When it comes to travel plans that get disrupted, some are out of our control (bad-weather delays or civil unrest in the country you’re planning to visit) and some are not (you are so sleep-deprived that you overslept and missed your flight).
And when it comes to getting help, some travelers find they are getting ping-ponged between the airline and the online travel agency from which they’ve bought tickets.
“Airlines and OTAs (online travel agencies such as Travelocity and Expedia) have this weird, symbiotic relationship,” said Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare.com, an airline-ticket comparison site. “As soon as a ticket is purchased and money transacted, it’s a shared ownership between these airlines and online travel agencies.”
But getting help depends a bit on where you are in the travel process.
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If you’re already checked in and you have a problem, whether it’s self-inflicted (missed your flight) or out of your control (something is messing with your scheduled flight), the airline should deal with you, said Joel Frey, a spokesman for Travelocity.
But if you’re not checked in and you’ve bought an airline ticket through an online travel agency? You need to contact the agency, Frey said.
Here’s where you may feel some pain: Airlines will charge you a fee if you’re changing your plans. Those airline change fees have increased in recent months to as much as $200 for a domestic ticket, more for international tickets. Besides that fee, the online agency is likely to charge you an additional (although smaller) fee.
Airlines will occasionally waive ticket-change fees, especially in the case of calamitous storms or political unrest that is undermining a country’s stability.
If you’re abroad and you need to change your ticket back home and you haven’t checked in? You’ll need to call your online travel agency in North America, if that’s how and where you booked your ticket.