Airlines don’t play very fair. When you buy a ticket, it’s usually non-refundable unless you pay double or triple the price for a refundable ticket. Except with Southwest, if you want to make a change, they charge you up to $200 plus any fare difference every time.
They themselves can still make changes however often they want. They can change your scheduled departure time, your routing, or your reserved seat. They sure don’t pay you $200 every time they make a change.
However, there may be an unadvertised rule that makes your non-refundable ticket refundable if the change made by the airline is substantial. You just have to know the rule and request the refund if it’s advantageous for you to do so.
Exact rules vary by airline. You have to ask. If the airline changes your non-stop flight to a connecting flight, you can request a refund. If the departure time is changed by more than two hours, you can request a refund. If the schedule change results in a long layover, you can request a refund. As long as the airline made the substantial change on you, you can request a refund even if the airline can put you on a different flight.
You request a refund when you can rebook a more convenient flight for less. If the alternative flights are more expensive, you can ask the airline to put you on a more convenient flight without paying extra. It’s called requesting a “reaccommodation.”
This happened to me recently. The airline changed the flight I booked on from departing at noon to departing at 6:00 pm even though they added another flight departing at noon with a different flight number. When I received the notice of the schedule change, I saw the fare for the new flight departing at noon was lower than I paid originally. I requested refund based on the involuntary schedule change. To the airline’s credit, they approved the refund request in 24 hours. I then bought a new ticket for less.
Taking Southwest is still much easier. They usually don’t change the schedule after you book. If you need to make a change, there is no change fee. If you see a lower fare, you can rebook and keep the difference for future travel in 12 months. That’s why I take Southwest for my personal travel as much as I can.
[Photo credit: Flickr user Cristeen Quezon]