Flight changes

Flight changes… any non status traveler hates them.

Travel plans change and airlines capitalize on this by charging exhorbant change fees. Below is how I was able to make multiple flight changes without a fee and some general tips.

– The number one way to get free flight changes is to book a flexible fare or get frequent flyer status with an airline.

– The best rule of thumb for flight changes for the rest of us is same day at the airport. I’ve typically been able to get change fees waived this way (and even an upgrade once!) but this requires an openness to stay on your ticked itinerary. If you absolutely need a flight change… best of luck to you. You’ll be paying a lot. In some cases, it is even cheaper to book a whole new ticket than to pay the change fee plus fare difference.

– Check if your change is covered by your credit card insurance. When i became ill in New Zealand, I considered flying home and was happy to find out VISA had my back and would cover this flight.

– Changes within 24 hours of booking are generally free for most airlines unless you book through a sketchy booking site. A good booking site like Expedia will not charge a fee to honour airlines’ free 24 hour cancellation fee. Other than booking direct with the airline, Expedia is the only booking site I use. And usually only because I like my Ebates cash back.

– If you’re not in a hurry and simply looking for a more convenient route home, consider taking a bump which can often get you a better routing, free hotel and flight credits on an oversold flight.

– Last tip: the gate agents are always more flexible and likely to make free changes. If you strike out with the above options, you can try the gate agent before boarding your flight. When I kindly explained I had a cold and wanted to skip my day in New York city, a kind gate agent in Sao Paulo, Brazil rerouted me home for free. And upgraded me.

On a recent trip to Panama I had booked a super inconvenient trip home (6 hour overnight stopover in SFO) based on a schedule from the group I was with. Things changed and I was able to get to the airport earlier and I was hell bent on getting home that night instead of that icky overnight stopover. I hate 6 hour stopovers. They aren’t long enough to justify a hotel stay but are long enough to slowly destroy your soul, especially if you are a frequent traveler.

My first option was to try to get on the flight with only one stopover by using the same day change at $75. The United app wasn’t working for this change so I went to the airport the night before (I was staying less than 5 min away and would have waited longer on hold if I called). The agent moved me to a slightly more desireable flight for free but was unable to change the routing, still leaving me with 2 connections and an overnight in SFO. Tip: same day changes do allow rerouting on United if the departure and destination are the same, this guy and the app were both just not working for me. At least this change was free because he was kind.

As I left, I received an email that a wind storm in SFO meant all change fees were waived for rerouting. This is best case scenario for a traveler wanting a free change.

Again, the United app wasn’t honouring this option (great app, need to fix the glitches) so I went to the airport for my original flight with intention to change routing to get home sooner. The agent notified me that my ticket didn’t have the change fees waived according to his records but after I showed him the email, he agreed to the change. He was able to reroute me through Calgary instead of SFO, getting me home to Vancouver in record time. Amazing.

Until I got to Houston and missed my connection to Calgary. Air Canada, I’m loving that you have been departing early a lot lately but closing boarding over 20 minutes before departure just isn’t cool. In their defence, I wasn’t checked in for this next leg (another problem with the app!)

I went to the United desk in Houston airport to get rerouted (again). The options the woman suggested all required an overnight somewhere as it was late in the day. I pulled up my phone and noticed a flight on American Airlines leaving shortly that would get me home that night. The woman stated a policy requiring her to book me on United or partners for at least one leg of the journey. I politely, kindly, and with a huge smile insisted and was booked on the AA flight through Dallas and then direct to Vancouver.

My Houston – Dallas flight was delayed, making it unlikely I’d be able to make it from terminal C to terminal A in 20 minutes from touch down until boarding for my next flight closed. I asked a flight attendant on my flight if he thought I’d make it, and he shrugged with an apathetic “probably not, nothing you can do” reply. I managed to be one of the first people off that flight and sprinted my way to terminal A just as they were making the final boarding call.

And I made it home.

My bag did not, which I expected. When playing the flight change game, always come prepared with everything you need in your carry on. When I arrived at YVR the same night, I completed my lost bag paperwork and headed home to sleep in my own bed instead of the floor of the SFO terminal 3 yoga studio.


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