Why is the airfare so high right now? United Airlines cancels the couple’s flight to Italy and charges $4,000 more for comparable airline tickets

LAFAYETTE, Calif. — 7 On Your Side has reported a sharp increase in air fares this travel season. Experts blame high fuel prices, a shortage of planes and pilots, and a surge in tourism. Prices on some routes have doubled since 2019.

Karen Ward and her husband Michael, from Lafayette, California, were delighted they booked their flight to Italy last year when prices were still cheap.

The only problem? Your flight has just been cancelled. And their low fare is gone.

The airline said the Wards’ flight to Italy was canceled due to a shortage of planes. The couple had to call and rebook. But now? The flight they booked last year was now $4,000 more.

“Well, I mean, I pulled my hair out,” Karen said. “I thought, ‘I can’t believe…'”

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After staying at home for the past two years, the Wards had decided to treat themselves to a trip to Italy.

“Our 40th wedding anniversary is this month and we have decided to rent a villa in Tuscany for a month,” said Karen Ward.

Ward booked a flight on United Airlines in business class from San Francisco to Frankfurt to Florence last September, flying out next month. The fare was $7,600 for two tickets.

“We have never flown on business. So we spent a lot of money on business because it’s our anniversary,” Ward said.

The Wards received their confirmation and booked the villa, but received a shock eight months later.

“Saturday, I get this email saying ‘Your flight has been cancelled,'” Ward said.

The notice said their plane was no longer available and that they should call to re-book.

“I spoke to her on the phone for three and a half hours,” Ward explained.

An agent booked two more tickets for the same price – but later Ward saw they were now in Economy class.

She called back and asked for her business class seats.

“And they said, ‘No, it doesn’t compare,'” Ward said. “If I wanted the flight I bought eight months ago, I would have had to pay $4,000 more.”

Four thousand dollars more? For the same seats?

“So I said, ‘No, no, I won’t pay another cent,'” Ward continued. “‘You’ve had my money for eight months, I’ve fulfilled my contract page… You have to honor your contract page and give me the same flight.'”

She contacted 7 On Your Side. It turns out you’re entitled to a cash refund if an airline cancels your flight. Experts say airlines are trying to avoid this by offering a good deal.

“Since you’re entitled to a full cash refund, the airline would normally prefer that you keep your money with you and choose an alternative option,” said Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights. “You can actually request to be on an upgraded flight.”

When Ward United called again, the airline actually agreed to give her those business class seats for the same price after all.

United told 7 On Your Side: “We are working diligently to find customers a suitable alternative should their travel be impacted by a schedule change…”

United said it will provide notice as early as possible so customers can choose between a refund, rebooking or credit towards a future flight.

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“My husband and I are thrilled and eternally grateful for your help,” Ward said.

Travel experts say airlines are grappling with plane and pilot shortages as travel has slowed sharply amid the pandemic. Flight cancellations or route changes may occur more frequently than in the past.

Read United Airlines’ full statement below:
Extended schedule changes are not just for one airline; They exist across all airlines for a variety of reasons, including aircraft availability, crew and vendor staffing, and other market-related challenges.

At United, we work diligently to provide our customers with a suitable alternative when their travel is impacted by a schedule change. We also try to enter itinerary changes as early as possible so customers can make an informed decision about what works best for them – accepting a refund, rebooking or canceling for future flight credit with no change fees.

We have the following advice for all United customers whose travel plans are impacted by a schedule change:

We offer the ability to self-serve in the event of flight schedule changes through the United app or united.com, and we also offer call center support via phone, web chat, mobile app messaging, private Facebook messaging and Twitter direct messaging . We encourage you to contact us so we can assist you with rebooking or discuss alternative options.

Check out more stories and videos from Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!
The 7OYS Consumer Helpline is a free consumer dispute resolution service in the San Francisco Bay Area. We assist individuals with consumer-related issues; We cannot assist with business-to-business cases or cases involving family law, criminal matters, landlord-tenant disputes, employment or medical issues. Please read our FAQ here. As part of our process of helping you, it is necessary for us to get in touch with the company/agency you are writing about. If you do not want us to contact you please let us know immediately as this will affect our ability to handle your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, it may take 3-5 business days for you to receive a response.

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Dais Johnston

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