Thursday, February 26, 2009

Changing Unchangeable Flights

I'm about to wing my way to sunny California, using the stupendous fares I wrote about here. It's an opportunity to cheaply replenish some of the frequent flier miles I used up for travel last year.

After booking a return flight on a Thursday afternoon, I realized I'd scheduled my trip so tightly that I wouldn't have a chance to have dinner with Chowhound's long-suffering, saintly patient bone counter, Leslie. American runs a daily late night flight, but wanted to charge me $150 penalty plus fare supplement - $255 total - to change my inflexible sale-priced ticket.

But I've learned something interesting. If you want to get on a different flight, so long as it's the same airport/date/airline, there actually are two other options besides blowing megabucks:

1. Fly standby (less risky than in previous times, because airline web sites will show you empty seats for any given flight), or...

2. A "confirmed flight change". You call in twelve hours before the flight you'd like to switch to, and if they have the seats, they'll switch you over for $50. Cool, no?

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