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Changing Your Airline Ticket – Waiving Fees

August 31, 2007 | Posted in: Airline News,Ask Rick,Travel Tips

As time permits I will be selecting questions from the Ask Rick Blog Post (in the comments section) and providing some advice. Be sure on all questions to include departure, destination, airline, time frame (as they apply).

Kim asks:

I just discovered the Aloha flight I booked from Maui to Sacramento has a stop. We will be traveling with my daughter who will be 22 months at the time and I really need a non-stop. I contacted Alohas reservations and the would allow me to change the flight for a $125 fee plus any increase in the ticket cost. When I looked online the return flight available was actually about $5 less than what I originally paid, not the $86 increase they quoted me. Is there any way to get them to waive the $125 and get the lower priced airfare?

I wasn’t familiar with the non-stop from Maui (Kahului, Airport Code: OGG) to Sacramento (Airport Code: SMF), a quick check on Farecompare.com flight schedules shows the flight and the list of airfare prices on this route.

As background, airline change fees are governed by a rule on the airfare called — oddly enough — “Penalties” — and to some degree requirements in the Aloha contract of carriage and other applicable reservation fee policies (like charges for making a phone call to an airlines reservation agent).

Assuming you have purchased a non-refundable airfare (cheapest), the penalty rule on this particular Aloha airfare states:


CANCELLATIONS – Ticket is non-refundable.

CHANGES – Per one way charge USD 125.00.

NOTE – All penalties apply per fare breakpoint.

NOTE – Itineraries may be rebooked provided a passengers cancels the ticketed flight reservation prior to ticketed departure time. If not then rebooking is not permitted and ticket has no value. All travel must be completed within one year from the original ticket issue date.

NOTE – When changing to a higher fare or different origin/destination collect change fee plus additional fare collection.

In general Domestic U.S. change fees are $100 roundtrip — in this case Aloha Airlines change penalty is very “severe” ($250 roundtrip) (more like an International itinerary change fee).

It is unlikely that an Aloha reservation agent will be empowered to waive the change fee, I suggest you ask for a supervisor and plead your case (don’t expect much though).

I would also send a politely worded email and/or letter explaining the situation and requesting a waiver to Aloha customer relations.

Take a screen capture (Ctl-Alt-PrtScrn, paste it in MSPaint and save as JPEG) of the $5 less flight leg you found on the web and attach it to the note (explaining the phone quote was $86 higher and not $5 as shown).

In your case if the airfare is cheaper you will get the $5 credit (making the transaction $120 for the change).

The only other recourse that I have seen work in the past is when you have purchased your airline ticket through a travel agent that does a “lot” of business with Aloha Airlines. In this case it would not be unusual for the agency to ask for a waiver and get a favorable result.

Refunds Drop In Price

I will speaking more about Drop in Airline Ticket Price Refunds in a follow-up soon, in all cases these refunds (if there are any on a particular airline) are limited to price drops on the same flight. In this case it wouldn’t apply because you are changing a connecting flight in Santa Ana (John Wayne Airport) to a non-stop.

33 Responses to “Changing Your Airline Ticket – Waiving Fees”

  1. Holly says:

    My significant other purchased a ticket for me on American from LA to DC for $506. The very next day the price dropped on their website to $408. I immediately called American and was rudely told that I could change to the lower fare, but would have to pay the $100 change fee and since the price would be higher, I would owe them an additional $2. She then proceeded to tell me that no business gives refunds or vouchers for a drop in price, in which case I sited two examples that did. I faxed American’s Customer Relations with all the information, my conversation with their telephone ticket agent, and a copy of the paid receipt and the website price. I also pointed out that the person who payed for the ticket was an American Elite Platinum, with over 1.5 million miles, and he was not happy. I explained we did not want a refund, but a credit voucher. In our opinion, that would make for good customer relations and we’d be using it to fly on another American flight. I was denied. I then resent everything through the mail to the manager of Customer Relations and was denied again. Needless to say, we’ve been flying American a lot less these days.

  2. Palal says:

    Doesn’t AA have a 24-hr no-fee cancellation policy? If so, why not just cancel and re-book the ticket?

  3. Laurie says:

    Personally, I think it’s highway robbery (or would that be “runway robbery?”) to charge someone $100 to change a ticket well in advance of the departure date. For heaven sake, it’s usually done these days by the traveler him/herself online, with no airline interaction. The traveler has consumed no customer service manpower and the airline still has plenty of time to resell that seat… and with popular flights/times, there may be a queue of people waiting for that seat! Why are we charged this horrendous “restocking” fee?

    Kudos to Southwest Airlines for their customer-friendly change policies. I now fly Southwest whenever possible. They seem to understand that situations change in their customer’s lives that require them to adjust travel plans. The other airlines should take note. I believe that’s one of the reasons Southwest is doing so well financially while many of the big traditional airlines are struggling to survive. It’s called, and I’ll say this for you slowly so you can understand, “c-u-s-t-o-m-er s-e-r-v-i-c-e.”

  4. Margo Preiss says:

    Greetings Rick,
    We (2)are traveling SFO-JFK, ( airline undetermined) one night stay over. Then to JFK-Accra, Ghana (Delta) in March 2008.
    We are unsure of our return date, could be 6-months or 10-months.
    Question: What is the cheapest way?
    1) buy a round trip ticket. and take the hit for the booking change fee.
    2) Or is there still such a thing as a open ticket, and how does it work?
    Farecompare.com is great..

    Please Advise

  5. Cathy Nelson says:

    Dear Rick,

    I have been endlessly searching for a hotel in Vegas on the strip for March 6, 2008 for four nights. I am taking my 2 daughters who are 19 and 22. They would like to stay at one of the more well-known hotels that has a workout room and also has a nice view of the strip. I know they would love The Venetian or Caesar’s Palace.
    I do not want to spend a ton of money, but would like to stay in the heart of the strip. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you for your help,

  6. George Larsen says:

    Yesterday I purchase a round trip ticket on american airlines. Today I found that they changed my return leg to a later flight which is cheaper. Am I entitled to the less expensive fare?

  7. S MCardreon says:

    I bought a ticket for a United flight a LONG time ago for my daughter and she was unable to use it. At the time of purchase I had been assured by United that the ticket was good “indefinately” toward another flight with a change fee if she did not begin the travel. When she could not fly, they would not let ME use it, only her and again assured me that with a fee she could use it in the future. But once she could fly again, the ticket seller and the airline both refused to honor the completely unused ticket.
    That said, I just unearthed the original documents again, and heard about you. So I figured I’d ask- if they sell you a ticket and say it can be used any time in the future how can that future then be ended 2 years? GRRRR. I called United and hit a wall (repeatedly). It’s been forever, but maybe they would do it if I said the magic words? I know they’d not do it for free, and need the originals of everything- I actually have them- with notes from my calls!

  8. Von says:

    I see I’m not alone here… I booked a flight for 6/25 to 7/2. Just wanted to change the return date to 7/4 to give us more time with my family. I noticed on United’s confirmation email there’s a $100 fee to make changes. Seemed a bit steep, but I decided to call for information. I spoke with a rep who told me the $100 fee applies to each passenger. I asked him to confirm the information about 3 times since there was a language barrier. Sure enough, $100 per person; with 3 passengers an extra $300 just to change the return flight two days later. That’s like adding an extra passenger! Today being 5/6, United has PLENTY of time to fill those seats. I would have been willing to pay the ridiculous $100 so I can spend more time with my family, but a $300 penalty is more accurately described as a “screw-you tax.” I’m torn between spending more time with my family and refusing their ‘fee’ just on principle. I wish I knew a trick to get out of this. I even tried the idea of cancelling the return flight to look for a return flight with another airline, but they would charge me $445 to cancel the return flight!! Totally unethical…

  9. Julie says:

    This is such a rip off. My daughter in college just got her exam schedule for the Christmas holiday and she is able to come home almost a week before her scheduled (and purchased) flight home. To change the date of her flight, US Air is going to charge $175! – almost 50% of the ticket charge. This is also the airline that charges for every checked bag and does not even offer water on the flights (without a charge). Ridiculous!

  10. Deb says:

    I know changing a ticket and getting socked a penalty is very frustrating, but I have always been advised of the penalties upfront and had the option to purchase a more expensive (much more expensive) ticket that didn’t have penalties.
    Why would I expect that I could change a ticket with out a penalty that was part of the agreement of the ticket price?

  11. Karen says:

    I booked tickets well in advance for a March 2009 trip. They have already sent me notice of a change in my flight last month, but now they just changed it yet again, from an afternoon flight home to a morning flight home- and this is now a problem as they have me flying home in the middle of my meeting that morning!

    I mean, this is truly a rip off, I didn’t ask for a change, I don’t want a change and I shouldn’t have to be paying for it! Especially since they want $100 to change a $95 flight!

  12. Matt says:

    In response to Deb (post #10) I think it is simply a matter of customer service. If there are open seats on a flight and no additional expense is being incurred to the airline, why charge a customer $100+ to change a flight? I think most people would understand and happily pay a reasonable fee but $100 is clearly excessive. If airlines plan to charge so much for a simple change-of-flight request, they should be prepared to compensate travellers for delayed/cancelled flights.

    But they will learn their lesson the hard way when Southwest takes all of their customers.

  13. Paul says:

    A superb profit for Delta, Alaska and American Airlines. I bought a $147, $250 and $560 ticket and due to unforeseen circumstances had to cancel 48 hours later. Delta charge 150 for crediting the ticket so I would have to pay $3 if I ever used my now non existant credit, alaska charge $100 and American $150. I took under a minute to cancel each one. I realise I knew the cost ahead of time but it is still appalling that the airlines have such disgustingly high cancellation charges. I wish that they had never emerged from bankruptcy.

  14. Peter says:

    My wife and I scheduled a trip to Hawaii on Hawaiian Air – reservation made in January for October flight. Hotel decided to close in October, so we switched to November. Hawiian wants $800 to change the dates – 9 months in advance for reservations only 1 month old. The tickets cost $1382. I think that’s an outrage.

  15. ted says:

    I have tickets for DW and I on Delta in 9 weeks. We need to change DW’s itinerary to go a week early to assist daughter with new baby (SIL just got orders he’s being deployed in Iraq in just a couple of weeks). Delta wants $150 change fee for a $300 ticket. Delta has changed our itinerary once already since we booked in Jan 09 and told us to live with their change or pay the $150 change fee or just lose the money. How is it they can change our itinerary without recourse by the customer, but the customer pays steep penalties if they intiate the change. Maybe they should have not emerged from bankrupcy.

  16. beninabox says:

    This is a cash cow for airlines, since flight tickets are absolutely not fungible. That is, you can’t sell an unwanted ticket it to anyone else (due to security concerns). This is a distortion of the marketplace, and largely due to government security regs, so I think it is well within the rights of government to regulate the gouging that takes place.

  17. Kathy says:

    I purchase 3 tickets from Phoenix to Buffalo N.Y. The flght has a stop over at JFK. After I purchased the tickets we decided it would be nice to stay in N.Y. City for a couple of days. I originally thought that I would just not take the last leg of the trip from JFK to Buffalo. That didn’t work out as planned. Even though we are flying on Delta to NY and then Continental back to Phoenix I learned that if I do not take the flight from NY City to Buffalo. They will cancel my flight home. And if I want to chage they will have to charge me an extra $354.00 per person.

    The hard part for me to understand is that if we were to give up our 3 seats from NY to Buffalo they could just charge 3 more passengers that seat. That’s if they could fill it.
    I just learned a very big lesson. Be very carefull when you book your flights.

  18. Rick Seaney says:

    You’re right Kathy, we have to be careful when booking flights, especially because of the hefty “change fees” the airlines tack on these days, not to mention phone reservation fees. That’s why I created my U.S. Domestic Fee Chart, so you can stay up to date on the fees, and understand who charges how much for what. This chart is particularly useful for keeping up with those ever-changing checked baggage fees. Here’s the link: http://rickseaney.com/domestic-airline-fee-chart-2/

  19. Tifany V says:

    Well I’m trying to fly international and the wrong month for returned was booked. Tickets booked MAY 4th and error immediately seen because I wanted tickets from June 15 to July 29 and it was booked for June 29th. I’ve tried everything with US Airways and Hotwire! I agree to pay the difference in tickets because that’s reasonable, but they want 250 dollars in addition to the change in tickets. That’s almost $2000 extra with the $4113 we paid in the beginning! (We needed 4 tickets) Almost $550 extra per person. This is definitely highway robbery! With that kind of money, my family and I could have flown to Greece and back with Lufthansa twice!!!!

    If anyone has anything that could help me change this and possibly get the fee of $250 per person waived I would greatly appreciated!

  20. Rick Seaney says:

    I’m afraid there’s not much you can do. The airlines have been standing firm on their fee policies (and you can see a complete listing of them, including “change fees” on my Domestic Airline Fee Chart here: http://rickseaney.com/domestic-airline-fee-chart-2/ ). Sometimes, they relent, if it’s a matter of life or death but that doesn’t sound like the case here. If anyone’s had any luck, let us know.

  21. Melissa says:

    I just had to change the incoming portion of a round trip flight. Even though I booked it through Orbitz, I saved $30 by canceling it through US Airways. Orbitz charges their own $30 change fee. Plus they were charging me more for the new flight. Orbitz wanted $236.51 to exchange the flight. I did it with US Airways for $150. The Rep at US Ariways recommends using the travel sites (ie Orbitz) to find the cheapest flight but then go directly to the airline’s website to book it. You don’t encounter as many fees that way.

  22. Rick Seaney says:

    Once you buy a ticket through any (OTA) Online Travel Agency, both the airline and the OTA have access to the record and can make changes.

    You can make changes through either, if you make changes via OTA they may collect their own fee as well as having to adhere to the airline fee (depends on the OTA).

    When you change a flight (domestic legacy airline) you will typically pay the difference in price of the new ticket (based on todays rates) plus $150 is removed from the value of your current ticket as part of the change fee. So if the new flight is $200 more then you will owe $350 (those are the airline fees). Each OTA may also charge a fee for phone call (airlines also charge a fee for the phone call) as well.

    The only way around this issue is to buy trip insurance for non-refundable tickets.
    Hope this helps,

  23. Vladutoiu Flaviu says:

    Hello,can someone please ask me this question…How much will I have to pay to change my departing date from 17 of august to 8 of august from toronto to bucharest…thank you

  24. Rick Seaney says:

    The normal fee to change a roundtrip international ticket these days is about $250, plus, if the price of your ticket has increased you will also pay the difference. For example, if the cost of your ticket has gone up from $800 to $900, you will pay the difference, $100, and the change fee, $250, for a total of $350. If the price of your ticket has gone down, you will likely get the difference in the form of a credit.
    Hope this helps,

  25. Philip says:

    I was furloughed at work this past week and have three Delta tickets to the Caribbean and it’s just too expensive of a proposition to go now. Is there any chance that Delta, with proof of my furlough, would at least credit them to a future purchase?

  26. Rick Seaney says:

    Contact Delta right away. You may have to pay a change fee, but see what they can do for you. And best of luck.

  27. trey says:

    My wife and I booked a trip back in june. Due to circumstance we had to shorten our trip. When I talked with contenintal they told me I would be charged an extra $185. That sounded OK considering what kinda fees they told my wife we would face when she contacted expidia which was $320 total. Sure enough tonight I see a charge that is twice that amount. What can I do after I repeated to the representive several times are you sure that’s all?

  28. trey says:

    Also, an extra $50 re-issue fee applied. What has been re-issued I print my tickets out 24 hours in advance on my computer!

  29. Mitch says:

    AA robbing the public for making ticket changes for non full fare tickets……. What do we the traveler have to do, just writing about is is not working…. And in my case they did sell all the seats… The last instance for me.Bought a $400 ticket and had the change and finally cancel… The change drove up the cost to $600 … The now canceled ticket is only worth $100….. There are no other business who would treat the public like this…… We need to mass stop using AA and go with other lines that teat the public with respect and provide a true proper service…. Open a class action and we all sign up………

  30. cam says:

    all us airlines kinda suck, excluding jetblue

  31. Donald says:

    I’m on the phone with Orbitz trying to change an Aer Lingus flight. Aer Lingus says the penalty fee of $320 is Orbitz’ policy, and Orbitz says it’s Aer Lingus’. I have called them three times and gotten a different answer each time. I am now on hold for the supervsor’s supervisor, and each time the promised wait time of 2-3 minutes on hold has exceeded 10 minutes. This, the third phone call in this series, is now 55 minutes long. Yesterday’s was 30. I think they hope we will give up and accept whatever they tell us. What do we have to do be heard as customers? No other business would remain open with so many dissatisfied customers. It’s an astonishing racket and needs to be investigated.

  32. Rick Seaney says:


    Working with what little you said about your trip in your comment, I went to the Aer Lingus website section on “change fees” here: http://www.aerlingus.com/cgi-bin/obel01im1Support/helpFeesFares.jsp?BV_SessionID=@@@@1249397609.1267109101@@@@&BV_EngineID=ccciadejkedhjlicefecfigdffgdfkj.0&P_OID=-536880753&Category=2#checkin

    From what I can tell, you are charged $100 each-way for changing a “long-haul” ticket, so already that’s $200 per person for a roundtrip ticket change on a ticket from the U.S. to Ireland (I’m guessing that’s your itinierary) – PLUS they add in the price differential (the difference between your “old” ticket and the presumably more expensive “new” ticket you’re getting – and again, I’m guessing that that’s what you’re trying to do).

    Your total could well be $320 (though I cannot say for sure not knowing the details). This is why I always tell everyone, please read the fine print on your ticket before you press the “charge” button; the cheapest tickets are cheap for a variety of reasons, and one of those reasons is – they are non-refundable. If you change them, you’ll pay.

    Sorry for your troubles – hope this helps a bit.

  33. Britt says:

    Booked one way tickets from Tul to koa on united…we lost our home, have had to sell everything…going to live with my mom…found our in pregnant today…need to push back the tickets a week. What can I do? United says that they will refund me for the $300 change fee (2 tickets) after I pay now…but I can email refund dept and ask them..I asked if that was a valid reason for a waived fee, agent said yes definately with a note. Basically I am hesitant to change and pay, then never get a refund. Do refunds happen like this? Thanks!

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