Question about changing flight plans and validity of tickets

I’ve purchased plane tickets to travel from Japan to USA, and during my stay I will be flying from LA to SF and back. I now need to be in SF one day earlier than originally planned and asked my travel agent if it would be possible to change the date of my flight out of LA. His answer was that it wouldn’t be possible unless I cancelled the entire route (Japan to LA to SF to LA to Japan) and rebooked the whole thing because it was originally reserved together as one journey. The problem with that was since the flight out of Japan is fully booked and there is a waiting list for seats, I wouldn’t be able to repurchase that portion of the journey.

Paying extra is not a problem so I thought ok, I’ll just give up my flight out of LA and purchase a new one way ticket to SF and use the return portion of the ticket I have now to get back to LA. My travel agent then said that because the way the tickets were booked, if I don’t stick to the dates and route of my itinerary, the airline may consider that I’ve abandoned my journey at the point where I don’t board the flight I’m scheduled for and they may not honor the remaining portion of my tickets.

I don’t care about the intra-California portion of the tickets. I would more than happy to by new tickets to and from SF. What I do care about is keeping my ticket back to Japan valid. Does anyone know how this works?

Have you tried contacting the airline directly and explaining this to them? You’d like to think there’s an easy and sane answer to this, but we are talking about airlines here.

Your agent is right about the possibility of having the entire itinerary trashed if you don’t take the LAX-SFO leg - there used to be a common ploy to get cheaper flights called a “hidden city” discount. How it works is a hypothetical flight from NRT to LAX might cost $2000, but oh hey, here’s a flight from NRT to ORD (Chicago) that connects in LAX for $500 less. Book that, fly from NRT to LAX, leave LAX with your carry-on bag (It’s impossible to do this with checked bags) and save $500. Airlines got wise to this *long *ago.

Anecdotes ahead. The best advice is gotpasswords’ to call the airline(s) and have them help. If they can’t/won’t and you paid with a credit card, check with the issuer to see if they can help.

My ex had a friend who was kind of a drunk. Ok, he was really mostly alcohol. Nonetheless, he was flying to Ireland via Netherlands and back the same way. He was having such a wonderful time at Schiphol that he ended up staying there and missed his flight out. He then had to pay for a return ticket home as the rest of his flights were cancelled. That means he had to pay for a one-way ticket home and was not compensated for any of the other flights.

I’m sure some airlines are probably more lenient or flexible if you ask ahead.

On the flip side, my SO had to fly to Houston for a couple days on short notice. Tickets were $1200 from Minneapolis (MSP) to Houston. However, if he were to drive or take the shuttle to the Rochester, MN airport, the flight was $350. That $350 flight was the exact same flight as the $1200 MSP to HOU flight except with two extra legs from MSP to Rochester. So, he parked at MSP, took the shuttle to Rochester for $40, flew back to MSP to go to Houston. Houston to MSP and he just went to his car and skipped the Rochester leg. He had other separate trips on the same airline scheduled and they didn’t cancel those.

We’ll, I’ve already phoned AA about the LAX↔︎SFO portion of the flight and they said they couldn’t help me because the journey originates out of Japan and since it was JAL that issued the tickets, they couldn’t change the booking even if they wanted to. I have to say AA was really understanding about things but they said their hands were tied. I will phone JAL tomorrow and see what they say.

And I didn’t pay by credit card. It was a direct deposit into the travel agent’s bank account. I have no qualms with him so I wouldn’t be reversing any charges anyway.

I’ve posted in another thread how it was cheaper for me to fly from Colorado Springs to Denver to catch the same flight my stepson had to drive from Colorado Springs to Denver to catch.

More appropriate for the OP, it may make sense to buy a round-trip commuter flight so you are doing
LAX -> SFO -> LAX -> Regularly Scheduled SFO

So, just as a hypothetical, would it have been better to book 2 sets of tickets, separately?

  1. japan to usa and back
  2. ca city to ca city and back (different booking, maybe different airline)
    Would that have helped, or would you still have problems changing the second one?

I’m anxious to hear how this works out with JAL. I had a similar situation on the back end of an international flight several years ago and never did get it worked out. I had to buy a completely separate return trip (I never cancelled the other one though so they couldn’t rebook it at least).

Can someone explain why you can’t take only the second half of a return trip. Why does it become abandoned? Why do the airlines care? It seems they are just being jerks about it. If I’m flying Perth to Hong Kong through Singapore, and I don’t catch the flight from Perth because I’m already in Singapore for some reason, why can’t I pick up the second leg? I paid for it already! They can check who I am right? I don’t see a security issue. It makes no sense to me.

That would have avoided this particular problem. However, if your flight to the USA was delayed, and you missed your second itinerary, you would have been SOL; according to the airline, the two flights would be unrelated. If you book the flights as a single itinerary (as the OP did), the airlines will generally re-book you without charge on a later flight.

Given how often flights get delayed vs. how rarely I’ve needed to change a ticket in my life, I think the OP made the right choice at the time they bought the tickets.

Good point, especially because SFO has a horrible on-time departure record - especially in the morning when there is fog. OAK, just across the Bay, is much better.

The hidden city discount has already been mentioned. For most airlines one way tickets are a lot more than half round trip ones. Especially when you are doing code sharing, like this one, all bets are off.
There used to be a small airplane that flew from Princeton to Newark and back. On one business trip my wife picked me up in Newark to go somewhere else. When I tried to get a refund of the unused Princeton ticket (this was a long time ago) it turned out that the combined fare was cheaper than the fare from my destination to Newark, because of some weird revenue sharing.

So they don’t want me to fare shop after the fact? They already have my money, right? Why can they keep me off a flight I’ve already paid for?

I’m not asking for a discount or any money returned, just the ability to take the second leg of my arranged flight.

When you buy a ticket, you’re buying a contract essentially. Here’s Delta’s full 75 pages of contract legalese. Here are the relevant parts:

E. Failure to Comply with Delta’s Rules or Contract of Carriage
When a passenger fails or refuses to comply with any of Delta’s rules or regulations or any term of the contract of carriage.
3) Failure to Occupy Space If the passenger fails to occupy space which has been reserved for him on a flight of any carrier and such carrier fails to receive notice of the cancellation of such reservation prior to the departure of such flight, or if any carrier cancels the reservation of any passenger in accordance with paragraphs of this rule, such carrier will cancel all reservations held by such passenger on the flights of any carrier for continuing or return space, provided such carrier originally
reserved the space.

Crap. Damn lawyers.

Well at least ditching my flight a few years ago was well worth it. Met her in Fremantle, she was from Norway, we took an earlier flight together to Singapore and I had to end up paying for a second flight to Hong Kong a week later ( that’s the second half of the trip I’d already paid for). Just always wondered if there was anything I could have done to take that originally paid for flight. No worries.

I didn’t read all 75 pages - I’ll take your word for it.

I phoned JAL first thing this morning and after waiting over 15 minutes for a live operator, I was told that since I bought the tickets through a travel agent I would have to go through him for any changes. I explained the situation and the operator confirmed that it may be difficult to change the intra-California portion of the tickets without cancelling the entire journey first, unless the travel agent had a special deal with JAL that allows that sort of change. I know he doesn’t have this deal because he’s already told me I need to cancel.

Interesting thing was that JAL help desk said I would have to go through my travel agent if I haven’t started my journey yet. Once I boarded the plane and took the first portion of my trip, then they could help me out, although that’s not a guarantee I would be able to change anything.

So anyway, I will go back to my travel agent and see if there’s been any development as he is trying on his end to see what can be done. As I see it, if he’s not able to change the flight, I only have the following option: try to change my tickets once I arrive in California and hope for the best.

What MikeS said was true but it wouldn’t apply in my case because it’s not a connecting flight. My arrival in LA and flight out are on different days. So I would not have had this problem had I bought them separately. I did not specify how I wanted the tickets to be booked nor did he ask me. He just got me the best deal he could and I was happy with it… until I needed to change it:smack:

If you had bought them separately, though, you might have paid a good deal more for them to begin with. You saved on cost by sacrficing flexibility.

I received a call from my travel agent and to make a long story short, he was able to change the flight for me although it’s going to cost me about $350. Apparently he had to call in some favors and warned me that if I need another change, short of buying a new ticket, I’ll have to swim back to Japan. I’ll buy him a bottle of wine on my trip to show him my appreciation.

Thanks for everyone’s input!

You came out OK here. At a quick skim, it looks like AA will charge anywhere from $200 to $450 to change a booking.

Of course the priceless part is that you were able to change your trip and not have to worry about if your flight home would be canceled.

Food for thought next time you travel internationally, then domestically within a country on the same trip:

[li]Book your international flights as a round-trip, with no add-ons.[/li][li]Book your internal flights while travelling as a separate ticket purchase.[/li][/ul]

When I live in Oz, I booked a flight home with the destination being Chicago. I was also going to see friends in New Mexico during the trip. So I booked two different ticket itineraries:


On my return to Oz, I left ABQ for Denver, changed planes and on to Chicago (ORD). At Chicago, I picked up my bags and re-entered the terminal only to checkin at the desk for my flight to LA and on to Oz.

So my last day in America was: ABQ-DEN-ORD, then ORD-LAX-SYD.

Weird but it saved me had I had a problem with domestic flights.