The 24-Hour Window: Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Airline Change and Cancellation Fees

If your work schedule suddenly changes or you made an error while you were booking a flight, you’re going to need to change or cancel your booking. This is not only a lot of trouble it can also cost you hundreds of dollars. Here are some tips on how to avoid those incredibly high airline change and/or cancellation fees that most travelers have had to face at some stage.

How to Avoid Change and Cancellation Fees

If you really must change or cancel your airline booking, here’s how to do it.

  • Cancel within the 24-hour window: If you booked your flight at least seven days before it is due to depart, you can cancel within the first 24-hour period for a full refund of your ticket price.
  • Purchase a flexible ticket: Man airlines offer flexible or refundable fare. It will cost you more money, but it may be a viable option for you if your schedule may change and you’re flying with an airline, such as Delta, that charges a $200 fee to change a ticket. Some airlines offer flexible tickets, which allow you to pay more for the ticket then change the date at no extra cost.
  • Fly with an airline with no change fees: There are not many U.S. airlines that offer tickets with zero change fees, but South West is one of them, They will always let you change your ticket for free and if the new one costs less than your original ticket, they will give you credit for future travel.
  • Exchange your ticket on the same day: This can be a risky endeavor, but sometimes you just have to. The advantage is that same day change fees are typically less than advance change fees. However, the disadvantage is that if you are hoping to fly during peak travel times, the flight you want may not be available. If you want to change your flight specifically so you can arrive at your destination earlier than you had originally planned, then this may be a good solution.
  • Book with the airline directly: It’s often easier to change or cancel your flight if you book directly with the airline rather than through a third party travel company. In some circumstance, third party sites, such as Priceline, do not even have to comply with the 24-hour cancellation policy.
  • Hope for a flight delay: This might seem to be a long shot but flight delays are not uncommon, and sometimes this may warrant a refund or change of flight. There is also a two percent chance that your flight will be canceled, the chances are greater if you are flying from a busy airport like Atlanta.
  • Don’t show up for your flight: You might not have thought of this, but sometimes it can be a lot cheaper just not to show for you flight rather than canceling it or paying a change fee. Particularly if you only need to change one leg of the journey, or if you used your air miles to pay for the ticket. These days around fifteen percent of passengers don’t show up for their flights, which is why so many airlines overbook.
  • Get travel insurance: some companies cover you if you have to change or cancel your flight.

When special exemptions apply

There are special circumstances when you can get your change or cancellation fees completely waived. These would include life or death situations, such as the death or sudden life-threatening illness of a family member you are traveling with or if you or one of your travel partners are called for jury duty. You will in each case be required to provide documentation to support your fee waiver claim.

If you are a frequent flyer, make yourself aware of these situations so that you can use them to your advantage if you have to cancel a flight or change use them to your advantage if you have to cancel a flight or change your ticket date. If you are uncertain of a particular airline’s policies, always call them with questions before you book your ticket. That way you can avoid any expenses should you have to reschedule your flight.

Imogen Pearce is a travel-a-holic on a budget. She saves money wherever, however she can to enable her to travel more. Read her articles about saving on plane tickets, packing the bare necessities and the places she has discovered.

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