Los Angeles to Zurich, Switzerland $617 round-trip, nonstop, incl. all taxes
This is one in a smattering of amazing summer deals from US Airways that we've come across, available only on specific dates. This particular fare seems to only be good for travel July 6 through July 28. Not bad for peak summer from the West Coast, especially considering how high fares to Europe have been looking so far this year!
A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday would ban airlines from charging for carry-on luggage, according to Reuters. Two senators rightly point out that carry-ons often contain items that are "important for the safety and health" of travelers, including medication and eyewear.
But can we please keep in mind that Spirit Airlines' now infamous decision to charge for carry-on luggage only applies to items too large to fit in the seat in front of the passenger. You can still carry on personal items for free, and that would include a large purse, brief case, or backpack into which you can stuff whatever essentials or valuables you desire. Coats, strollers, cameras, and certain other items are also carried in-cabin for free.
But let's get real here. To avoid looking disingenuous, Spirit should simply ban carry on bags altogether rather than making them a profit center. And the US Congress should let airlines conduct business as they see fit, and if it really cares about airline passengers, instead legislate a solution to the real safety risks of carry-on luggage.
Spirit's CEO, Ben Baldanza, with some justification, claims that the overhead bin fee will discourage carry-on overcrowding and lead to safer air travel, both for flight attendants and passengers, who are sometimes injured when lifting heavy bags into the bins and by bags falling out of the bins, despite the airlines' constant "bags do tend to shift in flight" PA announcements.
But most likely, safety isn't the real issue here, at least not for an airline CEO. Baldanza also suggests that the airline will be able to board and deplane their aircraft faster, which implies that Spirit will profit by faster airport turnarounds, and thus be able to complete more flights per day and earn more revenue per plane (or fly more passengers with fewer multi-million dollar jets). Is safety the real issue here?
But if safety is really the issue, then the airline should ban large carry-ons altogether, rather than charging for them. Is a carry-on that is charged $45 any safer than one riding for free? Of course not. Indeed, in the infancy of commercial aviation, there were no overhead bins at all, just hat racks into which it was forbidden to place even the smallest flight bag or other hard object. Everything else went under the seat. (OK, OK, the seats were spaced farther apart, granted.)
In any case, the US Congress should back off. if Spirit or any other airline decides to ban larger-sized carry-ons for safety reasons or to charge for them for revenue-enhanhcement reasons or to discourage passengers from using the overhead bins altogether, then that's their business. If the government were really consumer focused, they should recognize the health hazards of large carry-on luggage and encourage airlines to ban the practice altogether, following Spirit's model of only permitting smaller carry-ons that fit under the seat.
And there are about a thousand other things Congress should focus on when it comes to air travel, such as fixing the air traffic control system.
Then we could go back to the old model of free checked baggage, or not. But that should be the airlines' decision. Or maybe passengers will finally "get it" that the airlines don't want to be carrying their luggage in the first place, and they'd learn the pleasures of 5-day FedEx Ground delivery service, at least on domestic flights.
Airlines could save millions, and offer free checked baggage once again
Although putting an end to large carry-on bags, whether free or paid, would require the airlines to hire more baggage handlers and check in staff, who are paid relatively modest wages, most likely the carriers would come out ahead by boarding and deplaning planes far faster than currently possible. It doesn't take an airline CEO with an MBA to figure out that if every one of the thousands of flights flown in the US each day could shave 30 or 45 minutes off of their schedules by turning around quicker at the airport, then the airlines would save millions in equipment, fuel and the more expensive salaries paid to pilots, who often sit around doing nothing while passengers attempt to stuff bags in the overhead bins, blocking other passengers from reaching their seats.
With the money they save, airlines could once again offer free checked bags, just like in the good old days, when flying was fun.
We recently got a request from a reader asking about United Airlines' "Rule 240."
Now before we get flamed by certain someones out there, yes, we know that Rule 240 isn't really a "rule" any more; that all airlines had a Rule 240 before deregulation in the late 1970s, and that most airlines have done away with this rule now that no government agency requires them to follow it, or they've weakened it considerably. HOWEVER....
United Airlines, in their contract of carriage, still has a Rule 240. It's there in black and white. In their contract. We reproduce it here in full, with portions bolded and notated for emphasis. But read the fine print at the end (the force majeure clause).
UA RULE 240: FAILURE TO OPERATE ON SCHEDULE OR FAILURE TO CARRY (NOT APPLICABLE TO STANDBY FARES.)
A) GENERAL THE PROVISIONS OF THIS RULE APPLY ONLY TO A PASSENGER WHO HAS A TICKET AND A CONFIRMED RESERVATION ON A FLIGHT WHICH HE/SHE DOES NOT USE FOR ONE OF THE REASONS NAMED BELOW.
B) DEFINITIONS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS RULE, THE FOLLOWING TERMS HAVE THE MEANINGS INDICATED BELOW: 1) COMPARABLE AIR TRANSPORTATION MEANS TRANSPORTATION PROVIDED BY AIR CARRIERS OR FOREIGN AIR CARRIERS HOLDING CERTIFICATES OF PUBLIC CONVENIENCE AND NECESSITY OR FOREIGN PERMITS. 2) CONNECTING POINT MEANS A POINT TO WHICH A PASSENGER HOLDS OR HELD CONFIRMED SPACE ON A FLIGHT OF UA, AND OUT OF WHICH THE PASSENGER HOLDS OR HELD CONFIRMED SPACE ON A FLIGHT OF UA OR ANOTHER CARRIER. ALL AIRPORTS THROUGH WHICH A CITY IS SERVED BY ANY CARRIER SHALL BE DEEMED TO BE A SINGLE CONNECTING POINT WHEN THE RECEIVING CARRIER HAS CONFIRMED RESERVATIONS TO THE DELIVERING CARRIER. 3) DELIVERING CARRIER MEANS A CARRIER ON WHOSE FLIGHT A PASSENGER HOLDS OR HELD CONFIRMED SPACE TO A CONNECTING POINT. 4) MISCONNECTION OCCURS AT A CONNECTING POINT WHEN A PASSENGER HOLDING CONFIRMED SPACE IS UNABLE TO USE SUCH CONFIRMED SPACE BECAUSE THE DELIVERING CARRIER WAS UNABLE TO DELIVER HIM/HER TO THE CONNECTING POINT IN TIME TO CONNECT WITH THE RECEIVING CARRIER'S FLIGHT. NOTE: THE SAME RULES REGARDING DELIVERING AND RECEIVING CARRIER RESPONSIBILITY APPLY AT THE SUBSEQUENT POINT(S) OF MISCONNECTION AS WOULD APPLY AT THE POINT OF ORIGINAL MISCONNECTION. 5) NEW RECEIVING CARRIER(S) MEANS A CARRIER OR COMBINATION OF CONNECTING CARRIERS, OTHER THAN THE ORIGINAL RECEIVING CARRIER(S), OPERATING BETWEEN THE POINT OF MISCONNECTION AND THE DESTINATION OR NEXT POINT OF STOPOVER OR CONNECTING POINT SHOWN ON THE PASSENGER'S TICKET, ON WHOSE FLIGHT(S) A PASSENGER IS TRANSPORTED FROM THE ORIGINAL CONNECTING POINT. 6) ORIGINAL RECEIVING CARRIER(S) MEANS A CARRIER OR COMBINATION OF CONNECTING CARRIERS ON WHOSE FLIGHT(S) A PASSENGER ORIGINALLY HELD CONFIRMED SPACE FROM A CONNECTING POINT TO A DESTINATION, NEXT STOPOVER, OR CONNECTING POINT. 7) OUTBOUND FLIGHT MEANS THE FLIGHT ON WHICH A PASSENGER ORIGINALLY HELD CONFIRMED SPACE BEYOND THE POINT WHERE THE SCHEDULE IRREGULARITY OR FAILURE TO CARRY OCCURS. 8) SCHEDULE IRREGULARITY MEANS ANY OF THE FOLLOWING IRREGULARITIES OCCURRING ON DATE OF DEPARTURE: A) DELAY IN SCHEDULED DEPARTURE OR ARRIVAL OF A UA FLIGHT RESULTING IN MISCONNECTION, OR B) FLIGHT CANCELLATION, OMISSION OF A SCHEDULED STOP, OR ANY OTHER DELAY OR INTERRUPTION IN THE SCHEDULED OPERATION OF A UA FLIGHT, OR C) SUBSTITUTION OF EQUIPMENT OF A DIFFERENT CLASS OF SERVICE, D) SCHEDULE CHANGES WHICH REQUIRE REROUTING OF A PASSENGER AT DEPARTURE TIME BECAUSE PRIOR NOTICE OF SUCH SCHEDULE CHANGE HAD NOT BEEN GIVEN SUCH PASSENGER PRIOR TO THE PASSENGER'S ARRIVING AT THE AIRPORT FOR CHECK-IN ON THE ORIGINAL FLIGHT. 9) SCHEDULE CHANGE MEANS: A) THE CANCELLATION OF A SCHEDULED FLIGHT WHERE NO UA FLIGHT OF COMPARABLE ROUTING IS AVAILABLE WITHIN TWO HOURS OF THE ORIGINAL TIME OF DEPARTURE; B) A CHANGE IN THE SCHEDULED DEPARTURE TIME OF A UA FLIGHT WHICH EXCEEDS TWO HOURS; C) A CHANGE IN THE ROUTING OF A SCHEDULED UA FLIGHT WHICH ADDS ONE OR MORE STOPS TO THE ORIGINAL ITINERARY; OR D) A CHANGE IN THE ROUTING OF A SCHEDULED FLIGHT THAT RESULTS IN A SCHEDULED ARRIVAL TIME MORE THAN TWO HOURS LATER THAN THE ORIGINAL SCHEDULED ARRIVAL TIME. C) SCHEDULE IRREGULARITY 1) WHEN A PASSENGER WILL BE DELAYED BECAUSE OF A SCHEDULE IRREGULARITY INVOLVING A UA FLIGHT WHICH, FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS RULE, FLIGHT DELAYS EXCEEDING 2 HRS., OR UA CANCELS THE PASSENGER'S RESERVATION PURSUANT TO PARAGRAPHS A) OR D), RULE 135 (CANCELLATION OF RESERVATIONS) EXCEPT FOR CANCELLATIONS OF RESERVATIONS DUE TO A WORK STOPPAGE: A) UA WILL TRANSPORT THE PASSENGER WITHOUT STOPOVER ON ITS NEXT FLIGHT ON WHICH SPACE IS AVAILABLE IN THE SAME CLASS OF SERVICE AS THE PASSENGER'S ORIGINAL OUTBOUND FLIGHT AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE PASSENGER.
B) IF UA IS UNABLE TO PROVIDE ONWARD TRANSPORTATION ACCEPTABLE TO THE PASSENGER, UA, WITH CONCURRENCE OF THE PASSENGER, MAY ARRANGE FOR THE TRANSPORTATION ON ANOTHER CARRIER OR COMBINATION OF CARRIERS WITH WHOM UA HAS AGREEMENTS FOR SUCH TRANSPORTATION. THE PASSENGER WILL BE TRANSPORTED WITHOUT STOPOVER ON ITS (THEIR) NEXT FLIGHT(S), IN THE SAME CLASS OF SERVICE AS THE PASSENGER'S ORIGINAL OUTBOUND FLIGHT AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE PASSENGER. [Airfarewatchdog.com note: what this means is that they will attempt to put you on another airline if your flight is delayed or canceled; they are not legally required to do so by any government law, but a contract is a legal document]
C) IF SPACE IS ONLY AVAILABLE AND USED ON A UA FLIGHT(S) OF A LOWER CLASS OF SERVICE ACCEPTABLE TO THE PASSENGER, UA WILL PROVIDE A REFUND OF THE DIFFERENCE IN FARES PURSUANT TO RULE 260 (REFUNDS-INVOLUNTARY). [Airfarewatchdog.com note: so if you bought a first class ticket, and first class isn't available on a United flight, they'll refund the fare difference for economy; they USED to agree to put you on a competitor's flight in first class if that's all that was available]
D) IN THE EVENT PASSENGER DECLINES ALTERNATE TRANSPORTATION OFFERED UNDER (1)(B) ABOVE, UA SHALL REFUND THE FLIGHT COUPON(S) FOR THE UNFLOWN PORTION(S) IN ACCORDANCE WITH RULE 260 (REFUNDS-INVOLUNTARY). EXCEPTION 1: UA SHALL HAVE NO OBLIGATION TO HONOR ANOTHER CARRIER'S TICKET WHICH DOES NOT REFLECT A CONFIRMED RESERVATION ON UA, UNLESS THE ISSUING CARRIER REISSUES THE TICKET FOR ANY CHANGES IN ROUTING. IN THE EVENT SUCH CARRIER IS NOT AVAILABLE TO DO SO, UA RESERVES THE RIGHT TO REROUTE PASSENGERS ONLY OVER ITS OWN LINES BETWEEN THE POINTS NAMED ON THE ORIGINAL TICKET. EXCEPTION 2: PASSENGERS HOLDING TICKETS FOR ANOTHER CARRIER PURCHASED AT DE21/DE21E/ DE22/FE30/FE32 FARES (OR SIMILAR DISCOUNTED FARES WHICH PROVIDE FOR TRAVEL ON FIRST CLASS SERVICE) WILL BE ACCEPTED ON UA FIRST CLASS SERVICE UPON PAYMENT OF ADDITIONAL FARE TO THE LEVEL OF UA'S NORMAL ONE-WAY FIRST CLASS FARES. 2) UNITED WILL, IN A TIMELY MANNER, GIVE ALL CUSTOMERS THE BEST AVAILABLE INFORMATION REGARDING KNOWN DELAYS, CANCELLATIONS AND DIVERSIONS INVOLVING THEIR FLIGHT.
D) SCHEDULE CHANGES IN THE EVENT OF A SCHEDULE CHANGE OF A UA FLIGHT ON WHICH A PASSENGER HOLDS A TICKET INDICATING A CONFIRMED RESERVATION, UA WILL: 1) OFFER TO TRANSPORT THE PASSENGER OVER ITS OWN LINES IN THE SAME CABIN AS THE PASSENGER WAS ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED TO TRAVEL TO THE DESTINATION, THE NEXT STOPOVER POINT LISTED ON THE TICKET, OR THE TRANSFER POINT SHOWN ON ITS PORTION OF THE TICKET WITHOUT STOPOVER, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE PASSENGER, OR 2) AT UNITED’S DISCRETION, ARRANGE FOR THE TRANSPORTATION ON ANOTHER CARRIER OR COMBINATION OF CARRIERS WITH WHOM UA HAS AGREEMENTS FOR SUCH TRANSPORTATION; THE PASSENGER WILL BE TRANSPORTED WITHOUT STOPOVER ON ITS (THEIR) NEXT FLIGHT(S), IN THE SAME CLASS OF SERVICE AS THE PASSENGER’S ORIGINAL OUTBOUND FLIGHT AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE PASSENGER; OR 3) IN THE EVENT THE PASSENGER DECLINES ALTERNATE TRANSPORTATION OFFERED UNDER (1) OR (2) ABOVE, REFUND IN ACCORDANCE WITH RULE 260 (REFUNDS-INVOLUNTARY).
E) IN THE EVENT THAT UA CHANGES THE TIME OF DEPARTURE OR ROUTING OF A FLIGHT IN A MANNER THAT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A SCHEDULE CHANGE AS DEFINED HEREIN, WHETHER OR NOT THE SAME FLIGHT NUMBER IS RETAINED, UA WILL TRANSPORT THE PASSENGER ON THE RESCHEDULED FLIGHT AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE PASSENGER.
(*) F) AMENITIES/SERVICES FOR DELAYED PASSENGERS (NOT APPLICABLE TO STANDBY FARES.) 1) LODGING PASSENGERS WILL BE PROVIDED ONE NIGHT'S LODGING, OR A MAXIMUM ALLOWANCE FOR ONE NIGHT'S LODGING AS ESTABLISHED BY EACH LOCATION, WHEN A UA FLIGHT ON WHICH THE PASSENGER IS BEING TRANSPORTED IS DIVERTED TO AN UNSCHEDULED POINT, AND THE DELAY AT SUCH POINT IS EXPECTED TO EXCEED FOUR HOURS DURING THE PERIOD 10:00 P.M. TO 6:00 A.M. EXCEPTION: HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS WILL NOT BE FURNISHED: A) TO A PASSENGER WHOSE TRIP IS INTERRUPTED AT A CITY WHICH IS HIS/HER ORIGIN POINT, STOPOVER POINT, CONNECTING POINT, OR PERMANENT DOMICILE, OR B) WHEN THE DESTINATION DESIGNATED AND THE FLIGHT ON WHICH THE PASSENGER IS BEING ON THE PASSENGER TICKET IS: TRANSPORTED IS COLUMN 1 BALTIMORE, MD BALTIMORE, MD CHICAGO, IL CHICAGO, IL (ORD AIRPORT) CHICAGO, IL (ORD AIRPORT) LONG BEACH, CA LONG BEACH, CA LOS ANGELES, CA MIAMI, FL NEWARK, NJ NEWARK, NJ NEW YORK, NY (JFK AIRPORT) SAN FRANCISCO, CA WASHINGTON, DC (IAD AIRPORT) DIVERTED TO: (OR VICE VERSA) COLUMN 2 WASHINGTON, DC (IAD AIRPORT) WASHINGTON, DC (DCA AIRPORT) MILWAUKEE, WI CHICAGO, IL (MDW AIRPORT) CHICAGO, IL (CHICAGO RFD AIRPORT) LOS ANGELES, CA ONTARIO, CA ONTARIO, CA FT. LAUDERDALE, FL NEW YORK, NY (JFK AIRPORT) NEW YORK, NY (LGA AIRPORT) NEW YORK, NY (LGA AIRPORT) OAKLAND, CA SAN FRANCISCO, CA SAN JOSE, CA WASHINGTON, DC (DCA AIRPORT) 2) GROUND TRANSPORTATION WHEN THE DESTINATION DESIGNATED ON THE PASSENGER'S TICKET IS A POINT SHOWN IN 1) B) COLUMN 1, AND THE FLIGHT ON WHICH THE PASSENGER IS BEING TRANSPORTED IS DIVERTED TO A POINT SHOWN IN 1) B) COLUMN 2, UA WILL PROVIDE GROUND TRANSPORTATION TO THE ORIGINAL DESTINATION AIRPORT. 3) EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES UA WILL PROVIDE SUCH AMENITIES AS ARE NECESSARY TO MAINTAIN THE SAFETY AND/OR WELFARE OF CERTAIN PASSENGERS SUCH AS INVALIDS, UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN, THE ELDERLY OR OTHERS TO WHOM SUCH AMENITIES WILL BE FURNISHED CONSISTENT WITH SPECIAL NEEDS AND/OR CIRCUMSTANCES. IN ADDITION, WHERE EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES RESULT IN THE EXTENDED DELAY OF AN AIRCRAFT ON THE GROUND WITHOUT ACCESS TO THE TERMINAL, WHETHER PRIOR TO DEPARTURE OR AFTER LANDING, UNITED WILL MAKE EVERY REASONABLE EFFORT, IN ACCORDANCE WITH AN ESTABLISHED CONTINGENCY PLAN, TO ENSURE THAT ITS PASSENGERS ARE FACILITIES, AND ACCESS TO MEDICAL AND EMPLOYEE SAFETY AND SECURITY.
4) REMEDIES THE SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE REMEDY FOR THIS RULE (RULE 240UA) SHALL BE THE EXPRESS AMENITIES PROVIDED IN THE RULE. THE PASSENGER SHALL HAVE NO OTHER CLAIMS OF LAW OR EQUITY FOR ACTUAL, COMPENSATORY OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES.
G) CARRIER IN DEFAULT NOTWITHSTANDING THE PROVISIONS OF THIS RULE, UA WILL NOT ACCEPT FOR ANY PURPOSES UNDER THIS RULE PASSENGER TICKETS OR RELATED TRANSPORTATION DOCUMENTS ISSUED BY ANY CARRIER WHICH IS IN SUBSTANTIAL DEFAULT OF ITS INTERLINE OBLIGATIONS OR WHICH VOLUNTARILY OR INVOLUNTARILY HAS BECOME THE SUBJECT OF BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS (THE "DEFAULTING CARRIER"). EXCEPTION: NOTWITHSTANDING THE PROVISIONS OF THIS PARAGRAPH, TICKETS ISSUED BY THE DEFAULTING CARRIER OR ITS SALES AGENT PRIOR TO THE DEFAULT, WILL BE ACCEPTED SOLELY FOR TRANSPORTATION OVER THE LINES OF UA, PROVIDED SUCH TICKETS WERE ISSUED BY SUCH DEFAULTING CARRIER IN ITS CAPACITY AS AGENT FOR UA AND SPECIFIED TRANSPORTATION VIA UA. WHEN TICKETS ARE ACCEPTED, NO ADJUSTMENTS IN FARE WILL BE MADE WHICH WOULD REQUIRE UA TO REFUND MONEY TO THE PASSENGER.
H) LIABILITY OF CARRIER EXCEPT TO THE EXTENT PROVIDED IN THIS RULE, UA SHALL NOT BE LIABLE FOR FAILING TO OPERATE ANY FLIGHT ACCORDING TO SCHEDULE, OR FOR CHANGING THE SCHEDULE OF ANY FLIGHT, WITH OR WITHOUT NOTICE TO THE PASSENGER.
I) IN THE EVENT OF A STRIKE OR WORK STOPPAGE WHICH CAUSES ANY CANCELLATION OR SUSPENSION OF OPERATIONS OF ANY OTHER CARRIER, THE PROVISIONS OF THIS RULE WILL NOT APPLY WITH RESPECT TO PASSENGERS HOLDING TICKETS FOR TRANSPORTATION ON THAT CARRIER.
[Airfarewatchdog.com note: here's the kicker, however: if the delay or cancellation was out of United's control, all bets are off]: UA MAY, IN THE EVENT OF A FORCE MAJEURE EVENT, WITHOUT NOTICE, CANCEL, TERMINATE, DIVERT, POSTPONE, OR DELAY ANY FLIGHT OR THE RIGHT OF CARRIAGE OR RESERVATION OF TRAFFIC ACCOMMODATIONS AND DETERMINED IF ANY DEPARTURE OR LANDING SHOULD BE MADE, WITHOUT ANY LIABILITY EXCEPT TO REFUND IN ACCORDANCE WITH RULE 260 UA (REFUNDS INVOLUNTARY) ANY UNUSED PORTION OF THE TICKET. AS USED IN THIS RULE "FORCE MAJEURE EVENT" MEANS:
1) ANY CONDITION BEYOND UA'S CONTROL (INCLUDING, BUT WITHOUT LIMITATION, METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS, ACTS OF GOD, RIOTS, CIVIL COMMOTION, EMBARGOES, WARS, HOSTILITIES, DISTURBANCES, OR UNSETTLED INTERNATIONAL CONDITIONS), ACTUAL, THREATENED OR REPORTED OR BECAUSE OF ANY DELAY, DEMAND CIRCUMSTANCES OR REQUIREMENT DUE, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, TO SUCH CONDITIONS OR 2) ANY STRIKE WORK STOPPAGE, SLOWDOWN, LOCKOUT OR ANY OTHER LABOR RELATED DISPUTE INVOLVING OR AFFECTING UA'S SERVICE OR: 3) ANY GOVERNMENT REGULATION, DEMAND, OR REQUIREMENT OR 4) ANY SHORTAGE OF LABOR, FUEL OR FACILITIES OF UA OR OTHERS, OR 5) ANY FACT NOT REASONABLY FORESEEN, ANTICIPATED, OR PREDICTED. K) THE PROVISION OF SERVICES IN ADDITION TO THOSE SPECIFICALLY SET FORTH IN THIS RULE TO ALL OR SOME PASSENGERS SHALL NOT BE CONSTRUED AS A WAIVER OF UA'S RIGHTS. NEITHER SHALL ANY DELAY ON THE PART OF UA IN EXERCISING OR ENFORCING ITS RIGHTS UNDER THIS RULE BE CONSTRUED AS A WAIVER OF SUCH RIGHTS.
As with many things associated with airline travel, asking to go on an earlier or later flight on the same day as your original flight used to be free, especially if you were willing to stand by for an empty seat. That's no longer the case. Most recently, United Airlines announced changes to its same day flight change policy effective for travel on or after April 20, 2010 for tickets purchased on or after April 10, 2010. And in February, American Airlines eliminated the free same day standby option, and now requires all passengers to pay for a confirmed same day flight change.
But each airline has a slightly different policy, and the rules, which seem to change at a whim, can be confusing.
If you're traveling on a fully refundable fare, or have elite status in the airline's frequent flyer program, you're all set: no fee to get a confirmed same day schedule change.
Some airlines allow same day changes by phone, others only at the airport; and some, including Airtran and JetBlue, still allow free same day standby, but keep in mind that this is not a confirmed change: you take a chance that there will be seat available. And some airlines give you a full 24 hours to make a same day change, while others allow as few as three hours.
And then there's Southwest, which follows a completely different model: there's no fee at all to change your flight, but if you do so, you'll be liable to pay for any fare difference. If you've bought an advance purchase $49 fare and the last minute "walk up" fare is now $249, you'll pay $200 to make the change.
That said, airlines are notorious for breaking their own rules. If you happen upon a sympathetic check in agent you may end up paying nothing, or if your original flight is overbooked, delayed or cancelled, it will be in the airline's self interest to put you on an earlier or later flight for free.
To see what changes are in the air for same day flight changes, see our updated chart.
Did you hear? OpenSkies, last of the all biz class carriers, is adding a new route. Starting May 3, they'll begin service between Washington Dulles and Paris Orly. Flights will operate 5 days a week, departing Dulles at 5:45pm and arriving in Orly at 7:40am, and departing Orly at 12:00pm and arriving in Dulles at 2:45pm.
OpenSkies is currently offering a $500 discount on this route. Just enter promo code IADMAY10 at time of purchase, on Flyopenskies.com. This offer is good for travel in May only.