On Thursday I flew back to California from Florida with two of my kids. We spent a few days enjoying Daytona Beach, our one real summer getaway aside from a quick trip back in June and overnight camping.

Planning the trip was a struggle. The destination wasn’t the issue; it was the flights. The first two plans were strikeouts. The week after I booked our return flights, Alaska pulled a massive schedule change that had us arriving home the following day. The first Delta itinerary I tried ended similarly (and was far more miles than I really had wanted to pay anyway). The award flights with United finally seemed to stick.

Until these changed as well.

Last-Minute Flight Changes During COVID-19

Airlines are obviously struggling to forecast exactly how much demand there will be and keep adjusting schedules accordingly. I think they have been optimistic, but things aren’t turning out as they hoped. Changes ahead of time aren’t an issue, as long as tickets are refunded. I was bummed our Alaska itinerary fell through, as I really like the timing. But at least this happened over a month ahead of time. It’s changes during the last few days that are killer.

Our outbound flight had one minor schedule change, which wasn’t an issue. United let me know about this a week ahead of time. I’ve rarely had airlines make these sorts of changes this close in. But COVID-19 is a new era. Usually schedules and plans are pretty static for airlines, and you only experience schedule changes well in advance.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find out our return flight had changed as well until two days before we were heading home.

flight changes during COVID-19

Partner Award Flights Often Mean No Alerts

Our United flights were booked with United MileagePlus miles for the outbound but Aeroplan miles for the return. The currency used might have been the issue as to why we weren’t notified of the schedule change. I’ve experienced this as well when booking with LifeMiles and Turkish Miles & Smiles. It’s easy to load partner flights into your United trips, as United accepts the reservation codes for most (maybe all?) of their partners.

I know I looked at the flights about a week before the trip, and the 8:30 AM departure was still showing. Sometime between then and the Tuesday of our trip, our flight was pushed back to 2:30 PM. Luckily, our original itinerary had a long layover in SFO, and we would only be arriving about 3 hours later than scheduled.

The annoying part was not getting an alert. I’m not sure why, other than that they are ticketed by Aeroplan, who did not pass any messages along. This schedule change was survivable. If the flights had been changed to the next day, I would have been extremely annoyed.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been booking trips and flying during the pandemic, you’ve undoubtedly experienced these sorts of schedule changes. I don’t think any of my four trips since May have been free of schedule adjustments between one week and one month ahead of the flight date. At least all my flights aren’t being canceled outright. Having to constantly monitor for changes is annoying, for sure. Especially when you need to cancel what was an ideal booking and make another one.

Yet I also completely understand the airlines’ side of things. They need to make as much money as possible during this time, and if a flight isn’t full (as was likely the case for this Thursday morning nonstop from MCO to SFO), it makes complete sense for them to adjust their schedule. I just hope it *really* doesn’t bite us one of these days. Hopefully airlines are getting a better handle on the general trends in demand.

Have you been impacted by last-minute flight changes during COVID-19?