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On many economy tickets, you can pay usually 5%-10% or so more to get a "no change fees" ticket.

This would seem to be a big advantage, because, when you're Over There, you could change your return ticket to a day which is more expensive to travel on; seemingly, you win.

I guess you could even do that outwards? Wednesday say is the cheapest outwards flight, you book that, with "no change fees", and later just change it to Friday or whatever the most expensive day is.

Is this correct, or not really?

What is the real world experience with and reason to use "no change fees" tickets?

(I often have to travel on 1ways, so, I've never really used one, I don't think.)

enter image description here

(BTW I notice on that one, they hit you with non-refundable on the "no change fees" ticket.)

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    ‘No change fee’ usually just means no admin fee. You would still have to pay any difference in fare. If it were advantageous to the customer, the airlines wouldn’t offer it because they’d lose money
    – Traveller
    Feb 13, 2023 at 14:33
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    Yeah, no fee doesn't mean you don't pay the difference.
    – user27701
    Feb 14, 2023 at 0:11
  • On which routes/airlines/countries can you get this for only 5-10% more, on economy tickets? IME it's typically 25-300% more expensive, in economy.
    – smci
    Feb 14, 2023 at 6:49
  • @smci i am in the Usa presently and i just did a few random searches to major cities in europe/asia to make teh image above. You're right I noticed that for eg delta (I think that one was delta) it is "$100 extra" but for other airlines it was absurdly more expensive. IDK why
    – Fattie
    Feb 14, 2023 at 11:29
  • @Traveller: you are certainly right it means no admin fee. But your economic reasoning is a bit off: the airline does not need to win on each passenger to offer the option but in average. The no change fee works as insurance: people will buy in case they have to reschedule their trip.
    – Taladris
    Feb 14, 2023 at 15:36

3 Answers 3

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When you change a ticket (provided the fare allows it), you usually have two different possible costs (which are added, it’s not an either/or):

  • a change fee/penalty. This is a fixed amount you know in advance (though there may be complex rules related to when you make the change which may yield different amounts). No change fee just means this one is 0.

  • the fare difference. When you rebook, they will price the new ticket (on the day you make the change, not on the original date of purchase), based on fares valid on that date and availabilities on that date, and then bill you the difference between that price and what you initially paid. Expensive flights remain expensive flights, so you will end up paying exactly the same as if you had bought the target flight directly (if you change right after buying the original ticket — if you wait it will probably be more).

Fares with no change fees are useful for passengers who need the flexibility (they may have to change their plans), but there’s no magic trick which will give you an expensive ticket for less.

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    You know what. I just noticed on the image example given. The left one has the text "changes not allowed". I wonder if they literally mean that, or if they mean with a fee? i've never been flat disallowed to change a ticket, although with a high fee(s); but then, I haven't changed many tickets
    – Fattie
    Feb 13, 2023 at 15:15
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    @Fattie, there are flight tickets for which changes are not allowed at all. Sometimes the airline will allow changes for emergencies but they do not have to.
    – Willeke
    Feb 13, 2023 at 16:11
  • I’ve heard stories of airlines allowing changes in tickets they are not supposed to, but I have no idea what the actual rules were for those flights. It probably varies a lot between airlines, fares, possibly the agent you get on the phone or your history/status with the airline. YMMV greatly.
    – jcaron
    Feb 13, 2023 at 18:05
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    @jcaron Qantas once changed an international flight for me and waived charges because I needed to attend a funeral.
    – Peter M
    Feb 13, 2023 at 20:11
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    @PeterM some of those unfortunate circumstances are actually written in the actual fare rules IIRC
    – jcaron
    Feb 13, 2023 at 20:23
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There is no such thing as a free lunch with airline tickets. I can think of at least 2 things off the top of my head that affect your "Friday" scenario.

  1. The Friday flight is more expensive because it is more popular. Thus the closer you get to Friday, the less likely it is that an empty seat is available on that flight. So by booking a different return day and then attempting to change it to Friday at a later date you are risking not being able to fly on Friday.

  2. No Change Fee doesn't mean no additional cost. I bet if you read the fine print you will find that the No Change Fee refers to tickets with the same cost basis - so you can only swap like for exactly alike for free. However, if there are no seats on your Friday flight (See #1) with the same cost basis, then you will need to select a different class of seat. The airline may not charge you for changing seats, but they will charge you the difference in price between your original and new seats.

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    Note that 'class' does not just mean First, Business, Economy, etc, but 'fare classes'. eg Y might be full-fare Economy and O might be 'special discounts during February' Economy. If you are in O maybe you can change to another flight with an available O seat, but if you want to upgrade to a flight with only Y seats you can't without paying the difference and maybe a fee on top. Feb 13, 2023 at 21:23
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To give you a more straightforward answer: “no change fees” tickets are never cheaper.

The only money saved would be in case you actually do need to change plans:

  • “no changes allowed” tickets: 100% lost (some airlines might refund some minor fees)
  • “changes allowed” tickets: you will have to pay the difference in fare, if the new date is more expensive, plus a fee.
  • “no-fee changes allowed” tickets: same as above, but no fees.

Big note: “changes” generally refers to rebooking, aka “change of date”. No other changes are allowed.

Occasionally even with “no-fee changes” tickets, a rebooking could still cost you more than just switching airlines on certain dates. The last time I booked such a flight (Turkish Airlines) I had to pay nearly 100% more anyway because the tickets prices had risen.

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