Q. I am flying to Jamaica with my girlfriend this weekend. At the time I booked the flight, I was kind of rushed and distracted and I booked it for an evening departure. In the fullness of time, I realized that we will not be making it out of the Montego Bay airport and to our rental car before 8:30 PM (our flight arrives at 7:30). We then have to drive for 2 hours to our hotel. Anyway, long story short, I would like advice on the best way to minimize the cost of changing to an earlier departing flight on the same day. Are airlines often willing to do this at a nominal fee if there are seats available? How does one go about asking them to do this--does it matter?
A. Airlines usually charge for a confirmed same day flight change and they're often higher for international travel than for domestic. For example, US Airways charges $50 for flights in the US and to Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, and changes are only allowed to earlier flights, not later. However, if you wish to take your chances and fly standby for the later flight, there may be no charge. You're taking a chance with standby, since the earlier flight may fill up.
However, you could also do this to avoid the fee: show up a couple of hours before the scheduled departure of the flight you really want to take and throw yourself at the mercy of the ticket agent. Maybe your original flight has been cancelled, in which case they will most likely confirm you on the earlier flight at no charge; or maybe it's oversold, so again it's in their interest to send you earlier in the day.