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I just discovered that an aunt is in poor health. I have a flight out of the country (USA-EU) which I booked directly with United Airlines from my home airport (AAA) connecting through (BBB) in the US, returning to my home airport but multi-city on the return flight in Europe. I hoped to fly out from (AAA) to see my aunt in (CCC) in the US and then just change my origin airport from (AAA) to leave from (CCC) to save time. I found a flight which would connect through the same major airport (BBB) at the same time for a 4.5 hour layover, allowing me to catch the same flight out of the country to (DDD), and join up with my companion at (BBB). That connecting flight (CCC-BBB) should actually cost less than my original booking (AAA-BBB). We also needed to change the title on my companion's name as there should be no title and the online system was not accepting the passport as there is no title on the passport. (titles - Mrs, Miss, Mr, the 3rd, Esq, Dr) In fact, my companion's parent died and everything had to be rebooked to join me out of the country as I went ahead on the original reservation and we returned together. I don't recall this being a huge problem or expense (10 years ago).

The airline split the reservations so I could make changes. For both instances, I was told that we had to rebook the flights and it would cost $700 more. This does not make any sense to me. I feel like "back in the day" it was possible to change the one flight. But I was told that this changes the entire contract of carriage and I have to accept the terms again. I still don't think that the change should involve "rebooking" same flights and same seats only to pay more $ for all of the legs of the flight. The supervisor weakly said it was because I was changing to a multi-city flight & return when I already had a multicity set of flights as our return origin airport was already different. I am also not allowed to reverse skip lag by missing the initial flight and resuming in the connecting airport as I was told that also changes the terms of the contract of carriage and nullifies my entire trip.

TLDR: See title

Why are they increasing the price for something already purchased? It feels wrong - like price gouging. Are they all doing it?

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    Because they can make money by doing so, and because they can. You bought a specific itinerary, and the airline's T&Cs undoubtedly allow them to refuse your requested change. Apr 9 at 6:06
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    I don't think this kind of thing is new. 20 years ago I had to transfer an already purchased ticket on EasyJet from one person to another and would have had to rebook it and quadruple the price. This was equally "increasing the price for something already purchased" Apr 9 at 6:30
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    Note that many airlines have special rules for when a relative dies, where they can make changes or cancellations without the associated fees and penalties, which could explain why back then you didn’t have an issue. The airline, specific fare and itinerary may also have been different enough that the rules would have been very different.
    – jcaron
    Apr 9 at 7:12
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    Have you tried booking a new flight from CCC to your destination on a different airline? Might be cheaper.
    – JonathanReez
    Apr 10 at 17:44
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    @Visible-Scientist-46 The moment the first flight takes off and you're a no-show, the rest of your ticket is canceled. So if you showed up in BBB, and tried to check in, they'd tell you "Sorry, I can't find a valid reservation in your name." That's how they would enforce it.
    – dda
    Apr 11 at 0:08

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It’s hard to picture with all the dummy names, but I believe it all comes down to the fact that you switched from a return flight (albeit a bit complex on the way back) to a one-way flight.

Return flights are very often sold at a discount compared to two one-way flights, provided some rules are met (usually having either a Saturday night between the outward and inbound flights, or minimum/maximum duration). This is part of the differentiation between flights for business (which airlines try to sell at higher prices) and the rest, on which airlines are OK to make discounts.

So once you remove the first flight, you no longer qualify for the return discount, and the price is much higher (it can be spectacular). Add to that change fees, and the fact they usually reprice the ticket at today’s prices, which are probably higher as the flights filled up since your original purchase, and you can indeed quickly get a very high price to pay.

One thing you may want to try, is seeing if you can cancel the original ticket without too many penalties/fees and rebook a return the other way around (BBB-wherever-AAA and return to BBB). You wouldn’t use the last flight but that wouldn’t matter much.

Note that depending on where CCC is (especially if it’s in the same “region” as AAA or BBB, “region” being specific to the airline and sometimes to the fare), and the exact details of the rest of the itinerary (cities, flights, fares…), there may be other ways of optimising this, but we lack info.

As for the “are they all doing this?”, most traditional airlines do, as this is how they build their fares: very expensive base price (fully flexible), and heavy discounts based on a number of conditions or restrictions (return flight, week-end in the middle, minimum or maximum duration, minimum or maximum advance purchase, less flexibility for changes and cancellations, restricted routings, restricted stopovers, use in sequence, etc.).

Low-cost carriers usually have a very different model where each leg is sold and priced separately, so they (again, usually) don’t care about return flights, use in sequence, etc. But low-cost carriers are a lot less present on the transatlantic market, and they usually don’t handle connections, so they are not always an option.

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  • Dummy names protect privacy. It just looks like a large triangle somewhere in the US. Apr 10 at 14:09
  • @Visible-Scientist-46 my understanding from your initial question that AAA was in the US and BBB in Europe (but no idea about CCC). The regions affect applicable fares, and the airports have an influence on possible routings or alternatives (e.g. add CCC as a stopover on the way from AAA to BBB for instance, but it may or may not make sense depending on the relative positions and the airlines which serve those routes).
    – jcaron
    Apr 10 at 14:19
  • not sure why you thought that BBB was in the EU when I said that was where we're supposed to connect to fly out of the country. I added a short clarifier that this is in the US. Apr 10 at 17:39

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