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I booked a flight a few months ago using an online booking agent (cheaptickets) from Zhangjiajie (China) to Chiang Mai (Thailand). The flight details were as followed:

9h50 Zhangjiajie - 11h25 Guangzhou

A stop for 4h35

16h00 Guangzhou - 17h50 Chiang Mai

Yesterday the booking agent mailed me stating that China Southern Airlines changed their flights and asked me to send them an agreement for the proposed changes. The new changes are:

19h50 Zhangjiajie - 21h30 Guangzhou

A stop for 11h10 (so +1 day)

8h40 Guangzhou - 10h25 Chiang Mai

This is clearly a disadvantage for me, because I don't want less time in Chiang Mai and I don't want more time in Zhangjiajie. So I replied and said that I didn't agree with the changes and I just got a response stating that this is my best option.

  1. Am I allowed to ask for some sort of compensation, because of this? Although it's probably the China Southern Airlines' responsibility.
  2. Or could I ask them to put me on a flight earlier which has a stop in Guangzhou for 18 hours, so I can at least explore the city a bit?
  3. Are there other options or factors I should keep in mind or that I can do?

Note: My other flight from Brussels to Beijing with Hainan Airlines (using the same booking agent) also changed 2 days ago, but the changes were not that drastic.

Edit: I ended up getting a flight a day earlier (which I mailed them for) so I had 18 hours in Guangzhou so I can explore it a little bit. They had to check this first with the airlines and it was approved. Since it was a change of the airlines (which they can apparently make any time) I didn't get a compensation or something.

  • Feel free to add the title, since I couldn't come up with a better one. – Lewis Jun 5 '15 at 13:46
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    It's usually the airline's conditions that matter, and often they write they can change any schedule, without real limit. But I find the overnight layover issue interesting. – Vince Jun 5 '15 at 13:56
  • @Vince What you mean by interesting? But you understand that I can't do much in those 11 hours, but I could make a trip to the city if I have 18 hours. – Lewis Jun 5 '15 at 13:58
  • I mean that might be a reason to ask for compensation. Other questions may suggest a refund is a possible practice, but compensations are rarely offered. An overnight layover might trigger different conditions, who knows. – Vince Jun 5 '15 at 14:15
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    If they asked for your agreement and you said no what will happen? – Karlson Jun 5 '15 at 14:15
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It depends on the terms and conditions of the airline you booked with, and your country's laws, but in general the most you will ever get back from an airline in a case like this is to allow you to cancel the flight and get a full refund. That's also the norm for major changes to a flight. Your description of the conversation so far sounds like that of an agent who knows he has to give you a full refund if you ask, but is trying to persuade you to keep on the flight.

If there is another flight that you could book and do what you want, then ask for a full refund and use the money to book that flight. Alternatively you could try to negotiate with the airline, telling them you are considering asking for a full refund, but you will stay on the flight if they make it worth your while. There is no telling how successful that might be - if there aren't many alternative flights then probably not very. However you might get some extra flyer miles, or a future travel voucher if you are lucky.

If it makes you feel better, you are a long way from the only person airlines do this to.

  • Do you mean I should say I'm going to take the flight which they offered me AND ask for a full refund? – Lewis Jun 5 '15 at 16:45
  • No, I mean they will allow you to cancel your flight and get a full refund. – DJClayworth Jun 5 '15 at 16:47
  • But I still need a flight. So a refund won't help this since there isn't another flight. So I should just go with it without compensation/refund or anything? – Lewis Jun 5 '15 at 17:19
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    That's what DJ is saying: if there's another flight, then consider refund and going elsewhere. If there's literally no other flight (including on another airline) then it's up to them if they want to compensate you, unless <country>'s laws help you - and since you're in China, I don't know their laws, but I wouldn't consider it likely. You can always ask, though. – Joe Jun 5 '15 at 18:22
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First, the travel agent is your point of contact here. Any changes to the booking need to be negotiated with the agent; believe it or not, the airline has no control over your booking at this stage.

This is either very good, because the agent takes care of the leg work, in which case you should certainly patronize his or her services in the future. Alternatively, it is very bad, if the agent doesn't do anything and the airline will not assist you either. In the latter circumstance, you should not use this TA again.

Anyway, I think you are unlikely to get your hotel paid for because of a schedule change. Some airlines will do this (QR, EK, BA) but it is not something you can expect as a standard industry practise. [None of them will admit this in their Terms and Conditions though, they all insist it is a goodwill gesture. So no harm in asking.]

However, in my experience, the carrier is likely to be willing to allow you to take an earlier flight, as long as your stop remains under 24 hours. This should be at the same price, without a change fee applying. The carrier might also permit a change to route, but some carriers dislike doing this. Unfortunately, I don't remember ever having to deal with a schedule change on China Southern, so that is not from specific experience.

In your shoes, I would go to the TA and ask them to get you on the earlier flight, so you can at least enjoy the city.

  • (+1) I did not mention because the OP is in China but I think that, in the EU, providing accommodation is required if there is a delay causing an overnight stay so the list of airlines offering it, at least on some routes, should be much longer. – Relaxed Jun 19 '15 at 4:40

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