Getting an email about a time change for your upcoming flight is sorta like buying a lottery ticket – you might get a winner or it might be a total nothing.
You may be saying, “Huh???” Wait, stay with me…
I mean, if your airline lets you know that it’s altered your takeoff time from 8:02am to 5:16pm, or you’re now departing on Thursday instead of Wednesday, or any big change like that, you usually have the right to make your own changes to your itinerary without a change fee (each airline has its own specifics of when you can do that).
But a lot of the time, it’s just a small change. 3 minutes here. 12 minutes there. Little oddball changes that, at worst, trim how much time you have on your layover, but otherwise don’t really affect you very much (other than wishing it was more time so you could make your own changes for free).
Here’s why those little changes happen.
For U.S.-based airlines, you can usually make reservations around 11 months ahead of time. Obviously, the airlines have already planned those flights before the 11-month mark, and a lot of things can happen between then and when your flight occurs:
- Routes can be added or cut and even if you’re not on the flights involved (heck, it could be because of a new flight on an entirely different airline!), the airline might tweak your flight a little to accommodate those flights that weren’t even listed 11+ months ago.
- Airlines use a history of weather patterns to figure out how long flights will take but weather patterns are always subject to change. If, say, there’s consistently been more tailwind than originally anticipated for your L.A.-to-Chicago flight, the airline might make slight changes to your flight to adjust for that.
- An airport may have construction happening that hadn’t been announced 11+ months ago. The airline may pad the flight time of your flight to make up for potential ground delays because they’re fixing a sinkhole near Runway 2.
- Issues like what happened to the 737 MAX planes sent a ripple of changes, some big, some small, throughout the industry in terms of scheduling.
In other words, there are lots of little reasons that can cause lots of little changes. It may have to do with your airline. Or other airlines. Or the airports involved. Or the weather. Or issues that no one had a clue about almost a year in advance. You usually can’t do anything about it, so just grin and bear it and take solace that maybe the NEXT email from your airline will give you a significant enough change so YOU can make the next strategic move, instead of them.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary