How to Save Money if You Have to Reschedule a Flight

by Rich Jones

Having to reschedule a flight is often done as a consequence of a last minute problem or change of plans. It can be a frustrating process if you’re unsure of what to do or where to start. Although it can cause quite a bit of stress, it needn’t also come with a large financial penalty. Policies vary from airline to airline, and change often, so it can be confusing to figure out what applies to you and what might not. Here are some of the top tips on how to save money if you have to reschedule a flight.

Make Your Changes Within 24 Hours

The easiest way to save money if you have to reschedule a flight is to make your changes within 24 hours of booking. Airlines have a 24 hour window where your consumer rights dictate that you can cancel your flight without incurring any fines or penalties. This is the perfect window to cancel, or change flights. However, it’s not always possible for travelers to do this. After all, you may not know at that point that the requirement to reschedule will crop up. It is worth bearing the 24 hour free cancellation in mind, though. Many people are not aware that this is a standard rule set by the Department of Transportation. It must be adhered to by all airlines who don’t want to fall afoul of regulations.

Buy a Refundable/Flexible Ticket

Yes, it’s a more expensive option, but it’s also a much safer one. Buying a refundable ticket means you’re not worried about any unexpected changes in your schedule. You can call the airline, tell them you need to cancel, and it’s generally taken care of quickly. A flexible ticket gives you the option of, well…being flexible. You can change dates and times on your route without incurring any nasty charges or change fees. Although a flexible ticket will set you back more than a regular ticket, the money you’ll save in the event something goes wrong is well worth the extra. If you consider some airlines charge $200 for domestic changes and $500 for international ones, a little extra for your original flight suddenly doesn’t seem like that much. If you need the flexibility, it’s an ideal way to save money if you have to reschedule a flight.

Pray for a Cancellation

If you know you can’t make your flight, you don’t have to take action straight away (unless it’s within the first 24 hours, of course). You can, if you have the nerve, hold on to that ticket and pray for a change or cancellation from your airline. This isn’t often something that comes through for you. However, if you’re traveling in winter and live somewhere that’s used to delays, you could well be on to a good thing. It’s not unusual for airlines to be forced into making schedule changes to account for extreme weather. If you think there might be a *teeny* chance, you might want to risk it. If it works out, it’s a bit like winning the lottery. It can save you a small fortune, and you can then ask for any change you want. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Call Your Credit Card Company

Many credit cards offer automatic travelers’ insurance to refund charges and cancellation fees. It’s a little-known way to save money if you have to reschedule a flight. If you travel regularly, it’s always a good idea to get a travel reward card, anyway. These can help to build up loyalty points and help out with award flights down the road. Just having a travel credit card to use as you normally would provides you way more leeway with airline charges. They won’t cover you for just changing your mind, though. There does have to be a valid reason behind the change. Family emergencies and extreme weather conditions are usually top of the list in cases where fees have been waived or refunded.

Fly Southwest!

Southwest Airlines is the only major carrier that does not charge any fees for flight changes or cancellations. Ever. If you’re looking at a particular route, check if they have it available. If so, book up with them. This way, you know if you have to change plans, you won’t be stuck with a big, fat fee, potentially running into hundreds of dollars. Clearly, Southwest won’t be able to fly every route you want. However, it’s always worth checking out their schedule. You may be able to swing an airport close by or at least use them for part of your trip. When plans are uncertain, it can be a great way to save money if you have to reschedule a flight!

Know When It’s Cheaper to Give Up

If you paid $300 for a flight and it’s going to cost you an extra $300 on ticket change fees, that’s $500 down the drain. Sometimes, it’s cheaper just to shop around and book a completely new flight. If you can find one for less than the $300 ticket change fee on your original flight, you’re losing less by just missing the first flight. Alternatively, see if the original airline will offer you a flight credit for the flight you’re missing. This way, you at least won’t feel that you’ve totally missed out. Flight credits usually have a 12 month window in which they must be used.

Also read – Top Considerations for Choosing the Right Credit Card

Consider Train and Car Rental

Trains might be way slower, but they also don’t usually charge you to change your reservation. Yay for trains! If your journey isn’t coast to coast and is fairly short, why not check out the timetable? If you can get a direct train and organize car rental, you could be on your way to your destination without worry. Car companies – particularly the main ones – have great policies on additional days, early drop offs and cancellations. These can take a whole lot of stress off your holiday travel plans. A good strategy for car rental is to add on an extra day or two at the end of your journey, just in case. This means that you won’t have to make any changes if you need to extend a trip. Chances are, you’ll also be refunded the fees you paid when you return the vehicle early.

United Airlines Change Fee

United Airlines generally charges its customers $200 to change flights on domestic routes within the United States. The charges for international journeys can be around $400, or sometimes even more. If you need a last minute, same day change, you may be able to switch for as little as $75. This is entirely dependent on your flight, however. Members of United’s various loyalty schemes, such as Premier Platinum, Premier 1K, and MileagePlus Premier Gold do not have to pay a fee for flight changes.

You will be entitled to a United Airlines refund in full if you fall within their 24 hour booking policy. If you have booked a ticket within a 24 hour time period and need to change or cancel, there will be no fees charged. This is only permissible within the first day of the original booking.

Sun Country Airlines Change Fee

Sun Country has recently made big changes to their change policy. They have scrapped all change fees for flights which are more than 60 days in the future. For flights between 14-59 days ahead, there’s a set fee of $50. It will cost you $100 if you’re less than 14 days from your scheduled date. Please bear in mind, however, that these fees are chargeable on each segment of your flights. If you have a multi-city stop, that could see you being charged two or three times the original fee. The company, like others, has a 24 hour flexible refund policy. If you book and change your mind, you have 24 hours to cancel the ticket with no questions asked. Given their lack of change fees more than 60 days out, they are a great choice when you need to save money if you have to reschedule a flight.

Spirit Airlines Change Fee

Spirit Airlines does not charge a change or cancellation fee for flights scheduled to take off within 24 hours. This is on the basis that you had purchased the tickets at least seven days before you were due to fly. Otherwise, there’s a $90 fee to pay for changes or cancellations if you do it online. You will be charged $100 if you make the changes via an agent at the airport or over the phone. Still, this is one of the better policies in terms of cost, so a good choice to save money if you have to reschedule a flight.

Southwest Airlines Change Fee

Southwest Airlines does not charge a change or cancellation fee. Therefore, changing your flights with them is free of charge. The only thing you must take into account is if the flight you’re changing to is more expensive than your existing one. In that case, you will have to pay the difference in price. Southwest’s flight cancellation policy also includes the government-mandated standard 24 hour window. You can either call on cancel online for no penalty. As a result, you can either get a full refund or credit towards any future travel with the airline.

JetBlue Airlines Change Fee

JetBlue Airways has a slightly more complex system of charges for flight changes and cancellations. What you have to pay depends entirely on the fare option you chose when booking. You can choose from Blue, Blue Plus or Blue Flex for fares.  For Blue Flex fares, there is no fee. The only charge will be any difference in the flight price. For Blue and Blue Plus, you will pay the difference in fare and $200 per person on flights worth $200 or more. For fares valued from $150-$149.99, each person will pay a set fee of $150 plus the price difference. There’s a $100 JetBlue change fee for fares that cost between $100-$149.00. This is in addition to any difference in the price of the fare. Flights under $75 are charged at $100, plus fare difference.

However, JetBlue’s missed flight policy is much more customer friendly. If you miss a flight, you can be put on standby for a seat on the next scheduled flight for no cost. If you can’t do this, you can take up the offer of the Same Day No Show option. This will cost between $75-$150, depending on the difference in the fare.  If you need to cancel your flight completely, JetBlue’s cancellation policy allows you 24 hours. This is irrespective of how much you paid for the fare. So, while JetBlue is often a more affordable carrier, it may not always be the easiest or most straight-forward way to save money if you need to reschedule a flight.

Hawaiian Airlines Change Fee

On flights to the United States mainland, Hawaiian Airlines charges a straight $200 fee. On international routes, this is between $50-$300. If you want to change a domestic flight within the Hawaiian island chain only, the charge to change flights is set at $30. Cancellation fees are waived for the first 24 hours of booking, as long as the booking was made 7 days or more prior to the original departure date. In these cases, full refunds will be issued.

Frontier Airlines Change Fee

So, how much is it to change a flight on Frontier? The fees charged by the airlines have recently changed, making it cheaper for travelers making flight changes. For flights within 90 days of travel, but not less than 14 days prior to the scheduled departure, changes are charged at $49. This is 50% less than it was previously. Last minute changes will be charged at $99.

Delta Airlines Change Fee

Delta Airlines has a $200 fee for changes made to domestic flights within the United States. This also includes the US territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. For international flight changes, you’re looking at around $500 for each flight. Delta’s cancellation policy is the standard 24 hour full refund or flight credit. To be honest, though, the Delta 24 hour cancellation is more like 48 hours, depending on the time of booking. You actually get until midnight the day after booking to cancel the flights. Elite Members can log online to check fees as there are certain things they will not be charged for in terms of changes to flights.

American Airlines Change Fee

If you want to change tickets with American Airlines, you might be looking at a sizable $200 fee. This is payable on domestic flights within the United States. Unfortunately, if you want to change flights on an international route, you could be charged up to an eye-watering $750. If you make a same-day change, the American Airlines flight change fee is between $75-$125 for economy flights. Business and first-class passengers can make flight changes free of charge.

American Airlines has a 24 hour cancellation, as is standard. However, if you cancel a flight with American Airlines, you don’t need to have booked at least seven days before departure. The major airline will still provide a full refund as long as you booked just two days prior. American Airlines refunds are guaranteed to be completed within seven days of cancellation.

Allegiant Airlines Change Fee

Change flight fees for Allegiant Air are set at $75 per passenger. This fee will be charged for each segment that requires the change. If you book with TripFlex, this provides you with additional protection, and no change fees are charged. Cancellation fees are nil within the first 24 hours, as long as the booking has been made at least seven days prior to the scheduled departure.

Alaska Airlines Change Fee

Alaska Airlines used to be one of the most flexible airlines in terms of fees for flight changes and cancellations. This has somewhat changed, with flights more than 60 days before you fly having a $125 fee. If you book within 24 hours of the flight departure time, there’s also a $125 charge. If you cancel or change *after* 24 hours of booking, the fee is the same. As with other airlines, the standard 24 hour cancellation policy is in place, as long as your booking is made at least seven days prior to departure. In these cases, no fee is charged, and a full refund will be made.

Virgin Atlantic Airlines Change Fee

Virgin Atlantic allows flight cancellations, as per law, within 24 hours of booking. A full refund will be issued, and no financial penalties incurred. Outside this window, it’s highly likely that a flight change fee will be imposed. A general rule of thumb is that Virgin Atlantic change fees are $75 for main cabin passengers when changed online. If you make the change with agents at the airport or call center, it’s likely to rise to $100. Always check with the airline as fees do vary. Flexible ticket holders have way more leeway with Virgin Atlantic, so it’s worth considering this from the start.

FAQs

How can I change the flight dates of my return ticket?

Simply contact your airline or go online and make the changes. Depending on the type of ticket you have, there may be a fee attached to the flight changes. This will be detailed on the airline website. If you’re traveling to the same destination (i.e., not actually changing routes), some airlines will allow you to do this for free. This will depend on how far from the date of the scheduled flight you are. It will also depend on the policy of your individual airline.

Can an airline change my award ticket to a different flight?

Yes, they can change your award ticket. They won’t necessarily do it for free, though. Any charges will be dependent entirely on the airline you booked with. Many allow changes within a certain time limit free of charge, but just as many do not. Check the terms and conditions of your flight.  Then contact your airline to see how you go about changing reservations.

What if you need to change your flight due to a dying parent?

Contact your airline. Many will defer or cancel change fees if they are aware of the situation. Many have policies in place for this type of eventuality. It’s always easier to make changes to your flights if you have evidence of the situation. This can include items, such as a letter from a family doctor, for example. Airlines get lots of non-genuine requests, so they may well ask you to prove your story, which is understandable. On the whole, airlines are very sympathetic to genuine situations that require you to reschedule flights. Everyone is dealt with on a case by case basis, so get in touch to let them know of your issue. However, if you don’t get anywhere changing tickets with your airline, check your travel insurance. Your terms and conditions will let you know if you’re covered with them for this eventuality.

Is there a way to get flight reimbursement or changing flight schedules on a non-insured flight?

To be honest, the easiest way to get a full refund is to make use of the 24 hour cancellation policy. This is standard with all airlines, regardless of who you booked with.  If you’re outside this window and don’t have a flexible, refundable type of ticket, it’s a bit more difficult. Depending on your airline, you may be able to change your flight for free. However, this isn’t common among major airlines, who nearly all have ticket change fees in place. If you have travel insurance, you may want to check your policy to see whether you’re covered for refunds and changing flights.

How can I change my flight without paying a fee?

If you need to change your flight ticket within the first 24 hours of booking, you can usually do it for free. This often depends on you having made the initial booking more than seven days before departure. If you don’t fall into this category, it’s a wee bit more complex to get around and often depends on the type of ticket you purchased. You can generally change flights without paying a fee by booking a refundable or flex ticket with your airline. This gives you some insurance against making flight changes, but may come at a higher base cost.

Conclusion

If you travel frequently enough, you’re bound to run into problems at some point. Whether this is down to bad planning on your part, or it’s a situation that’s completely outwith your control, things happen. Either way, there are a number of things you can do. While it’s possible to avoid all charges and fees for switching flights or canceling within 24 hours, it’s not always easy after this.  Changing flights and the fees associated with this will, to some extent, leave you at the mercy of your airline. Don’t despair, though – you can certainly follow our tips and tricks to save money if you have to reschedule a flight. Best of luck and safe travels!

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