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How to Avoid Airline Change Fees

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Sometimes we have circumstances that affect on changing our plans.We have to rearrange some things in our life. Plane tickets, vacations, trips are not an exception. But airline companies become more and more creative in terms of charging customers for different and, sometimes, basic services.

How to avoid airline change fees

If we check Airlines fees chart summer 2015, we will notice that change or cancellations fees can be as low as $75 and can go up to $450.

The only US airline which does not charge any fees – Southwest airlines. The only thing you have to pay is difference in fare. Refunds are given as a credit that can only be used by the person whose name originally appeared on the ticket.

1. Use 24 hour window.

U.S. Department of Transportation regulations require that, as long as you’ve booked a non-refundable ticket 7 days ahead of your flight, you’re entitled to change or cancel your reservation within 24 hours of booking, without paying a cancellation fee. So, you have 1 full day to change your mind until tickets are issued.

Note: that if you have booked award ticket with points or miles – some airlines will not refund or redeposit your bonuses back on your account!

2. Involuntary refund

You can avoid airline change fees is if your flight is canceled or delayed. It may or may not be worth your time to show up for your flight and hope it’s canceled or significantly delayed. And again, according to DOT, if a carrier fails to perform its obligations (delivering passenger to destination point) – you can request full refund, even if ticket is non-refundable.

3. Call instead of going online

Negotiation is a best lawyer and friend.


4. Be polite

Change/cancellation process is definitely not very pleasant process – so it better to be on a positive “begging” site  with airline representative instead of being demanding and rude/harsh.

5. Act fast

If you know about changing plans – do not hesitate. Time is money – the earlier you will start the process – the more chances you have to avoid airline change fees.

6. Consider travel insurance

If you know you may have some possible changes – get travel insurance. Sometimes it may be cheaper comparing to the airline fees (depends on company) .

Some best travel insurance companies you can find in our list of useful travel websites and a guide to travel insurance.

7. Be a loyalty member

You chances definitely rise up to avoid change and cancellation fees, if you are part of loyalty of frequent flyer program. As a courtesy of every airline/hotel – they will be happy to assist you and “make you happy”.

8. “Flat tire” rule

Airlines do not usually advertise this, but still it is good to know. To be simple: if a passenger who has missed their schedule flight based on unforeseen causes like flat tire, accident, traffic delays may standby without penalty and can be rebooked on next flight without extra fees. It just depends on the airlines’ rules and regulations. AmericanAirlines, as i’ve heard , are very flexible with it.

Once I was late to the gate flying with – without any negotiations I was rescheduled to next flight.

9. Know the company regulations

Consider the rules of change/cancellation of the airline you book from.

And, the last one, it is not a tip, but for you to know – emergency situation and their proof can save you some money avoiding change and cancellation fees. You may be just sick – call the airline. If you will catch an understandable representative  – more likely it will be processed without penalties.

Bottom line

We all may have unexpected situations and circumstances – do not be frustrated  that you may have lose money. Just know the information, be polite, creative and most likely you will not have to pay extra penalties or fees.

H/T: Miles for Trips