If you’re asking, “How can I change my flight without paying a fee?” you might already be in a sticky situation. However, it does pay to do your research and be prepared for unforeseen circumstances before you even book your flight. We’ll cover all your questions here and give you 6 hacks to change your flight for free.
When Do I Need to Know How to Change a Flight?
If you’ve purchased refundable airfare, you can change your flight as many times as you want. However, refundable airfare is usually for business travelers, whose companies are willing to pay high prices for flexibility. For the average traveler, purchasing refundable airfare may not be in the budget.
Changes or cancellations typically have to be made before your scheduled departure. If you just missed your departure, you may be out of luck when it comes to changing your flight for free. However, it’s always worth calling customer service to see if they can help you.
If your original flight was canceled or you were denied boarding due to overbooking, the airline will take care of rebooking your flight for you and will not charge you any fees. While it’s still important to know what to do if your flight is cancelled in these circumstances, you won’t have to worry about paying any fees. You may even be entitled to flight compensation under EU 261 Regulations.
But if you’ve changed your plans, fallen sick, or you booked the wrong flight in the first place, you’ll want to know how you can change your flight without paying a fee.
How Much Does It Cost to Change a Flight?
The cost depends on your airline as well as other factors, like whether you’re a frequent flyer member. An example of the more expensive side is United Airlines, whose change fee is $200 for domestic flights and $400 for international. American Airlines and Delta also charge $200 for any flight change or cancellation.
Alaska Airlines’ change fee is $125 unless you purchased a Saver Fare, in which case no changes are allowed. JetBlue uses a tiered system in which the fee depends on the type of fare and the original cost of the ticket.
On the more lenient side, Frontier allows flight changes and cancellations made more than 60 days before the departure date. They also have some of the lowest change fees: $79 from 59 to 14 days before departure, and then $119 within two weeks.
But the best of all is Southwest Airlines, which never charges fees for flight changes. However, just keep in mind you’ll also pay for any difference in the cost of airfare.
As you can see, the answer to “How much does it cost to change a flight?” isn’t always straightforward. That’s why it’s important to know your airline’s policy and how to change a flight before it’s too late.
How Can I Change My Flight Without Paying a Fee?
Even if you don’t think you’ll need to do so, any frequent flyer should know how to change your flight date for free. The secret is picking the right airline, getting your timing right and following all the best airport travel tips.
1. Do Your Research
“Always be prepared” isn’t just the Boy Scout motto. It’s a state of mind that every frequent traveler should adopt. We went over just a few airline policies above, but since the cost to change a flight varies, you should always do your research regarding your specific airline’s change fees before you book. You don’t want to get stuck paying a huge fee and on top of the difference in airfare prices, this can really add up, considering last-minute airfares typically skyrocket.
If you think you’ll have a high chance of needing to change your flight, go with Southwest, or book a flexible ticket. You can also book with Frontier, then add on the WORKS™ bundle to get flight flexibility and refundability.
2. Change Within 24 Hours of Booking
Some airlines allow you to change your flight within 24 hours of booking for free. How should you change your flight if this is the case? The best way is to call customer service. That way, you can confirm your airline’s policy and make sure you won’t be charged any fees.
3. Increase Your Status
Often the only answer to “How can I change my flight without paying a fee?” is to have elite status in a membership club. Frequent flyer members get great benefits and decreased, or even waived, flight change fees. It’s just another reason that even if you don’t fly very often, it can still pay to be part of an airline’s membership club.
For example, Alaska waives all fees for their MVP Gold and Gold 75K Mileage Plan members. United MileagePlus Premier 1K members don’t have to pay flight change fees either, unless there are “no shows.”
4. Check If You Have Trip Cancellation Insurance
If you use certain cards to purchase your ticket, and then need to make a change due to a covered reason, like coming down with a serious illness, you may be covered by trip cancellation insurance that comes with your card.
You can also typically purchase trip cancellation insurance when you book your ticket. Like credit card coverage, it typically only covers illness or accidents. But it can be worth it if your ticket is expensive.
5. Make a Same-Day Change
A same-day change is one that you make on the day of your flight, but before your departure time. With this option you are not able to change your itinerary, meaning you must go to the same destination. And if you’re wondering how to change a flight date for free, you might be out of luck with this strategy: You’ll typically need to fly on the same day, too.
Airlines will still charge a small fee for this type of flight change, but it’s much less than other fees. So if you’re thinking about how to change a flight because you simply need a later departure time, this could be the way to go.
6. Call Customer Service
Talking to customer service or an in-person representative, rather than going online, is one of the best overall tips for all sorts of air travel problems, including changing your flight without paying a fee. If you need to change your flight due to circumstances like a serious illness, natural disaster or family death, there’s a good chance customer service may be understanding. Just be sure you have documentation – airlines no longer take passengers at their word.
When you’re planning a big trip, it pays to learn about how you can change your flight without paying a fee. You don’t want to get stuck with cancellation fees or worse yet, not be able to change your flight at all. But with a little preparation and a lot of persistence, you can change your flight for free.