The big C has changed so much over the past 18 months, most of the changes have affected us negatively, but there have been some positives come out of the foolishness. Positives like alcoholic beverages to go from favorite bars and restaurants, increase in telemedicine, and the St John Vianney Biblical School going online. And the best airline trend, in the nearly two years since our lives were uprooted, has been free flight changes.
Before the world burned, if you wanted to change your travel dates after booking a flight, you were forced to pay a whopping $200+ penalty PER TICKET, plus any differences in the price of the fare.
But with travel demand way down in 2020, airlines largely got rid of those mandatory change fees. And now, amidst the delta variant, airlines are giving even more flexibility than before.
Here’s how you can make travel plans worry free going forward:
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Change Fees Are Permanently Gone
Yes, you read that right. Due to the fluid state of travel due to the pandemic, in late 2020, all the main US airlines (except for budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit) joined Southwest in permanently eliminating change fees.
So, if you’re flying Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, or United, you can now push back your travel dates after booking without having to pay an expensive penalty IF you are flying anything higher that budget economy. Basic Economy flights are not exempt from change fees.
Now, of course, if the new flight you switch to is more expensive, you still have to cover the fare difference. But, on the flip side, if the new flight is cheaper, you will get the difference back in the form of a travel credit.
The only catch is what was mentioned above. This flexibility only applies to tickets booked in main economy or higher. Unless …
United & Delta: Temporary Basic Economy Flexibility
As the summer travel season winds down and the “delta variant” affecting ticket sales, both United and Delta have announced they are extending flexibility to basic economy ticket holders as well. Be advised, the new policy applies automatically as long as your travel dates are by December 31, 2021.
What this means is that if you book a flight home for, say, Christmas in the Monteregie Region of Quebec, you could book a basic economy ticket on either United or Delta and you would still have flexibility to push your trip into 2022. This is great news for larger families, like us, who book basic economy out of necessary financial reasons.
Free Changes But No Free Refunds
This wonderful newfound flexibility allows you to freely change your travel dates, but don’t make the mistake of expecting that to mean you can get a free refund. No airline has gone that far.
To get your money back for a trip you no longer want to take, regardless of your reason, you have to have booked a much more expensive refundable ticket. Even trip insurance will fall flat, unless you bought a significantly pricier “Cancel For Any Reason” insurance policy, but who does that?
As with everything, even taxes, there is a handy loophole to get your money back on a flight you no longer want. Should the airline “significantly” change or cancel your itinerary, you are entitled to a full cash refund, under federal law.
The Big Recap: If you’re worried about Covid, natural disasters, illnesses, etc derailing your plans, you have increased flexibility on all main economy and higher fares, as well as basic economy on United and Delta through the end of the year.
Let’s get to vacationing, shall we?