We just had some experiences changing flights on two Hawaii-centric airlines. This came as your editors are traveling around the state again for Beat of Hawaii. Sometimes, “the best-laid plans of mice and men go awry,” to quote Robert Burns. And so it is for us. We were both planning to be in Honolulu later this month. But life got in the way, and a change in plans became necessary.
It’s neither pleasant nor easy to change travel plans. And sometimes, it isn’t even about the money, but rather about how you are treated in the process.
No airline change fees? No problem? Not always.
For the most part, airlines aren’t assessing change fees, per see. But is that true, or is it hype? It all depends. Here are our experiences, and we look forward to hearing about yours with these and other airlines.
Case #1: Changing flights on Hawaiian Airlines.
The original Hawaiian interisland tickets for two cost $108 roundtrip. Jeff scored these during an interisland fare sale. Great price. He also figured he’d be able to change them if circumstances required it. That part did not quite work out as planned.
Hawaiian wanted a $700 difference in fare to change dates.
We purchased the original tickets online. Rebooking a ticket can be done online or via a call to the Hawaiian Airlines call center. Jeff opted to call.
The first call center attendant was unable to complete the change request. For whatever reason, although the call center answered almost immediately, after 30 minutes, they said they could not complete the change, and Jeff was transferred to another department’s agent. The first agent had said, however, that there would be a fare difference of nearly $700 for the two tickets. A second call ensued that continued for almost another hour.
The screenshot below shows the fare difference charge (online) when exchanging two purchased one-way tickets. The cost per person per flight was $137, or $548 roundtrip for two. This was slightly less per person than via the call center:
The screenshot below was the cost of buying one new ticket for the very same flight shown above:
Here’s what Jeff did next.
The second agent reiterated that the fare difference they were required to collect was just under $350 per person, roundtrip, or nearly $700 in total. But remember that Jeff has been in the travel business for decades and arrived at this call well prepared. He was not, however, prepared to pay a $700 change fee on a $108 ticket.
Before the call, he checked online and found the flights he needed were available for purchase at $192 roundtrip for two passengers or $96 per person. While that was more than the prior flights he’d purchased, that was expected since the original dates were mid-week, while the new ones were weekend dates. That was reasonable.
When the second agent restated the $700 fare change, Jeff explained what he found on their website and that he would instead opt to return the $108 credit to his account and buy new tickets.
How it ended up with Hawaiian Airlines leaves questions.
Jeff purchased the two new tickets for $190, while Hawaiian is depositing the original money back into his account. He isn’t sure he’ll ever get to use his $108 based on how they do flight changes. Even including the loss of $108, the total cost for the new tickets was $298. That’s a far cry from the $700 the airline first proposed.
Exactly what’s going on?
The issue is that the fares available online are not applicable to changes but to new tickets only. What happened raised the question of whether this was or was not in essence, a change fee. You decide.
This practice appears to contradict the advertised concept of no change fees. The Hawaiian Airlines website says, “Book now, change if you need to… There are no change fees for guests who purchase tickets or redeem HawaiianMiles…Please note that a fare difference may apply if the rescheduled flight exceeds the value of the original ticket price.”
Case #2: Changing flights on Alaska Airlines.
This was a funny coincidence. Jeff planned to go to Portland in June and purchased expensive last-minute tickets for $1,600 roundtrip in economy. Ouch. Worse yet, he found out two days later (after the 24-hour free period for cancellation expired) that he no longer needed to go. He called Alaska (but could have done the same thing online).
Jeff canceled the ticket, and the $1,600 was returned to his Alaska wallet. Since then, he was able to buy two sets of tickets for two to the west coast. These were purchased during an online sale. Jeff used the wallet money from the Portland trip to pay for it all.
However, one caveat with Alaska is that the new tickets must be issued within one year of the original ticket purchase date.
Case #3: How ticket changes work on Southwest Airlines.
Southwest also lets you put the entire value of the ticket back into your account for use at any time in the future on any Southwest Airlines flight. We like that.
Starting July 28, 2022, Southwest also eliminated expiration dates on all flight credits from canceled or changed tickets. The only requirement is to cancel your itinerary at least 10 minutes before departure.
Southwest said, “Flight credits don’t expire’ aligns with the boldness of a philosophy to give our Customers definitive simplicity and ease in travel, just like Bags fly free, just like No change fees, just like Points don’t expire — they’re a first-in-our-industry combination of differentiators that only Southwest offers.”
Buyer beware on Basic Economy tickets.
The tickets we changed at both Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines were regular economy tickets. Had Jeff opted instead for the $40 per flight savings on Alaska Air, he would have ended up with non-changeable,
Please share your experiences when changing flights!