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Schedule Change Policies for 30+ Airlines – How to rebook to your advantage

by on Fri December 2, 2016 • 5 Comments
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Flying is already stressful and it is even more so when an airlines make a change to the schedule of your flight in advance of your departure date, jeopardizing your plans. Luckily, airlines have policies in place that allow you to make changes to your itinerary when they initiate a schedule change that can work out very favorably for you.

Here’s a list of the schedule change policies of airlines you are most likely to fly with so you know what you are able to do if/when a schedule change happens.

Schedule changes, especially more significant ones, give you a lot of flexibility in terms of making your flight itinerary even better. Maybe you chose a routing with one stop to save a couple hundred dollars over the direct flight. When the schedule changes, you have an argument to get on the direct flight without paying anything extra, working the change to your advantage.

Information on schedule change policies was generally found in each airline’s Contract of Carriage, while some U.S. carriers have a dedicated page that discusses their schedule change policies in more detail. In all cases, your mileage may vary. Getting what you want out of a schedule change is a great use of the HUCA (hang up, call again) rule until you get what you want or are told the same thing a few times in a row.

Be aware that while not always written, for most airlines you can get only ONE free change as a result of a schedule change. It’s not carte blanche to make unlimited changes.

U.S. Airlines

Alaska Airlines

Minimum delay: 60 minutes or more.

Change allowed: A refund of the ticket or a rebooking to your final destination is allowed within one day before or after the original flight date.

Other restrictions: Alaska does not have specific regulations on how many days you can change your ticket by, so your mileage may vary when trying to do this.

American Airlines

Minimum delay: Departure time change of 15 or more minutes earlier or 30 or more minutes later from originally scheduled, a change from a direct flight to a connecting flight, or a change in the aircraft type that’s not acceptable to you, even with no delay.

Change allowed: In the case that you are moved from a direct to a connecting flight, you are eligible for a refund. If the schedule change is 60 minutes or less, no refund is allowed. If the schedule change is 61+ minutes, a refund is allowed.

If you don’t want a refund, and want to try to change flights, your options are:

Changes 90 minutes or less:

Change to a flight with the same fare inventory as your original ticket on the same day. You can change your connection point if you’d like. This is a bit restrictive because if you bought a low fare and it’s sold out that day, you won’t have options.

Changes 91 minutes or greater, or a nonstop turned into a connecting flight:

You can change to a different flight even if your original fare class isn’t available, and you can also change to a Oneworld partner flight.

For situations where American stops serving a destination, or gives you a connection longer than 4 hours, you can consider alternate airports within 300 miles.

Other restrictions: Generally with American Airlines you have a fair amount of flexibility as to what is possible when the schedule changes, you may just have to call a few times to find an agent who is willing to help you.

For first / business class fares, if the change is less than 91 minutes, you might be placed in coach if the exact fare code you purchased isn’t available. If it’s greater than 90 minutes you can rebook on a flight with the lowest first / business class fare class available.

Delta Airlines

Minimum delay: 60 minutes.

Change allowed: A refund is an option if there is a change to an itinerary with no comparable schedule available with 90 minutes of the originally scheduled departure or arrival or if a stop is added to an itinerary. If the new scheduled departure is changed by 60 minutes or more or the scheduled arrival is changed by 30 minutes or more, Delta will allow changes to be made to the ticket.

Other restrictions: None.

Frontier

Minimum delay: Over one hour.

Change allowed: If your schedule change is three hours or more, you can get a refund or change your flights to within 72 hours of your originally scheduled departure. If your schedule change is over one hour but less than three hours, you can change your flights to within 72 hours of your originally scheduled departure.

Other restrictions: None.

Hawaiian Airlines

Minimum delay: None specified.

Change allowed: Rebooking and ticket reissue made necessary by schedule changes are permitted only with Hawaiian Airlines approval.

Other restrictions: None.

JetBlue

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: If your schedule change is up to two hours, you can be rebooked on any flight between the same city pairs or another co-located city on the same day, the day prior, or the day after the original flight. You can also cancel your ticket and apply the funds toward a future ticket, but must use them within a year of the original ticket purchase.

If your schedule change is two hours or more, you can be rebooked on any flight between the same city pairs or another co-located city on the same day, the day before, or the day after the originally scheduled flight. You may also cancel the ticket and leave it open to be used within the year or receive a refund to the original form of payment.

Other restrictions: None

Southwest

Minimum delay: Any.

Change allowed: Southwest allows changes at any time, but you are responsible for paying for the fare difference. In the case of a Southwest-initiated schedule change, your mileage may vary. Southwest does not have specific rules available for what changes are allowed, but since it releases schedules less far in advance than other airlines, schedule changes tend to happen less often.

Other restrictions: None.

Spirit

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: Varies – Spirit generally sends an email with an online option to view alternatives.

Other restrictions: Spirit airlines will not reimburse travel booked on other airlines, with limited exceptions.

United

Minimum delay: Scheduled departure or arrival is changed by 30 minutes or more

Change allowed: Refunds are available if your flight is changed by two hours or more. When making changes, your origin and destination must be the same as your original itinerary but you can change your routing. Alternative flights must be operated by United or United Express partners

Other restrictions: None.

International airlines 

AeroMexico

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: Routing changes are allowed as well as date changes within a day in each direction. If arrival cannot be accommodated within two hours of what was originally scheduled, a refund may be requested.

Other restrictions: None.

Air Canada

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: Origin and destination must remain the same or any Air Canada city within 200 miles, connecting city change is permitted. Within North America, date changes may be within three days. Internationally, date changes may be within seven days. In either case, the other leg of the trip can be changed so that original trip length is preserved. Refunds are available for changes of 60 minutes or more and are processed back to original form of payment.

Other restrictions: Routing must be the same global direction as the original ticket.

Air Berlin

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: New flight must be within three days in either direction of the originally scheduled flight. Refunds are available if there are not any flights that you would like to change to.

Other restrictions: Alternative flights must be requested within 14 days of the schedule change. If the schedule change is made within 14 days of departure, any change requests must be made at least 48 hours prior to departure.

Air China

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: Rebooking is allowed on another Air China flight with the same routing or a different routing. If there is not another routing that you agree to, it is possible to have your ticket refunded.

Other restrictions: None.

Air France

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: Re-booking allowed on Air France and other carriers including allowance of re-routing. Refunds may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Other restrictions: None.

Air New Zealand

Minimum delay: 30 minutes or more.

Change allowed: May make date changes within 3 days of originally scheduled flight or request a refund of your ticket.

Other restrictions: None.

Alitalia

Minimum delay: Departure time is changed by 5 hours or flight number cancelled.

Change allowed: Refund or rebook on Alitalia or Alitalia codeshare flight with same origin and destination.

Other restrictions: Must request alternative flights within one month of the schedule change.

ANA

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: You may rebook onto another ANA or partner flight with different connection points allowed.

Other restrictions: None.

British Airways

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: If the flight number doesn’t change, you can change your routing and change dates within two days. If your flight number changes, you can change your routing and your dates within 15 days. Refund of ticket is also possible.

Other restrictions: None.

Cathay Pacific

Minimum delay: Not specified

Change allowed: In the event of a delay, re-routing changes are allowed onto other Cathay Pacific flights and other carriers. In the case that you are not able to be re-accommodated to your liking, a refund is also an option.

Other restrictions: None.

China Eastern Airlines

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: In the event of a delay or cancellation, China Eastern will arrange for travel on the next available non-stop flight with available seats. You can also re-route to get to your final destination. Refunds are also permitted.

Other restrictions: None.

China Southern Airlines

Minimum delay: Misconnection with subsequent flight on same ticket.

Change allowed: China Southern will make arrangements for the next available seat on one of their own flights or another carrier’s flights or offer a refund of the ticket.

Other restrictions: None.

Emirates

Minimum delay: None specified.

Change allowed: If the change isn’t acceptable to the passenger you are allowed a re-routing or a refund.

Other restrictions: None specified.

Etihad Airways

Minimum delay: None specified.

Change allowed: If the change isn’t acceptable to the passenger you are allowed a re-routing or a refund.

Other restrictions: None specified.

Japan Airlines

Minimum delay: Not specified.

Change allowed: Refund is allowed. Changes may be allowed.

Other restrictions: None.

KLM

Minimum delay: None specified.

Change allowed: You may be re-booked onto KLM or other partner flights.

Other restrictions: None.

LATAM Airlines

Minimum delay: None specified.

Change allowed: None specified.

Other restrictions: None.

Lufthansa

Minimum delay: None specified.

Change allowed: Date changes are allowed within three days of the originally scheduled flight. Routing changes are also allowed.

Other restrictions: Changes must be made within 14 days of the time the passenger is informed about the schedule change.

Qatar Airways

Minimum delay: None specified.

Change allowed: Any schedule change should allow a re-routing or refund. If the schedule change is significant, origin/destination change up to 500 miles are allowed. Within Europe, EU261 regulations apply.

Other restrictions: If new time results in an overnight, Qatar will provide a hotel.

Singapore Airlines

Minimum delay: If not reasonably according to schedule

Change allowed: Singapore Airlines will carry you as soon as possible on their own flights re-route you, or make a refund.

Other restrictions: None.

Virgin Atlantic

Minimum delay: None specified.

Change allowed: If the change is 5 hours or greater, a ticket can be refunded. If the change is fewer than 5 hours, your mileage may vary depending on the agent. Usually it is possible to redeposit the value of the ticket into a travel bank for future use.

Other restrictions: None.

Virgin Australia

Minimum delay: None specified.

Change allowed: Can rebook on another VA flight within 24 hours of the originally scheduled flight. If there are no flights available within 24 hours, your mileage may vary dependent on the airline agent you speak with.

Other restrictions: None.

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5 thoughts on Schedule Change Policies for 30+ Airlines – How to rebook to your advantage

  1. Brendan

    Any tips on getting around the United policy of having to stay on same carrier, if that’s even possible? Had a schedule change on LAX-SFO-AKL but want to reschedule on non-stop LAX-AKL operated by NZ but United says it has to be on same carrier (United or United Express)…

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Brendan – Not much help there when United still operates its own flight to the destination that day. If they eliminated SFO-AKL service then you may have another carrier option.

      Reply
  2. Skaner

    Just got informed of an Iberia schedule change which gets me to my destination 5 hours later now. Ticket is an award in C. Do you happen to know their policy? Would I be allowed to change departure city and operating airline (from IB to AA)? Thanks

    Reply

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