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What are my rights when an airline re-books my flights without my permission?

Dear Anita,

Several months ago I booked a non-stop flight from Paris to San Francisco on United. Yesterday, I received notice that they have cancelled their non-stop and I will now be put on a direct flight through Washington's Dulles airport. Instead of arriving early in the day I will now arrive late in the evening. Can they re-route me without my permission, and shouldn't I be financially compensated for the inconvenience?

Lewis Martin
San Jose, California
 

Dear Lewis,

You've been put in a no-win situation and you aren't alone. Due to the war, which has resulted in a very weak travel environment, airlines have slashed their schedules. Yes, United can change or cancel flights without your permission, but in doing so they have broken their "contract of carriage" with you. A "contract of carriage" is a written document that states the airline's and passenger's rights. Under your passenger rights you have two options: take the re-scheduled flight or receive a full cash refund. In the latter, do not let them talk you into a flight credit or voucher, except a refund only. As for additional compensation, remember, United is in bankruptcy and it's highly doubtful that you will receive anything more than the flight you paid for or a full refund.

I hope I've been helpful. Happy travels!

Anita Dunham-Potter

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