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TPG reader Amanda wants to get out of paying for a United flight she isn’t going to take. Here’s the question she tweeted me:
“@thepointsguy How do I ask United to refund a flight or waive the change fee? Flight was only $218 so the change fee makes a credit useless.”
A big trend in the airline industry has been the increase in fees, for everything from priority security and boarding, to baggage allowances and ticket changes. Last year, United, American, Delta and US Airways all upped their domestic ticket change fee from $150 to $200. In some cases, international ticket changes will now set you back $400 or more. This is the financial risk you run in purchasing tickets in non-refundable fare classes.
Considering the potential for a $200 fee on a $218 ticket, I agree that changing the ticket would be a waste. As I’ve mentioned in posts like Avoiding Airline Fees, however, you do have some options.
First, I’d recommend calling up the airline and explaining your situation, then politely asking for them to extend a refund or waive the fee – you never know, you could get a sympathetic phone rep. I wouldn’t bank on this working out in your favor, but as I often say – it never hurts to ask.
You could also simply wait until the day of departure to see if the flight gets cancelled or delayed. In either case, you might be able to get a full refund, penalty-free. Or if there’s a big storm and the airline extends weather waivers, you may be able to postpone your ticket free of charge.
Before you book your next flight, if you’re worried that you might have to make changes to your itinerary, consider booking with Southwest, which will let you change a ticket free of charge as long as you cancel before departure and pay any fare differences. American waives its ticket change fees and same-day confirmed fees with the purchase of a flexible Choice Plus fare (recently increased to $88), which also gives you a 50% mileage bonus. I end up buying these most of the time and have saved hundreds on change fees while simultaneously banking more miles.