Airberlin changed my flight and added a 19-hour layover

Stella Clark is traveling through Europe when she receives an alert of a schedule change to her upcoming Airberlin flight — one that turns a four-hour jaunt into a 29-hour overnight journey. Why won’t the airline allow her to cancel this unpleasant itinerary?

Question: Airberlin changed my flight to Olbia, Sardinia, and has me spending the night in Germany, and it also added an extra connection. I emailed Airberlin and asked for a refund or a change, and they said they couldn’t help because I used another website instead of Airberlin to book my flight. I used Priceline.

I have tried to reach Priceline using their chat feature. But before I could explain my situation I was disconnected. I am currently traveling in Europe and it is impossible to reach anyone who can help. We are getting closer to the date of this flight, and I don’t want to be marked as a no-show.

I have booked a new flight now, and I would love a refund for this unwanted flight. If that’s not possible I would like a credit toward another ticket. Can you help? — Stella Clark, Novato, Calif.

Answer: Yes, I can. When an airline changes your flight schedule so that it barely resembles the originally purchased ticket, you should be able to reject the change, cancel and receive a refund.

And your ticket was dramatically changed.

You had originally intended to leave Mallorca at 9 a.m., change planes in Munich and be on the beach in Sardinia in time for a late lunch.

Sounds like a wonderful plan.

But your updated ticket had an added stop in Berlin and an overnight, 19-hour layover in Munich, eventually arriving on the Italian island a full day later than planned.

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The distance between the two islands is approximately 350 miles. These new flights took you on an illogically circuitous route, one that you would never have designed for yourself.

So why were you having so much trouble getting your ticket refunded?

If you had booked your flights directly with Airberlin they could have been easily canceled and refunded because of this schedule change.

Most airlines, including Airberlin, will allow refunds even on nonrefundable tickets if a schedule change causes you to arrive more than 2 to 3 hours beyond your original arrival time.

But because you used Priceline to book your airfare, Airberlin did not have control over your ticket. So the representative you spoke to was unable to to help you. She referred you back to Priceline, which, she explained, could process the refund of your ticket.

Airberlin offers detailed refund and rebooking guidance to travel agents whose clients do not wish to accept airline-imposed schedule changes.

If you had used a traditional travel agency to book this flight, your problem could have been settled with a quick call to your agent, who could have booked your new flight, as well. Because you were traveling abroad this would have been quite convenient.

But you didn’t book directly with Airberlin or with a travel agent.

You chose Priceline, a third-party online booking agent, to purchase your ticket. This caused a complication to your problem that you found insurmountable.

You tried to reach someone at Priceline who could understand your dilemma and approve the cancellation and refund, but you were placed on a long hold. Then when you did reach someone via Priceline’s chat feature, you were disconnected because of your poor Wi-Fi service.

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That’s when you contacted us.

With only days left until the scheduled flight, you were concerned that you would be marked as a no-show if the problem wasn’t resolved beforehand. As one of our readers, you knew if that happened the value of the ticket would be lost and your road to a refund would be even more difficult.

I contacted Priceline on your behalf, explained the changes to your ticket and requested your refund. And, just like that, your problem was solved.

You are happy to report that you have received your refund and arrived in Sardinia on an alternative flight — one that did not first take you on a tour of Germany.

We receive complaints just like yours every week. These travelers have used an online travel agent (OTA) and discovered to their dismay that when problems arise the OTA does not provide the personalized assistance that a traditional travel agent can offer. Nor the immediate help that the airline can provide if you have booked directly.

When booking your own flights, you should know ahead of time how and if your chosen booking agent can handle problems that may occur with your ticket. Because, although we love to help, you shouldn’t be forced to contact a consumer advocate in order to have your issue resolved.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is a consumer advocate, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. As the managing director of, she leads the advocacy, editorial and production departments. Read more of Michelle's articles here.

  • Joe Blasi

    EU 261

  • Mel65

    The Elliotteers to the rescue!!

  • Don Spilky

    That’s for a delay, not a schedule change.

  • MarkKelling

    Since Air Berlin has now filed for bankruptcy, would the OP have received anything at all if they had booked directly?

  • PsyGuy

    Another reminder that PAX should stop using OTA’s especially when the difference in benefits can be broken down to change (at least in euros).

  • PsyGuy

    Well yes, because they did. The OTA didn’t hang on to the money until sometime after the flight happened, they paid the invoice for that well before the PAX got on the plane, so Air Berlin had the money.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    Avoid bankrupt airlines and online travel agents, and especially avoid using both at the same time

  • Lloyd Johnston

    In fairness, it is possible that the airline was NOT undergoing bankruptcy at the time of booking. However, the other advise still stands. I cannot think of ANY reason why people cannot book most flights on their own. The web sites for every airline is not that complicated as long as you can answer some basic questions:

    1. What dates are you travelling?
    2. How many (and who) are travelling?
    3. Where are you leaving from?
    4. Where are you going?
    5. What is your credit card number?
    6. From this provided list, what time would you like to leave?

    That basic information should get you a flight.

  • sirwired

    AirBerline AND Priceline… yeah, that was never going to end well.

  • Bill___A

    There are some things wrong here on both sides. The air transportation system is somehow set up so sometimes people can save money at an OTA, but they lose some abilities to deal with the airline. This is wrong. Once a ticket is sold, the airline or the agent should be able to deal with the passenger. Back in the old days, when I sometimes used a travel agent, I remember that the airline person would have to “take over” the reservation, but it could be done. Even if they normally don’t allow the airline personnel to touch travel agent or OTA files, maybe they should in the case that the airline has changed the flights.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I remember back in the good ol’ days when you could actually get an amazing deal on Priceline. Many many years ago, in the early days of Priceline, I bought four tickets to Milan for my family to take an Italian vacation. I’d spent many hours researching flight costs, and then took a shot at doing the “name your price thing”…and to my complete surprise, I got them for less than half what they would have cost through any other source, including direct through the airlines!

    The itinerary wasn’t great – two stopovers – but it wasn’t horrible either. And given that we had young children at the time, we happily accepted the rather circuitous route in order to save what, to us, was an awful lot of money. It was the only way we could afford to take our kids to Italy.

    Those days are long gone. It’s been years since I heard of anyone getting a significantly better deal through Priceline, or any OTA, than they could have through the airline directly. I do hear of some people seeing some savings when they buy through a consolidator, or as part of a package through a travel agent, but never through one of these OTAs. In fact most of the time I’m seeing an added FEE to book your ticket through one of them! And even if there was a small savings, it’s totally not worth it for the risk you are taking that something exactly like this might crop up.

    I cannot see a single reason to use Priceline to buy a plane ticket. Period. Their business model doesn’t seem to work anymore. Why are they even still around?

  • Maxwell Smart

    Air Berlin ? They’ll be closing down any day now. Suprised anyone even answered their phones.
    EU 261 & other stupid euro rules, will see an end to many airlines. “Luckily” mergers in the USA which have lead to higher fares, have protected most USA airlines from going belly up in this massive worldwide recession, we had to have. Korea & terrorism is not helping the airlines survive either.

  • Alan Gore

    God bless EU 261. If it forces airlines that screw us over into bankruptcy, this will be its greatest accomplishment. I would like to see legislative standardization of air travel policy in general: one set of rules, that use real math and real economics, which all travelers will know apply.

  • KanExplore

    It’s impossible to know how old the case is. Today, probably not. The airline will likely be out of business within weeks, with at least some of its assets being sold to other companies. Whether those proceeds would have resulted in anything for the OP, I don’t know.

  • KanExplore

    Priceline does not do “name your own price” air tickets anymore. They stopped that feature about a year ago. However, they are a huge player in the travel industry as owner of,,,, Cheapflights., Momondo, and OpenTable. Hotel bookings generate the lion’s share of revenue.

  • greg watson

    Another 3rd party booking ! ………………….when will they ever learn…………….if you have followed this site & still book through a 3rd party instead of directly with the business………………..then I have little sympathy for you………………live & learn !?

  • Annie M

    Except when they also don’t know passport and Visa rules and end up here because they were refused boarding.

  • Annie M

    That’s because the OTAs refuse to take the time to provide any kind of device when things go wrong. You get what you pay for. If you want to save a few bucks booking with an OTA, you better pray that your flights go as scheduled and aren’t canceled or changed. Because the OTAs don’t make any money fixing problems- they only make a little bit of money on selling millions of tickets quickly.

  • PsyGuy

    Have you trademarked “Eliotteers” yet?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, I’m aware that option disappeared some time ago. Really, my comment was about OTAs in general. I have not seen any value in using them in a very long time…in fact using them is, almost always, a mistake. Not only do you NOT get a better deal, you often pay a higher price due to fees. And if there’s any kind of problem, it’s even worse – you end up with an anonymous middle-man who you often can’t even get hold of, and you end up with frustrating finger-pointing and no resolution.

    The good old days of OTAs are long gone. I realize they are still huge players in the travel industry, but I cannot for the life of me understand why people use them. It is virtually always better to go direct to the hotel or airline.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Key word being “few”. I have not seen any significant savings through OTAs in years. Sometimes you save a few bucks, but not much – and definitely not worth the risk you face in the event something goes wrong.

  • Maxwell Smart

    & less airlines means higher fares for everyone. How’s that working in the good ol US of A ?

  • Maxwell Smart

    but almost all U.S. airlines have been in bankruptcy protection at some time.

  • Maxwell Smart

    the whole idea that online travel agency search engines will be cheaper, is seriously flawed. The search engine can only look for exactly what you ask for. A real live person looking at airline inventory, can tell you exactly how many cheap seats there are & any better options. Eg. between Australia & USA often the cheapest fares by far involve a stopover for a night or 2. We often do this. It breaks up the flights & save us a heap of money. The savings on airfares, more than pay for the stopover at good accommodation.

  • Alan Gore

    That’s why the airline portion of the Deep State prevents foreign carriers from competing in the US market. If they could, then poor service would mean replacing bad companies with better ones, just as it does in free fields like electronics.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    But they aren’t now! Somehow Airberlin has managed to file bankruptcy during a boom time for the airlines

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