The USA Today reports that Southwest Airlines (the airline famous for it’s “bags fly free” campaign) plans to launch an ad campaign attacking the “change fees” charged by its rivals. Change fees are, of course, the fee for changing an existing reservation. Nearly every U.S. airline other than Southwest charges customers a penalty for making a change to most non-refundable tickets. Change fees on domestic flights can range from $75 to $150 at a number of airlines, including American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways.
Here at Yapta, we pay close attention to change fees. You see, most airlines will charge a change fee before crediting you the difference on a booked flight that suddenly becomes available for less. (Yeah, you can actually get an airline credit when that flight you booked drops in price. It’s called the “Guaranteed Airfare” rule. Nearly every major U.S. carrier has it as part of its Contract of Carriage.) Yapta’s airfare refund alerts take these change fees into account so that we’re only alerting our early-booking travelers to net savings.
But here’s where it get’s confusing: Some airlines make a distinction between change fees and “re-booking fees” – adding yet another noodle to the bowl of fee-soup. Take for example, JetBlue, a key rival of Southwest Airlines. They charge you nothing ($0, zilch, nada) to “re-book” your flight at a lower available price – and they’re very good about issuing a credit for the difference. However, they will charge you $100 to “change” or “cancel” your itinerary. (Change meaning a new flight time or destination.) Alaska Airlines will also charge you $100 to “change” a ticket by phone, but nothing to “re-book” the same flight at a lower price. Southwest doesn’t charge a “re-booking fee” either – but their not likely to call out this out for you in their ads.
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