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I recently booked a trip with SriLankan Airlines, Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Bangkok (BKK) via Colombo (CMB). For the booked itinerary, outbound legs, the flight from AUH arrives in CMB at 05:00 and the onward flight to BKK was scheduled to depart at 07:50 (same day) – giving me a sensible, 2h 50m connection time.

Date is 21st (AUH departure) and 22nd (CMB departure) May (2024).

However, just a couple of days after making the booking, the travel agent (Expedia) notified me that there had been "some changes" to my itinerary and that they were awaiting further details from the airline. They indicated that this would typically take 7-10 days.

During that time, I checked with the airline's website, using my PNR, and found that the onward (CMB-BKK) flight has been cancelled and that they have now re-booked me on a flight that is scheduled to leave at 01:10 on the same day – giving me a grand total of minus 3h 50m to make the connection. (This hasn't changed after the 10 day period.)

I have since called the travel agent and the person I spoke with seemed as surprised as I was about this new schedule. They are currently 'investigating' the issue to see if there is a more sensible option. (And, before you ask, I don't consider moving that second flight to the next day – leaving me a 20 hour layover in CMB – a sensible option!)

Why would the airline do this? Is it just a blunder on their part? Is it a computer glitch? (The schedule actually shows "-4:10" as the connection time.) Or is there something more sinister going on? (Like a 'guaranteed' missed connection, which can then be handled by staff at the airport, leaving me with little or no options to seek a cancellation/refund.)

(Not sure if it's relevant, but the ticket is booked in business class.)

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  • 12
    Almost certainly a mistake. Feb 9 at 16:39
  • What is the date of that travel? I'm guessing March 13?
    – jcaron
    Feb 9 at 17:40
  • @jcaron Date is 21st (AUH departure) and 22nd (CMB departure) May (2024). I'll edit that into the question but I want to give you a chance to edit your answer, first. Very sorry for the lack of details - my first post on this site and I wasn't sure just how much detail was required. Feb 9 at 19:45
  • If this had been Ryan AIr it would have been business as usual. Feb 11 at 9:59
  • Exactly as Hilmar says you just need to aggressively get a refund from Expedia. Best of luck and let us know!
    – Fattie
    Feb 11 at 15:17

2 Answers 2

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Some practical advice: get a refund as soon as possible and start looking for alternatives right now

Is it a computer glitch?

Yes. This unfortunately happens occasionally with automatic rebooking after cancellation. Anecdotally that appears to be more often the case with 3rd party bookings.

the travel agent (Expedia)

This is your main problem here. Expedia's Terms and Conditions clearly state "Your contract for the flight is between you and the relevant Travel Provider" and I'm sure SriLankan's terms say the exact opposite (your contract with the booking agent). That leaves you in contract limbo and is the #1 reason you should ALWAYS book directly with the airline if any possible.

What to do?

As jcaron's analysis clearly state the only viable options are rebooking on a different airline or refund. Rebooking is likely to cost someone real money and it's unlikely that Expedia or SriLankan would pony up. They will just finger point at the other party (which is possible since you are in contract limbo).

I think your best option is to get a refund as soon as possible and start looking for alternatives right now. Fortunately Expedia is one of the more reasonably third party providers so they should able to do a refund without too much foot dragging but you NEED to be firm.

  1. Call them up or do an online chat.
  2. Be clear about what you want: "The itinerary has changed, it's not flyable, I want a full refund now".
  3. Do NOT let them investigate further. "You already investigated without action, the case is 100% clear, the itinerary is not flyable, I want a refund now". "Refund me now and you can investigate all you want later".
  4. Do NOT let them steer you towards SriLankan "You sold this itinerary, you took the payment, you will refund the payment".
  5. Repeat as needed without wavering.

If you paid by credit card, it's worth checking whose name is on the payment. If it's Expedia, you can add the argument that any chargeback would also come out of their accounts which strengthens #4. This is also the main reason you should ALWAYS pay with a credit card.

FYI: I had the same issue with an Expedia booking and that tactic worked. I was aware of the risk but in this case Expedia was less than half of the price of the airline, so I was willing to chance it.

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    On the issue of responsibility-shifting between Expedia & SriLankan: I had a vaguely similar problem, recently, with a different airline (Thai) booking also made via Expedia. In that case, the airline changed the class of service from the booked Business Class to Premium economy. Expedia initially offered me a choice between accepting and cancellation (full refund) but then (after opting for cancellation), things went awry. Expedia said Thai had "taken control" of the booking and that I should contact them. Thai said I booked through a TA, so it was up to them. ... Feb 10 at 10:16
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    ... This went back and forth twice and then I got fed up and called the credit card company I paid with (Amex). They said to try once more and then, if not satisfied, I could raise a "disputed charge" with Amex. (Also, they noted that the "merchant" was listed as Thai, not Expedia - which was unusual.) I raised the dispute a few days later and my money was re-credited very shortly afterwards (I sent them sufficient documentation). Feb 10 at 10:16
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    Also, I think in the UK (where I made the booking), my contract is actually with the TA (Expedia), despite what their terms may say. The nice lady at Amex seemed to agree with me on this, but that earlier case never got to a full-blown legal dispute. That ticket has now been cancelled by Thai and they haven't, so far, challenged the charge-back that Amex made on their account (which would also have incurred further fees, for them). Feb 10 at 10:22
  • In this case, I have already spoken to Expedia and they are currently 'handling' it. They asked me if I could suggest any alternative flights and I mentioned the option of a re-route via KUL, pointing out that the connection would be with a OneWorld alliance partner. As the trip is still a few months away, I'll give Expedia a week or so to see what they can do and, if I'm not happy, I'll go for a full refund. UL also cancelled my return, BKK-CMB, but the new flight for that is just a few hours earlier and a 3h layover in CMB becomes 8h, which I could accept, were that the only change. Feb 10 at 10:32
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    ... This was on a Tuesday and I said that, if the refund wasn't credited to my AMEX by close of business on Friday, I would raise a formal dispute. The money was credited (in full) on the Friday afternoon. :) The strange thing is that, now I have had both a full refund and have an "airline credit" (for the full amount) on my Expedia account. Feb 29 at 8:42
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Depending on the day of the week, there are one or two flights between CMB and BKK, with different flight times.

The "sensible" option for you only operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays (and only up to end of March), with the exception of March 13, which I'm guessing is the date of your travel.

I suppose that for some reason they had to cancel that, and they then tried to rebook you, but apparently utterly failed. Either this is a manual error, or some automated process is very broken, but that doesn't change the fact that this is just not going to happen.

If you are indeed travelling on that date (i.e. departing AUH on March 12), then the options are quite limited:

  • Move your departure from AUH to March 10 (!), and you then have the original timing available, and arrive on March 11
  • Nothing available on March 11
  • Keeping the original March 12 departure, in which case the only option on Sri Lankan is the 20h+ connection in CMB (arriving on March 14)
  • Ditto on March 13 (20h+ connection in CMB, arriving on March 15)
  • Ditto on March 14
  • Move your departure from AUH to March 15 (!), original timing, arriving on March 16

Note that when an airline cancels or significantly changes the schedule of a flight, you are not bound to accept what they tell you, it's only a proposal, which is usually the "best" alternative they could find. They utterly failed here, but even if they did suggest the 20h+ connection, it's not binding for you.

While the details may vary depending on the airline, the fare and its associated rules, your status, and the countries involved, you usually have the following options:

  • Accept what they give you (obviously here they would have to adjust things to give you something which actually works!)
  • Request a change to an earlier or later date on the same routing/airline

Those two are nearly certain. Then, they may accept:

  • To reroute you on a different route on the same airline (but there aren't any available here)
  • To reroute you on partner airlines (here Sri Lankan is a One World alliance member, like Qatar airlines, so you could ask to be rerouted on one of the many Qatar Airlines flights via Doha)
  • To reroute you on a other airlines (many options with Indigo, Gulf Air, Etihad, Vistara, and more...)
  • To refund you

The fact that you have a business class ticket makes it more likely they would be inclined to rebook you on a different airline, even more so if you have FF status with them or with OneWorld.

Now the issue is that you booked via Expedia, so you can't talk to the airline directly, and the intermediary in the middle is likely to complicate things. You should probably list your preferred options by order of preference, and submit them to Expedia, which will then submit them to SriLankan. You may give the list all at once, or start with what you want most, and if they don't accept, give them alternatives. But stand your ground: they are the ones who reneged on their commitment, they are the ones who should address it sensibly (and I agree with you, a 20h+ connection is not sensible).

Edit now we know the actual date

This is a lot less favourable: the CMB-BKK flight you want just isn’t scheduled at all (any longer?) past the end of March.

While there could be further changes to the schedule and they could reintroduce flights which suit you, at this time I wouldn’t count on it.

So your only options are getting them to rebook you on a partner airline or giving you a refund.

If your fare allows it, getting a refund via the usual process and rebooking with an another airline is probably the simplest option.

Even if the fare doesn’t originally allow it, the fact that they are the ones who changed (plus business class, plus status) puts you in a strong position to negotiate, but YMMV greatly.

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  • A nice analysis and I have (accordingly) given you an upvote. However (and this is my fault), your estimated date is wrong ... the outbound flight is near the end (21/22) of May. There are options to get a UL flight to KL and then a 'connecting' MH (OneWorld partner) to BKK, or (as you say) QR via DOH. I've mentioned this to the TA and I am leaving it with them, for now. (Also, I am OneWorld Emerald - BAEC Gold). Feb 9 at 19:15
  • I would (probably) even accept a rebooking with KUL as my destination. I'm not actually spending much time in BKK - that's just a bounce-point to my real destination (VTE - Vientiane, Laos). I can get a seperate ticket with Air Asia, from KUL to VTE, and I get to see KL for a day or so (not done that, for a while). Feb 9 at 19:18
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    @AdrianMole it would be best if you added these actual travel dates to your original question so that others who may wish to answer don't come up with the same thing jcaron did by making incorrect assumptions based on lack of information.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 9 at 19:35
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    It's very relevant information for providing an accurate answer without people making invalid assumptions. :shrug:
    – FreeMan
    Feb 9 at 19:40
  • 3
    Don’t worry about my answer. I played, I lost.
    – jcaron
    Feb 9 at 21:32

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