Same day travel airfare change fees

George Hobica, September 13, 2007
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q: Since when have the airlines charged to go standby on the same day, either for a later or earlier flight? I was charged $75 recently on United to do this. Do all airlines have the same policy?



    A: No they do not. United has the most expensive same day change fees, but many airlines now charge $50 or more, up from $25 previously (and up from $0 at one time). Airtran charges $25, JetBlue $40 for a confirmed same-day change or $0 only for the flight prior to your original one (if there is one that day); Continental charges elite frequent flyers $25, and Delta and US Air waive the fee for their elites. However, if you pay the fee, you're not really going standby; rather, you get a confirmed seat (it's basically a same day change fee, which will cost less than standard change fees). You can still take your chances and truly standby, hoping a seat will open up, without paying a fee, on some airlines. Keep in mind, though, that if it's in the airline's best interest to let you go on a different flight (for example, if your original flight is oversold) they will probably waive the fee and confirm your seat, and sometimes gate agents are just nice and will let you change for free (especially if you show up a few minutes before the gate is closed and they don't want to bother doing the paperwork).

    These fees are just another way for airlines to make money, and have replaced the prior free standby policies, but on the plus side, at least you do get a confirmed seat vs. a standby.

    Here are the policies of some of the carriers, with language from their official policies. Note that these policies apply to domestic flights and may be different for international travel.

    Airtran

    Fee: $25.

    American

    Fee: $50


    Passengers can call Reservations or handle the transaction at the airport ticket counter or Self-Service Check-In machines. If eligible seats are available within 12 hours of departure of alternate flights for your same itinerary, your flight change can be confirmed.  American no longer offers free same day standby.  See rules.

    Continental

    Fee: $50 ($25 for OnePass Platinum and Gold Elite members, free for OnePass Platinum)

    The same-day flight change option will be available within 24 hours before your original scheduled flight. Does not apply to weekend fares and fares bought through "name your own price" on Priceline.com

    You may take advantage of this same-day change option when traveling on Continental Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines, Inc. dba Continental Express and/or Continental Micronesia. Changes may be confirmed within three hours of your new desired flight at any airport check-in kiosk or with an airport agent. You may also contact Continental Reservations by phone." See rules.

    Delta

    Fee: $50

    "The same-day confirmed option allows you to change your flight time on the same day of travel for a fee of $50. To use the same-day confirmed option, you must confirm your new flight within 3 hours of the scheduled departure time. If you have a flexible fare (usually a refundable ticket), you may be able to change your itinerary without a fee.

    A $75 fee applies to restricted Delta Shuttle fares when changing to a peak flight time.

    You can use the same-day confirmed option for travel within the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Delta and Delta Connection® flights.

    No changes between origin, destination, or co-terminals (such as New York's LaGuardia and JFK airports)." See rules.

    Frontier


    Fee: $50-$100

    Fee depends on the ticket type. Economy fares incur a $100 fee, "Classic" fares a $50 fee; more expensive "Classic Plus" fares have no fee. There is no free standby, only confirmed same day changes. "Summit" frequent flyers can confirm a same day change for free.


    JetBlue


    Fee: $0-40

    A confirmed same day flight change costs $40.

    Cities with Multiple Flights a Day

        * You can make your confirmed same day changes via 1-800-JETBLUE or at the airport beginning at midnight (in the time zone of the departing flight) of the same calendar day as your original scheduled flight.
        * You must travel on an earlier or later flight the same-day.
        * You must travel between the same city pairs.
        * A Same-Day Change Fee of $40 per person will be applied for your confirmed seat.



    Cities with One Flight a Day
    The same-day change program is not available for cities with one flight a day.


    Standby travel is free, but you may only standby for the flight just prior to your original flight, and you are allowed to standby for the flight one day prior to your original flight if there is just one flight a day on the route.

    In order to travel standby, you must have already purchased a seat on JetBlue.

    Cities with Multiple Flights a Day

        * You must contact JetBlue within 24 hours of your original flight.
        * You are allowed to travel on the flight prior to your original flight only, regardless of whether it is a non-stop or connecting flight.
        * You must travel between the same city pairs (specifically, the origin and final destination BlueCity).
        * This option is free of charge.
        * If you are booked on the first flight of the day you cannot fly standby on the last flight the day before. However, you may jet standby one flight after your scheduled flight."

    See rules.



    Southwest

    Fee: None, but you may end up paying more than on any other airline

    This airline is a whole different animal. While most customers love the fact that if you change your travel dates on a non-refundable fare and decide to travel within a year from the original flight (even on a different route), you'll be able to do so without a fee, it's a whole other situation if you want to fly same day on a different flight. Although they don't state this anywhere on their site (that we can see anyway), if you're on, say, a $99 one-way fare leaving at 5 PM and you want to leave now on the 2 PM flight, while there's no "fee" as such, you will have to pay the difference between your $99 fare and whatever the current "walk up" (no advance purchase) fare is on that route, which could be hundreds more. As with other airlines, Southwest sometimes looks the other way, but if the gate agent isn't in a generous mood that day, prepare to pay.

    United

    Fee: $50-$75

    Confirmed same day travel changes cost $75 each way and can be confirmed within three hours of the time of your request. Only valid for flights wholly within the U.S.

    Or you can do an unconfirmed same day standby for $50. This applies for travel on or after April 28, 2010, with tickets purchased on or after April 10, 2010l.  Same day standby can be used for travel within the U.S. and Canada. See rules.

    US Airways

    Fee: $50 (waived for elite frequent flyers)

    "We allow you to 'move up' to any earlier flight on the same day of your originally scheduled departure time at the airport (with the exception of flights to Hawaii and Europe). You can only make day-of-departure changes at the airport (and not by calling Reservations).

    If there is an open seat available on any earlier US Airways operated flight that departs on the same day as your originally scheduled departure, you may change to that flight and we will automatically confirm your reservation for $50 for flights within the 48 contiguous United States and $50 for flights to Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada and Alaska. This lower confirmation fee replaces the usual $150 change fee, plus any differences between your old fare and new fare, for non-refundable tickets.

    If there is not an open seat on an earlier flight that departs on the same day as your originally scheduled departure, you may stand by for that flight at no charge. Standing by at no charge is not permitted if we can confirm that there is an open seat available for that flight. Seats on completely booked flights may become available if passengers with confirmed reservations don't show up for the flight. Unlike a confirmed reservation, flying standby does not guarantee that you will get on the particular flight that you want and may involve waiting for two or more flights before a seat is available to you." 
    See rules.

    Comments