Usually when you make a flight reservation, it’s pretty set in stone that you’ll be traveling accordingly on the itinerary you’ve booked; however, every now and then you’ll receive a notification in your email stating that there had been a schedule change to one or more of your upcoming segments. I’ve personally encountered schedule changes varying from as little as 5 minutes, all the way up until 2 hours before or after my original confirmed departure times.
While some people see schedule changes as a nuisance (and they can be, especially if it interferes with connecting flights), many seasoned travelers see it as a blessing, granting greater flexibility to the tickets. In fact, sometimes when my plans might be in a position of changing, I pray for a schedule change just so I can have more bargaining power when making changes or canceling my ticket.
Below are some positive experiences I’ve had with schedule changes this past year:
Advantage #1: Redeposit Your Award Without a Fee
When there is a schedule change on an award ticket, in most cases, you may be able to cancel or change your itinerary without incurring the award redeposit fee. While some airlines try to enforce a 90-minute or greater change “rule”, changes/cancellations are usually taken on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the agent or supervisor.
My Experience: A few months ago, I had success redepositing my AAdvantage miles without paying the award cancellation redeposit fee. Long story short, life happened and plans changed, resulting in the need to shorten the Hawaii trip quite drastically. As the clock was ticking, frankly at the end of day, I thought there was no other option for me but to take the loss and pay the $175 fee ($150 for the first ticket, $25 for additional passenger on the same itinerary), and then rebook the a new award ticket with AA which included partner airlines (such as Hawaiian Airlines). Timing was everything with this one – literally a day before I almost bit the bullet and gave into the fee, a friend of mine told me great news: American Airlines will waive the redeposit fee if there have been any schedule changes to any of your flights that differs from your original itinerary confirmed at the time of booking. A light bulb went off in my head! There had been a schedule change! About a month after I booked my award flight, I noticed that I received a schedule change notification via email. My connection in Chicago was now departing 30 minutes earlier than my original itinerary. When I received this email, my first thought was, “oh okay, shorter layover… fantastic!” Little did I know that this email would be worth $175! I quickly called AA and told the agent that leaving Chicago 30 minutes earlier was “no longer convenient for me” and that I had no other choice but to redeposit my miles and rebuild a better itinerary from scratch. Apparently that was all that needed to be said for the agent to go ahead and cancel my entire itinerary and refund the miles and prepaid taxes without penalty.
Advantage #2 Receive a Full Refund
My Experience: Back in May, my family and I took advantage of a wonderful non-stop fare from EWR-IST on United. We were stoked to be able to spend Turkey Day in Turkey as a family. During the time between May and August, United was going back and forth changing the schedule for both the departing and return flights. Actually the two hour earlier departure would have been better for us, but with the recent happenings in the Middle East, Mom chickened out and wanted to cancel. Canceling was as easy as a 5 minute phone call with United, and we had our full refunds within a few days.
Advantage #3 Change Your Departure Time
My Experience: I recently had one instance where I booked a later flight even though it was slightly more inconvenient because it was $100 cheaper. Luckily when I received notification of a 45-minute schedule change, I called United and nicely asked if they would be able to accommodate me on the earlier flight instead of canceling. Surprisingly they agreed to and at the end of the day I was able to fly on my desired route for no additional cost.
Advantage #4 Re-route to a Neighboring Airport
My Experience: I recently booked a cheap flight home from the SMD4 from ORD-LGA on American Airlines. Of course, being a Jersey girl means that my preferred airport is EWR, but I will fly to LGA or JFK (in that order) when fares are significantly cheaper. The ORD to LGA fare was $100 while the ORD to EWR was in the $190 range. Naturally, I chose the cheaper option in this case, but I was crossing my fingers all along hoping there’d be a schedule change so that I could possibly ask to be re-routed to EWR. After a few weeks passed since booking, there had been one! My 6 am flight was now to be departing at 7:25 am. With a quick call to AA, I was able to change my destination to EWR at no additional charge.
Have you had any experience with schedule changes working to your advantage? Please feel free to share!