It’s early in 2017 and many are already planning summer trips to far off lands. Also, traditionally Q1 is the best time to purchase airfare as prices tend to drop considerably, but it is important to manage existing reservations in the months leading up to traveling to make sure that you don’t end up in a different seat or on a different flight altogether.

Equipment Swaps

Airlines are constantly performing analysis on routes to maximize profits. Since you can book airfare 11 months prior to departure, when the flight first comes available the airline may think it is best to use a 777-200 aircraft which features a 2-5-2 cabin configuration in economy to best serve the route. Then, after a few months, the airline decides a 787-800 featuring a 3-3-3 cabin may be a better option, so without notice, the airlines swaps the equipment on the route for the more efficient 788 aircraft. Now that lovely B aisle seat has changed into a B middle seat for a 7 hour flight! Most of the time when this happens you will not receive an email from the airline so it is important to check your reservations at least monthly leading up to your departure to make sure you are getting the seat you paid for.

This could also affect a reservation in which you paid a premium to sit in an economy seat with added legroom, but when the equipment swap is performed that type of seat is not offered. If this happens, make sure to call the airline and request a refund for the additional premium paid!

Also, in some cases, this could work to your benefit. If a domestic flight is sold using a 737, but at the last minute switches to a 777 you may be able to select an international business class seat at no additional charge!

Involuntary Seat Adjusments

Airline phone agents are always trying to please their most loyal customers and in many cases have the ability to move passengers without notice to accommodate elite customers traveling in groups. Similar to an equipment swap, you may find yourself in a different seat than the one you originally selected if an airline agent needed to move you to make room for other passengers.

Flight Time Changes

Often airlines move around scheduled departures for various logistical concerns throughout the year. Maybe a route originally had 3 departures daily, but due to lack of demand the airline decides to cancel one and move the other two. If this happens the airline will generally send out an email letting you know, but in many cases you may either miss or ignore the email. If you have a connecting fight, this change could cause you to miss your connection and potentially ruin your entire trip! Generally the airline will work to accommodate you in the months leading up to your departure, but there is not much airline agents can do if you do not notice the change until hours before your flight.

Final Thoughts

Airline schedules are constantly changing in attempts to maximize profits. If you book a flight several months before your scheduled departure date it is important to monitor your existing reservations to get exactly what you originally paid for. Also, if you closely monitor the reservation you may be able to move into a more favorable seat as agents move passengers around closer to departure or the type of plane used changes. I especially recommend viewing the seat assignment page 100 hours, 72 hours, 48 hours, and 24 hours prior to departure

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