or a simple mistake, we’re not sure which, had resulted in canceling his return flight. And that flight was sold out.

Fortunately, a supervisor was able to restore the reservation. He only ended up losing his original seat assignment. However, had he not asked me to check, he wouldn’t have discovered the issue until he tried to check in on the return from Asia.

2. A friend earlier this year discovered at the airport that a schedule change had made their outbound flight connection unworkable. Again, an airport agent solved the problem. However, the agent didn’t notice or tell them that the return flights were also problematic. So, they went through another drama on the return and got home much later than expected.

3. A common situation that often results in return cancellation is showing up late for a flight. A gate agent might be able to get you boarded after missing check-in time, but the systems often automatically cancel the return. In addition, I’ve seen it happen where travelers get on an earlier flight than the one they booked, and because the airport agent doesn’t cancel the original, they are listed as a no-show. This can wreak havoc with a traveler’s entire ongoing itinerary.

Small-airport ticket changes are more likely.

It seems that the mistakes are more likely to happen at a small or non-hub airport, where an airline may be using contract workers instead of full-time employees.

Overall, airline agents work hard and do a great job in a stressful environment. Plus, computers with electronic tickets are much improved from their early days. But even if only one person in a thousand has their ticket messed up, it’s small consolation when you’re that one.