Booking fares without specified dates

April 23, 2013
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. Is it possible to by an airline ticket without knowing the exact date of travel? I’m wondering if I can purchase a ticket ahead of time and decide later when I was going to fly.



    A. You can always purchase an airfare and change the dates of travel, but the fare may change (either up or down) for travel on the date you decide to fly, and in most cases the cheapest fares will also require a change fee ($150 on a domestic fare on most U.S.-based airlines) if you change dates. Of course, you can buy an expensive fully-refundable fare and change the dates all you want, but I’m guessing that’s not what you had in mind. You can also purchase an airfare on Southwest Airlines, which doesn’t charge a change fee, but again, the fare on your new dates of travel may be higher or lower than the fare you originally bought (you’ll either pay the difference if higher, or get a travel voucher for future travel if lower). American Airlines now also sells a fare upgrade called Choice Essential that allows you to change your travel dates without a fee, but that also requires you to pay extra if the fare changes on your new dates of travel. Choice Essential fares cost $68 above regular fares but also include a checked bag round-trip and priority boarding.

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