Are 'schedule changes' just a chance for an airline to improve their on-time record?

The Washington Post's travel writers and editors recently discussed stories, questions, gripes and more. Here are edited excerpts: 

Q: I nearly panicked when I saw "Schedule Changes That Impact Your Upcoming Trip" in the subject line on an email from the airline where I recently booked a round-trip to Boston for connecting flights to/from Europe. As luck would have it, the only changes were making the arrival times a few minutes later, and to renumber one of the flights. My suspicion is that the airline is lengthening the previously published flight times in order to improve their on-time record. Am I right?  

A: Possibly. That's called "padding" the schedule and it's been going on for years. What's a few minutes between friends, right?  

- Christopher Elliott  

Q: My teenage daughter and I are heading to St. Louis for the total eclipse. What recommendations do you have for sights or experiences while there? (We'll be there the weekend before the eclipse.)  

A: There is lots to do in St. Louis. Forest Park has museums, a zoo, hiking/biking trails, restaurants, etc. The Gateway Arch is a bit underwhelming, but if you've not done it, something to check off the list. Missouri Botanical Garden is lovely. The Anheuser-Busch brewery tour is fun, especially if you like those Clydesdales. The City Museum is a quirky spot.  

- Carol Sottili  

Q: Does signing up for an airline frequent flier program increase your chances of getting TSA pre-check on that airline if you are not enrolled in a government pre-check database? I know it used to help, but wonder whether it still does.  

A: Not so much these days. Since the start of the year, TSA has been limiting the number of non-enrolled people permitted in the PreCheck line. I suggest enrolling in the program - or Global Entry, if you frequently travel abroad. As a PreCheck member, I can tell you that it is definitely worth it.  

- Andrea Sachs  

Q: Does the TSA have an Inspector General or an actual named official in senior management to whom complaints may be directed? Your suggestion a couple weeks ago that a handicapped traveler who was abused by TSA workers who also apparently stole her jewelry should fill out an online comment form and post on Twitter just doesn't seem sufficient to the provocation. I would want somebody with real authority to conduct an full investigation. And do local cops have any jurisdiction over federal airport workers? Could an overly intimate "pat-down" or a theft be prosecuted under state law? Maybe we should be calling the cops about the TSA when we have problems.  

A: You're right, the channels we have as ordinary travelers aren't enough. But there's no "higher level" you can contact to start a bigger investigation, at least that I know of.  

- C.E.  

Q: Our daughter will be doing the fall semester of her junior year abroad in Freiberg, Germany. Any suggestions for sites to see/restaurants/day trips while we're visiting her over there in late October? Thank you from two very nervous parents.  

A: No reason to be nervous. It's a university town near Dresden, and I'm sure your daughter will have a wonderful experience there. It's only two hours from Prague, so that would make a nice day trip. The Tharandt Forest is a nearby recreation area. Not sure about restaurants, but she'll have that figured out by the time you get there. Haben Sie eine schoene Zeit (have a good time)!  

- C.S.  

Q: A roundtrip flight from Boston to Glasgow was purchased through Expedia. A separate Jetblue flight was purchased to/from Boston. Due to a three-hour delay on yesterday's flight to Boston, the international flight from Boston was missed and the cheapest option was booking a brand new flight from Icelandair. Do you have any suggestions for how to try and get some kind of compensation from JetBlue?  

A: It's unlikely you'll get any compensation for that. If you had purchased your tickets together (on the same PNR) then you might have been able to take the next flight at no extra cost. But Icelandair had no idea you were going to be late and JetBlue had no idea you had a schedule to keep. I'm really sorry.  

- C.E.

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