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In June I will be heading to Cape Canaveral to attend a rocket launch. As you may know, rocket launches are given a "Launch window" and can be pushed back a day or two or three or... you get the idea.

I just found out the launch date for this mission I want to attend, and plan to book a flight! If all goes as planned, I fly in the day before launch, see it launch on a Saturday, and leave on Monday.

However I want to be sure that I am covered in two rather likely scenarios:

  1. Launch is delayed by a few weeks/months before I leave.
  2. Launch is delayed by a few days after I arrive in Florida.

I know flexible fares are a thing, but I don't see any clear options on how to book them. Doing a Google search for "Book flexible fare" seems to mostly lead to travel aggregate websites that advertise "Flex" in the search results but when actually selecting flights give no indication that it is Flexable. The only exception to this is Southwest, which let's you reuse your money on a different flight if there is a cancellation - but appears to be way more expensive than other airlines. Every other booking website and airline seem to make no mention of how to make a trip flexible.

So my question is how do I ensure my flight is "Flexible"? and what does "Flexible" actually entail (i.e. does it vary by airline?, does taking the departing flight allow me to still flex the return flight?, do I pay more if the new ticket is in higher demand or get a refund if it is cheaper?)

EDIT: Ended up going with Southwest because Delta and American were obnoxiously (2x) more expensive, and United had crazy complicated terms for it's flex fares which change for every flight

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    Delta: advanced search -> refundable fares. AA: show flexible only. United: advanced search -> flexible fares or unrestricted fares. And so on... Flexible fares are nearly always much more expensive. Read the small print carefully, there are lots of rules which vary from airline to airline and from fare to fare. – jcaron May 19 at 8:04
  • Note that a "flexible fare" is one that allows change or cancellation without a penalty fee. However, it does not lock in the price of the ticket. You may still have to pay the difference (or you may receive a partial refund) if the new flight has a different price than the old one. Unless you are changing the flight frequently, it may make more sense to buy a cheaper fare and pay the change penalty if that becomes necessary. That is particularly true if the likelihood of making the change is low. Some fares do not allow any changes, make sure to examine the fare rules prior to purchase. – Calchas May 19 at 17:10
  • Even with Southwest, if you change the flight, you'll have to pay the difference in fare. And when it's less than a couple of weeks out, the new fare will typically be in the "Anytime" class, which is usually 2-4x higher than the "Wanna Get Away" fares that you see when booking well ahead. So just be prepared for that. – Nate Eldredge May 24 at 18:47
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I'm on a business trip and the guys I work for ordered my ticket. In the documents I got the flight is marked as flexible. Digging a bit deeper: for a fee (about $80) I can change the date provided I do so more than 24h before the planned departure time.

The way this was arranged is by simply booking directly with a big airline, certainly not one of the budget airlines. The budget airlines make money from people not flying the trips they paid for. They are cheap if you don't need to change. So... My advice would be to call a big airline and simply ask them what their conditions are. (the oldfashioned way, you know, by using a telephone! :-) )

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    If you change the date, do you only pay the $80 fee, or do you also pay the difference in fare? The latter is the norm, in my experience, and so if you change your flight at the last minute, you wind up paying the cost of a very expensive last-minute ticket, minus your original fare and the $80 fee. – Nate Eldredge May 23 at 3:07
  • Of course there is no chance in hell that they will allow you to buy a cheap ticket on a cheap flight and then for a small fee allow you to change that into a more expensive ticket on a more expensive flight. – rew May 24 at 6:53

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