Subject: Getting your way with airlines
Dear Ziners,

In these uncertain times, airlines are obviously much more apt to cancel (or even more common reschedule) flights here and there. It can range anywhere from completely discontinuing service to a particular city all together (market withdrawal) or trimming back from daily service to five or six days a week.

When an airline trims back or discontinues service they are obligated under what is called the Contract of Carriage to either schedule you on another flight with their airline or, if the schedule they now offer is not satisfactory, then put you on another airline that does offer a satisfactory schedule. Not only that but also as long as there are ANY seats on ANY flight in the same CABIN (coach, first class, etc.) that you originally purchased you can have those seats - even if they're now selling at a higher price than what you paid!

If/when this happens to you, whatever you do, don't raise your voice, etc. Simply inform the reservation agent that you would like to be re-protected on another flight or airline. If they hesitate further, nicely say that you would like to look with them at other airlines schedules (all reservations agent can access 99% of other airlines flight schedules and seat availability). When you've found one you like nicely tell the reservations agent that you'd like to be put on hold while that agent calls the other airline and schedules your flight for you (as they're supposed to) under the Rule 240. Be sure to use the exact words that I've put into quotation marks and you shouldn't have ANY problems.

As with many scenarios, reservations agents want to keep you on their airline because then the airline you were originally ticketed with doesn't have to give the new airline the money you gave them. What also happens is the reservation agent knows about Rule 240 (unless they were hired yesterday) and would rather just give you the refund than act like a travel agent searching for different options for you. In an ideal world this shouldn't happen, but it does.

If/when you ever feel like you're not getting the kind of service you think you should ALWAYS nicely ask to speak to a supervisor and they should then give you what is both reasonable to you and the airline - provided that your were nice to the first agent no matter how bad the news. Kindness will get you very far with airline employees (unless you're wanting a fee to be waived).

Gregory - Supervisor for Continental Airlines Reservations in Houston

Disclaimer - The above information is not to be a secret weapon that is abused. Some people (not Ziners of course) will whine and moan about a thirty minute change (I've dealt with it personally!). Technically the airline is only obligated to do anything if the change is FOUR hours or more. If they help you with something that is less than four hours, they're giving you very good service - as we like to do at Continental. (For example, you find out that your 9:30AM departure has now been rescheduled to 10:15AM but there is also the 8:45AM departure and if you like that better, we'll gladly switch you to that one).