Suffered an Airline Ticket 'Switcheroo'?

PHOTO: Traveler used self-service check in kiosk

Dear ABC News Fixer: I booked two tickets for a direct flight for my sons from Newark, N.J., to Buenos Aires, Argentina, over the holidays on United Airlines. United, without telling us, changed the flight to indirect -- flying through Houston -- and rebooked them on a flight that would have reached Houston AFTER the plane to Buenos Aires had departed. And they never contacted us! Had I not checked on the flight, I would have never known.

We had to rebook them on another airline, but it cost us $1,600 more because of the proximity to our departure date. We had booked this trip six months ago, paying for a direct flight. Direct flights always cost more, which is why I booked early.

United keeps saying it is a schedule change, but they have done this with all their direct flights from Newark to Buenos Aires. It looks like they are getting people to pay for a direct flight and then they pull a switcheroo and make it an indirect flight.

- Bonnie Eisner, Philadelphia, Penn.

Dear Bonnie: You told the ABC News Fixer you found out about the change when a friend who had a similar reservation told you the same thing had happened to her.

You felt this was much more than a simple scheduling change – this was the elimination of a whole route with the solution being a careless rebooking that would have had your sons stuck overnight in Houston. We could see your point.

We asked United what happened, and they said they could have put your sons on an earlier flight to Houston in time to make the connection, but that you chose to rebook with another airline. United had refunded the money for the original tickets. In addition, they said their contract of carriage allows them to discontinue routes and change schedules, and that those sorts of changes occur throughout the airline industry.

(A side note: Airlines' contracts of carriage make for fascinating reading – though most consumers never look at them until their luggage is lost or their flight is canceled. United's is 47 pages, covering everything from rules for unaccompanied minors to what happens when a flight is oversold. Check it out HERE.)

United told us they do their best to notify consumers at least a month in advance of any changes, and that when you contacted them, your trip was still more than a month into the future.

That being said, the United rep we spoke with did seem to feel sorry that these changes, coming so late in the game, harmed your ability to get a low fare on another airline. As a "good will gesture," she offered your family two $250 travel certificates. The money can be used for domestic or international travel, as long as the booking is made within the next year.

- The ABC News Fixer

Listen to this ABC News Fixer story on the ABC News Radio magazine "Perspective,"airing this weekend on your local ABC affiliate.

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