Hey Delta, how about a refund on those outrageous ticket change fees?

A few years ago, we were flying from London to Vienna with our then 13-month old son. Still exhausted from jetlag and maybe a little forgetful, we showed up for the flight 24 hours before our scheduled departure.

But one look at our entourage (the toddler, diaper bags, and the dark rings under the parents’ eyes) must have made the ticket agent feel sorry for us. She booked us on the next flight to Austria without charging any change fees.

She could have asked us to pay extra. She probably should have.

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But when to bend a rule? Ehud Snir wants to know — more to the point, he thinks his case qualifies for an exception — and wants to know if I agree.

I don’t know if I do. Maybe you can help me figure it out.

Snir and his wife were returning to Minneapolis from Tel Aviv on Delta Air Lines a few months ago, and like me, they go their dates confused.

“We arrived to the airport one day later than our scheduled travel,” he says.

He continues,

We were shocked at the amount of administrative service charges/fees we were charged. It came to a total of $500.

We flew “stand-by” and were able to fly from Tel Aviv to New York, and then on to our final destination Minneapolis.

Clearly, there were empty seats on the planes we flew, so there wasn’t much of a disturbance to the airlines in accommodating us. In fact, there were at least six passengers in the same situation as we were and there was room for all of us!

We do not argue the fact of our mistake, nor the need for the airline to charge some sort of fee to re-arrange our flights. Our complaint has to do with what we feel was an excessive amount of fees.

Here’s how Delta responded to their written request to refund the fees:

We understand that our passengers face unique situations. However, we have reviewed your concern and determined that the Administrative Service Charge that you paid to change your ticket was correct.

In order to maintain consistency and be fair to all the passengers who travel with us, we need to adhere to the rules that govern the ticket that has been purchased.

Thus said, we respectfully decline your request for a refund.

In this case, a fee applies even if the decision to cancel or change planned travel is due to an illness or other circumstance that was unknown at the time the ticket was purchased or is beyond a customer’s control.

Wrong answer, says Snir.

“This must happen to many people,” he says. “Aren’t folks outraged at the excessive fees?”

Yes, they are. I remember a time when you could get these surcharges waived just for asking. That was a long time ago. Today, airlines rely on these administrative fees to meet their unmeetable profit goals.

But who’s to says the ticket agent who handled Snir’s rebooking wasn’t compassionate — after all, Delta might have charged the couple for two new one-way walk-up fares. Technically, weren’t they “no shows”?

A case might have been made to zero out the rest of the fees, but I’m not sure if it’s something they should expect.

I certainly didn’t when we showed up a day early for our flight to Vienna. Even though the year was 2003, I knew that the carrier (it was British Airways) could have charged us for the reticketing. I was ready. And when it looked the other way and let us on the plane, I was beyond grateful for the help.

I’m reluctant to ask Delta to refund its administrative fees. The Snirs paid a steep price for missing their flight. But Delta was well within its rights to charge them.

Or was it?

192 thoughts on “Hey Delta, how about a refund on those outrageous ticket change fees?

  1. So, let me get this straight, you bought two non-refundable tickets and missed your fight by an entire day (not the airlines fault) and then Delta was kind enough not to cancel your ticket entirely and only charged you a change fee on what otherwise could have been a $2500 – $3000 mistake and now you’re arguing about the change fee? 

    It seems you got off lightly with only two ticketing change fees and were not asked to buy two new tickets. Everyone thinks their special and deserves an accommodation for every reason under the sun. Honestly Chris, this is not the kind of stuff you should be mediating. Save your precious time for customers who were truly treated poorly or have a mistake they can’t resolve. I don’t see any mistakes here.

    1.  I wish I could like this x100, you’re spot on.  What’s worse, now Delta will think twice before doing any favors for other customers.  No good deed goes unpunished, as it were.

    2. Couldn’t agree with bcmore.  He was darned lucky he didn’t get charged for 2 entirely new tickets.  Read the rules people.

    3. There’s really nothing more to say here that bc hasn’t already said, and eloquently, I might add.

      They missed their flight and the airline did the most they were able to do, given the circumstances.

      It’s for this reason I put a reminder in my phone when I travel to tell me not just when to check-in but also to remind me to get to my flight!  Sometimes, you’re really having a good time and don’t want to leave!

  2. There is a very easy way to avoid paying change fees – buy a flexible ticket. Trouble is, most people aren’t willing to do so (for good reason, considering their normal cost), but they go on the internet and complain instead. 

    1. Yup. It is easier to complain after all. 

      Rather funnily, I learned an important lesson from an ’80s cartoon. Namely that when people make mistakes, they usually blame others, especially those who don’t defend themselves.

      IMHO the OP is somewhat lucky. So far Delta’s tickets are still useable even if the passenger no-showed, and that can change anytime after this.

      Compare that to US Airways. If you no-showed for any reason, kiss your ticket goodbye.


    2. “Buy a flexible ticket” isn’t really a fair criticism. Have you ever bought one? Me, either. Prohibitively expensive. It’ll be that way with hotels soon, too.

      1.  It was a solution to a problem, not a criticism.
        Yes, they are often expensive (not always though – a $1700 JFK-BKK round trip I got recently turned out to have no change fees so be sure to check), but if forgetting when your flight is is a common problem for you, they may well be worth it.

      2. Then you assume the risk – and a “no-show” ticket as in this case – he’s LUCKY they didn’t charge more than just a change fee!

  3. I’ve also done the same, showed up for a flight 24 hours late.  Yes it was my fault and I admitted that to the airline staff.  Personally I felt lucky when after a few phone calls we were able to cancel the my original tickets (for about 100 euro) and rebook new tickets.  The airline staff were kind, but I never complained for paying for my own mistake.

  4. While the flight the OP was on had empty seats, did the flight they were originally scheduled on have any empty seats, other than the ones they reserved and didn’t show up to use?  If that one was a full flight, then the airline was losing money only charging the change fee.

  5. I see a Nine of “But I’m different” showing on the player’s hand. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even have a Ten of “13-month old son” to play like Christopher did! 😉

    No, no mediation. 

    What if he had showed up late and the airline charged him full price to return?  If you had mediated, and Delta had backed off and only charged a change fee, it would have been a successful mediation.

    So, Delta went above and beyond and did so without any intervention….and this guys wants more?  Be thankful for what you have, buddy!

  6. When someone makes an exception, like the London agent did for Chris, that’s fine. Thank them, count your blessings and let it go.

    When a favor is done, and it’s still not good enough, that’s called “being ungrateful”. You no-show for a flight and then have the ticket reinstated for only $250 each. You got off easy, but it’s not good enough? 

        1. By this time Chris should already know that NOSHO is the worst thing one can do. You can lose the value of your whole ticket! Lucky these people got to use their ticket (with a fee).

  7. In Chris’s case, the airline put them on seats going out earlier that were not already sold, and then had time to fill the other seats that would go out 24 hours later, and even if they didn’t, nothing was lost.  That what bothers me about airlines now charging to fly standby when it actually benefits the airline if you fly standby, but that’s not what happened in Snir’s case.
    In Snir’s case, the airline didn’t know that Snir wasn’t showing up until the door was closing, so they never had a chance to re-sell those seats.  Luckily, there were empty seats on the flight the next day, however he bought non-refundable tickets and was a no-show, and very likely could have cost the airline extra money.  Just because there were empty seats the next day doesn’t mean the flight wasn’t full the day before and people couldn’t buy tickets because every seat was taken.  I think it’s very nice of Delta to simply charge the change fee rather than a walkup fare as they had every right to cancel his ticket entirely.  They already went above and beyond for Snir and he has the nerve to say “Wrong Answer” when they deny his request for a refund?  I think he should consider himself lucky and not waste Chris’s time.

    1. I got to Chicago in time to take the third earlier flight – there were three more departures from ORD-LAX before my ticketed one.  I was traveling F class on an award ticket.  Yeah, its not like traveling F for real with a paid ticket-  even though they advertise it as the full F class experience.  . ..

      Anyway – United refused to let me take a flight that was leaving that actually open F seats.  They wanted 25,000 more miles.  I am not that stupid.   So each of the next three flight left with open seats  . . . . I’m sure they filled with FFs but thats not the point.

      We come to my flight.  Guess what?  It is oversold. It is already an hour late as well and there is one more flight leaving now in 15 min 4 gates away. 

      They need TWO seats.  Bidding is up to $1000 plus refund.  I walked up and said – keep the miles-  can you put me in First on the next flight leaving in 13 min now.  Yes they can.  That flight is now delayed 30 – so there plenty of time.

      So – instead of getting the 2 seats that needed for free – United ended up giving me 2 $1000 vouchers.  Good until June 15 2013. 

      Yep – they got rules.  And the utter insanity of applying those rules cost them $2000 in funny money – but ts still revenue lost.  We are using them for a trip to SEA later this summer and back to Chicago for a business trip.   I presume somewhere there is a bean counter seeing if they make more money off the charges to fly standby on a new flight than they give away in bumping compensation – prob is that is hard to track since I doubt they track people who walk away from the fees and charges to go standby. . .

      The OP is an idiot – don’t mediate his case. How do you show up a day late? You don’t know when you are leaving? Then you want the airline to accomodate you? For free? It ain’t 1965 anymore.

      1.  I agree with all you said, except the “How do you show up a day late?” Just pray you don’t find out…it’s a lot easier than you think…remember we’re all human. That said, I voted “no” as the rules are quite clear.

      2. Yep, Joe – them’s the rules the airlines put into place.  Whether we like them or not, if they’re willing to give you all they gave you, well, them’s the rules.

        I guess the best thing to say in a situation like yours is, don’t hate the player, hate the game.

        Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and in your case, you won big!  Kind of like rolling the dice in Vegas.

        People wonder how others get the deals like you got.  When you travel a great deal, you increase the odds something like this will happen to you.

        I think it’s great you walked away with so much and now you and your significant other can take a couple trips you might not have taken, otherwise.

  8. What a joke!!  This person shows up a day late and expects the airline to accommodate him.  I’m truly unsympathetic with this case.  “They got their dates confused.”  Really?  Can they not read their itinerary? They didn’t double check anything?  They didn’t get the email from Delta, the one they send out 24 hours ahead of departure inviting you to check in?  I’m not buying it.  His mistake.  Next time he’ll keep track. 

  9. I thought $500 was reasonable.  Just because something doesn’t cost the airline something doesn’t mean it should be free for the passenger.  Sure a free change would have been nice, but as was pointed out, they were well within their rights to completely pocket the money. 

    1. And we really DON’T know if it didn’t cost the airlines – they may not have filled those seats, and so lost the money on that 1st flight.  He is just LUCKY it only cost him $500 for HIS MISTAKE!

  10. “Today, airlines rely on these administrative fees to meet their unmeetable profit goals.”

    Woah! I loathe airline fees. However, airlines aren’t charity either. Last time I checked, airlines aren’t exactly rolling in the dough either. Fuel prices remain high relative to the cost of airfares. Raising airfares to match fuel prices hasn’t exactly worked with the traveling public either.

    Agree with others that Snir got off easy. What really bugs me about this case is that Snir is complaining because a CSR and ticket agent followed the rules. As @mikegun:disqus said, if rules are bent, you got lucky, but if rules are followed, you shouldn’t have a right to complain

  11. By only changing a few lines in this story the title could be changed to ‘Delta shows compassion for travellers who were no-shows.’

  12. No also, Chris. It’d be a shame if that agent who helped you years ago suffered any repercussions from that, and hopefully that’s not happened since then.

    Whether someone can help or not despite any possible “hurt” or “harm” depends if that person feels they can afford it, without necessarily being forced to. One may feel another can supposedly afford to, but that’s not their call or judgment to make.


    1. It’s one thing to let a passenger fly standby before the scheduled departure, but it’s quite another for a passenger to show up a day late and demand new tickets. 

      The passenger showing up early used to be allowed to attempt to fly standby, free of charge. This made sense, as it allowed the airline to fill empty seats on the earlier flight, and also freed up seats on the later flight in case airline needed them. So it was a bit of a win/win. 

    2. When I worked for an airline, we had to explain the reasoning behind “bending” the rules, usually in supervisor’s office with a printout of what we did. I could usually justify what I did…putting someone on a non-stop rather than a connection and waiving all fees when there were weather delays in their connecting city, for example, was pretty easy to justify. Just because someone bought a less expensive connection and then wanted a non-stop was not worth getting called to explain it.

      Rather than bend the rules in a borderline case, it was simply easier to hold your ground and not bend rather than have to endure listening about it later.

      1.  exactly… still have to do that today. i better have a damn good explanation for why i bent any rule or waived any fee.

        and it goes beyond just “listening about it later”:
        we just had an agent get fired because they didn’t like his reasoning. there’s no way i’m risking my job just because a passenger doesn’t agree with the rules or wants to change their flights.

        1. even those very over-worked airport jobs are hard to find nowadays. maybe any job is hard to find today. protect your job at all costs!

  13. And people wonder why “no waivers, no favors” became the norm. DL helps the family by not charging them for new tickets and this is the thanks they get?

  14. Unless they were staying with a friend, didn’t they notice a problem when they checked out of their hotel and still wandered around Tel Aviv for 24 hours without a place to stay?  Or did they just book an extra night of a hotel and really caused this issue before they even left home?

  15. I voted “No” since the fault is clearly with the OP. That said, I still agree airline change fees are too high.  It used to cost $50 to change a flight. Now it can be as high as $250.

    1. I agree with this. It was clearly the OP’s fault here, but $250 a ticket for a change fe is insane. heck, even the $150 that domestic carriers charge is way over the top. $150 for a few keystroks and 5-10 minutes worth of time. I’m 100% positive the CS employees arent making $400 an hour.

      1.  Please understand, the penalty fee is there to support the difference between a DISCOUNTED fare and a REGULAR (LESS RESTRICTED) fare. If it was so cheap to change, then less business folks need to buy those Y-M-B class tickets.

  16. I always thought if you missed your flight you were out of luck? Why in the world would you get reticketed for missing your flight??? Trying to get on an earlier flight isn’t the same thing, IMO.  That at least means you are at the airport EARLY.  Missing a flight is totally different.  Especially when you miss it because you are “forget” when your flight is. I’m completely paranoid about my flight dates and times.  I check them a million times AND I check my phone to make sure I know what date it is TODAY. Doesn’t everyone do that?

    1. I always thought if you missed your flight you were out of luck?

      For the most part, yes. AFAIK Delta’s the only one who allows despite no shows, though I’m not sure about others like Southwest and, say, JetBlue.

      1. The rules also depend on whether you check in or not – if you don’t check in and then don’t show up you are often (slightly) better off than if you did check in online and then don’t fly.

      2.  SWA and JB allow you to completely miss your flight. AirTran, too, i believe. not sure about the ultra-LCCs like Spirit, Allegiant, and (nowadays) Frontier.
        SWA retains the entire value of your ticket, JB takes a cut (if you want to entirely reschedule or make sure your ticket is confirmed for the new day).

        1. That would be hard to do with Transpacific and Transatlantic international flights. I do have several clients who miss those 1255AM flights of Asiana, Korean and Cathay at JFK. They arrive the next day. So far the desk agents have been very helpful to reaccommodate. But that is not possible during Xmas season.

      3. Most airlines have some leeway if you miss your flight by a couple of hours (unofficial flat tire rule, usually applicable to domestic flights, but not necessarily international flights).  I’ve been in this spot a few times (overslept, back late from a cruise) and was grateful for the leeway.  But a full day – that’s asking a lot of leeway. 

        1. Yup. That’s why I earlier said that it ultimately depends if someone – the airline in this case – feels they can afford to do so, despite whatever short-term material loss they might experience after.

  17. I did the same thing as Chris. In the late ’90s, I was traveling with my partner,who was on a business trip. We had spent several days relaxing in Aix en Provence, France. Early on the following Monday, she had flown to Amsterdam, and we were meeting that evening in Madrid. Later the same day, I checked out of the hotel, took a cab to the airport, and found out that I had booked a flight for the next day (it was my mistake). I don’t speak much French, so I was in a panic. The agent made a few calls and said she could get me on Monday’s flight, and I didn’t have to pay anything more, thank goodness!

  18. I’m no airline apologist, but from a strictly business standpoint I can understand imposing harsh fees to keep people from abusing the system.  Imagine the chaos that could ensue if everyone felt that they were free to show up will-he, nill-he for their scheduled flights.  People who decided on the spur of the moment to extend their vacation by a day, or start it a day early, would be queing up for standby lists while the flights they were supposed to be on aren’t profitably filled. 

    And (not that I particularly care if they’re inconvenienced) I don’t imagine that TSA would be too happy with not being able to track exactly who is on which flight.

    A business cannot allocate its resources properly if it doesn’t know exactly when and where the customers will be requiring their services. The fees keep the abuse in check and they should then look at each case individually to determine if the fees should be waived for extenuating circumstances.

    That the airlines aren’t and are instead using the fees to boost profits is where I have a problem with the setup.

  19. If you show up early, it’s a mistake, because you’ve just shorted your visit. If you show up late, the airline has to think you extended your vacation/family visit/fun by another day, despite what you tell them. Give in once and a majority of their passenger load will start to shift unpredictably. Your instinct is right: they could have been charged for two new tickets. $500 is CHEAP for their circumstances.

  20. On this past thanksgiving weekend, coming home internationally, we cleared customs quickly. We only had carry on luggage. Seeing that a the next flight was leaving to our destination, which would save us a 2.5 hour airport wait to our next scheduled local departure, we went to the gate to beg to board. Did they have seats? Yes ! Would they send us on our way? NO!… not unless we paid the change fee. Was this ridiculous? YES. This is the sort of thing that should not be allowed by the airlines. We try to time the amount of space needed between flights….who can predict a very fast customs clearance, and an one time arrival? And they had open seats on the connection from the same airline! And it was a busy flight day for them! What purpose did it serve to not allow us to board and go home? This is exactly why I hate the airlines, – they have twisted rules that cause resentment. 

    1. If you wanted that flight and it was a valid connection, you should have booked it in the first place. Part of the reason for such change fees is to stop people from buying the cheapest ticket possible and switch to a more expensive flight for free.

      1.  EmilyE, to me it looks like they couldn’t have booked that flight in case they didn’t have enough time to connect. Note that they cleared customs quickly. Its more prudent to give yourself more connection time.

      2.  And if Commentfromme had booked that flight and customs were slow, you would have berated him/her for not  allowing enough time…

      3. This comment is based on a faulty assumption. You don’t know what kind of ticket commentfromme was holding. Furthermore, he did the wise thing by allowing extra connecting time, which most likely had nothing to do with the cost of the flights.Imaginre how he would have been treated if his inbound flight was late and there was a customs delay which caused him to miss his connection. I also think you are wrong in saying that change fees are to prevent people from switching to an expensive flight from a cheap  one. You may have bought a cheap ticket but that doesn’t mean that the earlier flight that you would like to take would have been more expensive when you bought the ticket. .

      4. Agree with all of the comments above, and for that matter, trying to go with the minimum “legal” connection on an international itinerary is a roll of the dice these days.  I was traveling with my sister from Chennai, India back to DFW through Amsterdam and Detroit many years ago.  In AMS, our flight to DTW was late departing due to a delay in loading cargo, then we were further delayed enroute due to strong headwinds.  We ended up being about an hour and 15 minutes late.  Everyone who had booked the “legal” connection misconnected (mind you, this was New Year’s Eve, so not exactly a slow time of year).  We had booked a 3 1/2 hour connection, and made it comfortably to our connecting gate.  These days, with planes as full as they are, good luck getting reaccommodated any time soon if you miss that connection over a holiday because of a delay and then having to get through customs.

        Now, I do think the whole thing of charging for same-day standby is dumb, but that’s another issue altogether…

    2. EmilyE in this case you are very wrong. Thank you to the other commenters for being accurate. My flight choice had nothing to do with the price of the ticket, and the earlier flight they would not allow me on was not a “valid” connection in order to allow time to clear customs. But there I was, on one of the busiest travel days of the year, standing there with my carry-on only, and empty seats on the flight. I simply could not afford the change fee. It was a slap in the face from the airline. Shame on them for ridiculous rules. 

    3. BTW now that I am thinking about it….I was flying on a reward ticket! And they would not allow me to board the earlier flight with the vacant seats.

      1. That is because on reward tickets, that class of service which you were booked in had to be available for them to reaccommodated you.

          1. Not necessarily so.  Reward tickets are not as easily reaccommodated based on class of service.  Do you know how tickets are issued?  It is based on classes of service, that have letters of the alphabet that you are booked on. 

          2. If an airline does not have a class of service available then how does that class of service suddenly appear just because a passenger pays a change fee? Is there a seat, or isnt there a seat? And they never looked up my class of service btw….they only asked for the fee in order to allow the change. Slam dunk- just pay the money to get on the plane. Airline blackmail. Pay up or wait.

          3. It’s not ‘pay up or wait’. It’s ‘you get what you pay for’. Not difficult to understand.
            And also, paying a change fee typically means that your ticket gets rebooked into another fare class, not a class magically opening up.

          4. You mean the change fee on your non-refundable only able to change with a fee ticket… How shocking that they actually wanted to enforce their rules.  I bet you would have also been unhappy if you baggage didn’t make the flight too.

          5. But commentfromme’s point is in this case the rules weren’t helping the airline in any way. He/she wasn’t trying to cancel the trip or move dates. It isn’t even like they got to the airport early and wanted to get an earlier start. They were in mid-trip and basically running ahead of schedule and wanted to use an empty seat on an earlier flight.  No skin off the airline’s teeth on that–it actually could benefit the airline because the odds of selling a last minute ticket on the later flight would be higher than for the flight that’s almost ready to leave. 

            As for the luggage making the flight, I’d hope they’d have been informed if it were too late to make that happen because that would play a big part in whether the traveler wanted to make the change, regardless if there were any fees involved or not.

          6.  i’m so glad you have worked for that particular airline and know for a fact that it had to do with collecting a change fee and not related to the fare class your reward ticket was used under.

          7. You are all so arrogant. Pay attention. The plane was leaving with EMPTY SEATS. It was Thanksgiving weekend. It was the earlier connecting flight that I did not book because of not leaving enough time to clear customs. Same airline. The busiest travel weekend of the year. It lacks common sense to refuse to allow us to board. And John I did not have baggage so you are not paying attention. Shocking to enforce rules? Yes shocking! How does any human being determine the amount of time to leave between flights. How do we predict delays and breakdowns, and fast customs. To fly a plane with empty seats, especially on a holiday weekend, while the customer is standing in front of the gate from a connecting flight lacks any business sense. All it takes is punching a button. Give it up. What difference does the class of service matter when the plane is leaving with empty seats? Ridiculous.

          8. Yes attack us when we are just trying to explain to you how SOME tickets are handled.  You see one thing, the computer tells the agents another thing and the rules of the fare a third.  With an award ticket, you already had a confirmed reservation, no award seating was available to move to you so just because you think it makes sense doesn’t necessarily apply here.  I don’t make the rules, but I have to follow them on my end, so I get it.

          9. I am not attacking YOU. But YOU ARE backing the stupidity of your company. You are still thinking that they looked in the computer to determine if an award ticket was available. They did not. It did not go that far. They stated that a change would cost. So if the plane is flying with empty seats, shouldnt the airlines make the seat available? I am NOT attacking YOU. YOU are following corporate rules to keep your job. I am discussing the Corporation…the Airline, for making YOU follow ridiculous rules that are horrendous to the customer…the passenger. It is an industry that treats its customers like dirt. It is an industry that lacks common sense. What other business could get away with this disdain for the paying customer?

          10. Reward for not following rules? Huh? every rule was properly followed. Book flights. Took carry on. Left time between connections. Arrived early, cleared customs, ready to move on to home if possible. Holding round trip ticket for that day. Empty seats. What rules were not followed? The only rule not followed was the one that required more money to get on the departing flight with empty seats.

          11. I don’t work for an airline.  I am a travel consultant who has to follow the rules of the carrier and has a better understanding than you on how fares work. How many other businesses do you tell how to do their job?  In travel, everyone THINKS they know better.  You aren’t mentioning the carrier 

          12.  i believe Bodega is a travel agent, not an airline employee, so he/she is NOT “backing the stupidity of [their] company”.

          13. They KNOW it is award travel by the CLASS OF SERVICE it is booked in.  These folks are trying to educate you, and you are listening as well to them as you did to the airline attendant.  You were lucky they offered to overlook the class of service and would change it for ONLY the fee – as they didn’t have to offer it at all.  ESPECIALLY on Holidays, as those classes of service are LONG GONE by then.

          14.  … and not to mention that if a gate agent “breaks the rules” one too many times, he/she may be subject to disciplinary action.

          15.  i’m not arrogant. i’m sorry that you think it all makes perfect sense to allow people to take whatever flight they want despite what flight they’ve booked and purchased, but the people who are paid to make such revenue yield management decisions would beg to differ.

          16. Yes, but let’s look at the larger picture. It’d be better for the airline to handle things how the commentfromme wanted in this case because it’d give them more time to sell the open seats. That might not fit into the realities of the system in place, but all things being equal it’d be in their best interests and in the ideal world they’d do it that way.

            It’s not the traveler’s fault they don’t understand the inner workings of the airline policies, and while they’ve been a bit abrasive in presenting their case, many of the replies to them have been “tail wags the dog” answers about the policies in place which completely miss the point since they’re basically trying to show how the policies weren’t logical in this case. And on that point, they are undoubtedly correct.

          17. “whatever” flight ? – No….a connecting flight that is leaving now to the final destination and the other flight coming in a bit early and allowing the passengers to clear customs earlier. Good for everyone. Keep everyone moving on Thanksgiving weekend. But NO……

    4. Yikes! Don’t you think you are being a bit irrational? You booked a ticket, and got reservations on a specific flight. The airline delivered. Now you’re angry at the airline because you’re not special enough that a gate agent doesn’t want to bend the rules?

      You got what you paid for. Why is it so many people feel that they are entitled to more than what they paid for? Frankly, with the attitude that you demonstrated in your post,I wouldn’t be surprised if the gate agent quoted you a change fee solely because of your attitude at the gate.

      1. Irrational? Not at all? The airlines rules are irrational. Entitled to more than I paid for ? No ….just enttitled to be treated as a human being when I travel, but the airlines disagree with that premise. The prefer to treat me as a ” profit Maximizaton number” and not as a customer.

          1. Not allowing an earlier connecting flight, when there are open seats, to a ticket holding round trip passenger, unless a passenger forks over additional money as a standard change fee, treats the customer as less than a human being. It demonstrates that the airlines hold their customers in disregard. I am entitled to feel that the airlines treat their passengers like cattle. Their policy circumvents common sense, especially on a Thanksgiving weekend, when suddenly a backup can occur and they could have had passengers stranded everywhere. I have seen that movie before. They should move people to the destination when they hold a ticket and there are empty seats. That is how I feel.

          2. “It demonstrates that the airlines hold their customers in disregard.”
            No, it demonstrates that they follow their rules and policies consistently. You are entitled to feel whatever you want about the airlines, but if you get exactly what you paid for (a seat on your original flight), you don’t really have grounds for complaint unless agents were being rude to you or the like.

          3. You are missing my point entirely. The rules are not passenger friendly. They dont operate like a company that has to please the paying customer.I am commenting on the Rules, not on the fact that they follow the rules. Yah. And I am not complaining…I am commenting.

    5. Here is where I think the disconnect is – the airline never promised you nor did it suggest that if you arrived early for your connection that it will even try to accommodate you on an earlier flight. In fact they don’t want to do it. The agent does not get paid more for more work. The whole system is setup to work on a fixed schedule and changes are usually associated with trouble. You don’t work for or with airlines so you don’t see it their way. It’s profit maximization they are after, not your pleasure.

      1. You are so very right. They dont want to . It is a business that fails to care about the customer. No other business can get away with that arrogance. I dont think I should be special. I think the airlines should treat all their customers with sensible courtesy. No I was not angry and I demonstrated zero attitude. Another wrong assumption. I asked, nicely, I was turned away and I left. I never show any attitude at the airlines. It is dangerous to show attitude. And yes i am a travel agent and I am familiar with everything everyone said. I stand by my opinion that the airlines are abusing power. No I am not irrational. It is irrational to fly a plane with empty seats while the traveler is turned away. You have all gotten accustomed to wretched service and abuse of power by an industry, and you been lulled into thinking it is rational company behavior. It is not.

        1. You are a TA? Then you learned something on this trip to pass on to your clients….I learned the same lesson a couple of summers ago, too.  Just because you have a ticket doesn’t mean you get to board any other flight than the one you are booked on. Do you use a GDS?

  21. No mediation. They caught a break by not being forced to buy new tickets. The change fee of $500 should be enforced as a “tax on stupid.” 
    Baby pic below…her name is Caitlyn. 😀

    1. She’s a beauty! I love her name too! I’m daily visitor to Chris’s site and an occasional responder and I always thoroughly enjoy your snark and usually agree with said snark.

    2. How can snark still be present in your body with a cute baby like that? I would think you’d turn into a bowl jello…


    3. What a beautiful little girl!  I notice that she takes after you – she’s sticking her tongue out . . .

    4. She is absolutely beautiful.

      And if you can’t keep up the snark due to lack of sleep, we forgive you in advance. 😀 Because that cutie is worth it.

  22. I voted No because 1. It looks like Delta already bent the no-show rules for Snir, and 2. I don’t think you’re going to be able to change Delta’s mind, given their denial letter. 

    But why should Delta change their mind? I sympathize with Snir and think that a $250 change fee per ticket is excessive, but he was a no-show and only got charged a change fee. That’s not bad, considering.

  23. Nope, don’t do it.  I agree that $250 change fees per ticket are too high, but Snir admits to making a mistake that led him to getting to the airport one day late.  He admits that there was no emergency that led to this happening (and in Israel, I could see that).  And Delta doesn’t care whether it is or not anyway (and isn’t known for compassion to flyers).

  24. More then a huge difference between showing up one day early vs. one day LATE!!  They are lucky they didn’t have to repurchase new tickets all together.  No, they got off easy. 

  25. The difference between your situation and this one is a day early vs. a day late. You and your family did not miss your flight, and if the agent wouldn’t have accomodated you, you would have been there the next day.

    As much as I can empathize with Snir, as I have messed up on arrival times at airports many times, I voted “no” simply because there is no extenuating circumstance as to why they missed their flight. Some major medical problem or something similar would at least have some sort of weight, but just because he thinks the fees are high? Well, I think the airline ticket prices to get my son back to college are outrageous right now, but will I call an airline to ask for a price reduction just because I think it’s too high? Silly request, just like Snir’s.

  26. sodas cost businesses pennies, and yet movie theaters and clubs charge me $6 for my Sprite.  i think those fees are excessive markup for what the actual cost is. can you mediate, Chris?

    /snark over.

    1. Yeah…but what are you gonna put the soda in? those cups can get pricey! (Don’t get me started on the costs of straws and lids either.)


  27. Night and day difference from Chris’ example.  In Chris’ case they were EARLY.  If there were seats available on the earlier flight the airline lost absolutely nothing–they might have even been able to sell the seats Chris’ family would have been occupying the next day.  But the OP flat-out MISSED his flight.  That’s a huge oops.  Yes, the fees sound high–but not compared to buying entirely new tickets, which is what could have been the outcome.

    And, out of curiosity, would the OP have been accepting if they showed up on-time for their flight only to have Delta announced they’d forgotten about it and were rescheduling it for tomorrow? If it’s good for the goose, it should be good for the gander.

  28. Arriving ealry isn’t a problem bvecuase most airlines will allow you to standby within 24 hours of departure, They can then sell your scheduled ticket. A day late and they missed tghe chance to sell your seat which they were holding for you.

    1. Actually most airlines don’t allow you to standby on international flights these days, and even on domestic flights, many US airlines only allow you to standby if you are a frequent flyer with them.

  29. I’d love it if you’d mediate for me too. I bought and paid in full 3 months in advance $1600 for a flight from Tel Aviv to West Palm via Philadelphia on USAIR. When I wanted to change one leg of the flight, from Philly to West Palm, still 2 months before my departure, I had to part with $150. I wanted to change my flight to visit my sister whose husband died of cancer after I made my original plans. I wrote explaining my situation, recieved a totally irrelevant answer about forfeiting, refunding and transfering my ticket( which I didn’t request to do) When I wrote to customer relations about the insensitive and irrelevant response I got which revealed that no one really read my e-mail, I received a very nice apology and condolences but no refund. There should be a law against this. Peoples circumstances change and the airlines are totally insensitive.How much does it really cost to hit some keys on a computer 2 months in advance ..not 1 month not 1 week and not the day before??

    1.  “There should be a law against this.”
      Against what? Sorry, but the rules were very clear when you bought the ticket. That’s what happens when you buy a discounted ticket with change fees/rules.

    2. Airlines do offer flexible fares which can be changes when people’s circumstances change.  I find it cheaper to by the discount tickets, and simply pay the change fees when necessary. It’s part of the cost of travel.  I don’t think the airlines are being insensitive to people’s needs, if they were, they would not offer any flexible/refundable fares at all.  Allowing someone to change a non-refundable non-changeable ticket for $150 is being pretty flexible.

      1. This a thousand times over.  People can’t have it both ways and get the discounted price AND the ability to change things around at their whim without additional fees. The only reason to buy those tickets is because they’re cheaper. And they’re cheaper because there’s some strings attached.  The fact that some people can’t grasp that is beyond me. Do these same people get upset when their economy class ticket doesn’t provide them with a sleeper seat like the passengers in first class get?

    3. Sorry, but you bought a nonrefundable ticket that has change and cancel fees.  Why?  Because of cost and now you want the low fare and the chance to make a change for free even though the rules were just fine with you when you bought the ticket?

    4. How much does it really cost to hit some keys on a computer 2 months in advance

      If someone reasonably and plausibly explained why, would that make you feel even a bit better or more understanding?

  30. Stop whining, airlines make alot of income on fees and they’re consistent in applying them, unless you get REALLY LUCKY. 

    The fees aren’t hidden, they’re part of travelling today.  The airplane went out w/empty seats so s/he could have been charged for new tix.  If you think the fees are too high, book changeable tix.  They were lucky.

  31. Sorry, no dice.  If the passenger had done this the “right way,” they would have been charged the change fee plus the fare difference, likely a couple of grand if purchased a day or less in advance.  

    While I agree that airline fees are outrageous (I don’t think that the change should cost zero, it should be based on the actual employee+system costs of making the change and the fare difference, and it can’t possibly cost $250 in time and materials to make an update in the system) and are in place to screw passengers into airline profitability, it seems to me that Delta did nothing egregious here.  You don’t like Delta’s policies?  Don’t fly Delta.

  32. Most tickets have no value when you do not show up for a flight.  Can you imagine how many people would not bother to keep track of their flights if there were little or no penalty?

    Although $500 is not a trivial amount, the point is, don’t get  your dates screwed up.

  33. Recently I booked online a flight to Madrid on KLM only to discover I made a mistake with return date. I phoned KLM and was transferred to Delta and had to be re ticketed. It was my error, but the Delta agent happily waved the re-ticketing fee. Additionally, my return was a three-plane trip, and the middle plane, in Amsterdam, was “delayed.” It was probably a mechanical problem, but we all sat in Amsterdam airport for over 10 hours  and didn’t take off until we had been there for 12. Obviously all of us who were transferring in Minneapolis (I was going to Spokane), would miss our connections. But Delta had given us meal coupons, and when we arrived at MSP, Delta agents had tables beyond customs with packets for all of us on them in alphabetical order — coupons for hotel (it was about 1:00am local time), and two for meals. We had free shuttles to and fro and our re-booking was taken care of and went smoothly.

    Only one person of the 180 or so yelled and screamed for more than that and a complete refund. What I’m entitled to beyond what I received is only an explanation of what caused to problem. But Delta certainly handle it in the best way possible, don’t you think?

    John Herrmann

  34. I’m on the fence with this one.    My one mistake with an airline purchase was that I bought my return ticket from Boston to Las Vegas 1 full month ahead of when I needed to return. This was also with Delta.  Sure I can go on and on..I had been working 14-16 hrs night as an ER nurse.   Work was horrendous,  my grandmother had died, and this ticket was bought for her funeral. I bought the ticket after work, and it was for travel within 36 hrs.   I used the airline pop up calendar to pick my dates,  and I wasn’t being careful.   This was Feb so the same date fell on the same day for Feb and March.   My mistake,  I showed up at the airport on a date that I didn’t have a ticket.   I encountered several types of employees.  First was the initial ticket agent, who actually was outwardly overjoyed that I had made a mistake.  She was giddy when telling me I would have to pay such and such fees.   Her supervisor was more understanding, and not such a 3itch (Yes I call someone happy at someone else’s misfortune a 3itch).   She waived most of the fee.  When I got home I sent Delta a polite email explaining the facts and they refunded me the rest of change fee.  So things do happen…and I don’t think people are as perfect as they make themselves out to be online forums.   So yes, I am a returning customer on Delta because they went above what they had to do.

  35. Just can’t believe people are so casual as to actually forget an international flight (and that goes for you too my lovely friend Chris………….I flew with my babies and still never forgot a flight!).  But, for heaven’s sake, don’t all airlines send preflight checkins these days…….24 hours in advance?  Even if you are so so cool that you just happen to forget a flight, that nifty little email, which is a reminder plus a checkin tool, should suffice.  These days when we are all so wired and have instant communcation, even the most forgetful of us should be sufficiently reminded and show up.  If something else happens, well, things happen.  But, to forget?  Come on guys.

    1. Chris didn’t say he forgot the day, just that they showed up 24 hours early, and he was ready and willing to pay the change fees.

      1. Still exhausted from jetlag and maybe a little forgetful, we showed up for the flight 24 hours before our scheduled departure.”

        He also never says anything about how willing they were regarding the fees, only that the agent took pity on them and didn’t charge them any.

  36. Making the actual ticket change costs an airline almost nothing, but if no standbys are waiting, a no-show means that a seat flies empty.

    You are a lot better off if you arrive early as Chris did, because there is no empty-seat problem. You become the standby that might occupy some no-show’s seat.

    1. And you know the airline’s cost to change the ticket, how?  There is actually a fair amount of paperwork involved that you don’t see and as we all know, time is money…but the airline’s don’t think agencies should be paid to handle this any longer as they use to pay us to handle this.

      1. Because I was a database guy in real life. I implemented systems like this. We’re talking a few SQL commands, a fraction of a second of server time, and a modest amount of data entry.

        In the case cited here the airline did lose real money, because a no-show-s seat most likely flew empty. Where airlines cash in is all those ticket changes made with months and weeks still to go.

        1. Airline categorize their fees into those designed to produce revenue and those that are punitive. Pay $30 to check a bag…revenue generating, designed to contribute to the bottom line. Want a seat with extra legroom near the front? Cough it up! Revenue generator! Pay $100 for an overweight bag? Punitive, they would rather not have to deal with a 75 lb bag and the toll it places on the operation.

          Spirit recently announced they will charge $100 for a carry on bag fee when paid at the gate. Without looking it up, I assume it is considerably lower when purchased online, at the ticket counter or kiosk. Why? While the family of bag fees is a revenue generator, the $100 at the gate is punitive. They do NOT want to deal with it while trying to get the flight out. If they never collect one $100 fee for a carry on at the gate…it worked.

          Change fees are primarily punitive, they don’t want to have to deal with constantly changing inventory on their flights messing up their yield management projections. They want you to buy your ticket and stick with it. Need the flexibility? Buy a higher priced ticket that is priced to allow changes and the low percentage of them don’t skew the revenue managers projections.

          If they wanted it to be a revenue generator, they would reduce the fee to a lower number and tell people to “Go Nuts! Change as much and as often as you want!”

          1. If I were running an airline and I actually wanted to be fair, I would make two changes to ticket change policy.

            First, my change fee would be a sliding scale, like a convention registration. For changes made in distant months, the fee would be something like the $10 that making a change actually costs. Make a change near the day of flight, and I would factor in the probability that a seat would have to be resold and would not be.

            Second, all my non-refundable tickets would be transferable: a passenger would automatically be able to resell to any other person who could identify himself to the TSA. I would charge $5 for entering the actual name change. Transferability would free me from having to evaluate doctor notes or listen to sob stories. All sales would still be final, yet passengers whose circumstances changed would be fairly treated.

          2. You would be changing your fee schedule shortly after starting…I guarantee it.  I remember when all this didn’t cost and how it was all abused.  Perhaps one of the gate agents on this board could fill us in on the paperwork involved on their end.  I know what we have to do to report to the airlines and it costs approx $35-50 to handle it.

          3. at the airport level, it’s not very much paperwork. it’s a PITA and it does generate reports that have to go to headquarters, the accountants, and the revenue yield management departments. but us airport agents don’t see the bulk of the work that has to be done (even after we’ve done the work of making the changes…. which depending on itineraries, can take quite a bit of time).

          4. Thanks.  Someone I know use to be a CTO agent and talked about the paper work they had to do each day so I wasn’t sure how airport counters do things.

          5.  you’re 100% right about revenue and punitive. and about the Spirit fees… it is $35 if you do it online.  and really, who doesn’t know right before they leave the house whether or not they have a carry-on? the $100 is just to catch the jerks who are trying to bypass the system and get away with something.

            (and to anyone who is about to moan about that practice? if you don’t like/agree with the Spirit model, that’s fine. don’t fly with Spirit.)

  37. I agree the fees are pretty substantial, but the contract goes both ways. The company sold those tickets for a specific flight, the customer failed to follow through their end of the contract. I might have looked for another ticket one way with another airline before even going to Delta. I would have considered it my own fault.

  38. One more tag to add – “ungrateful”. If he feels the fees are excessive, just pay the full booking fare and write off the cost as a life lesson learned.

  39. No, you shouldn’t mediate in this specific case unless you are willing to do so for all the other folks who miss their flights because the are human.  And that, no doubt, would keep you busy for the next several years.  However, something in general should be done about the excessive fees being charged by airlines, but that’s capitalism baby. 

  40. Most US airlines do allow you to switch to or standby for flights within 24 hours or on the same day (same-day change) for a lot less than the change fee, often $50 or so.

  41.  Unless your prices were insanely high, you would get someone buying all the cheap seats on a flight, then reselling them on third-party websites or by shouting right in front of the ticket counter on the day of the flight. Is that what you would want?

      1. No, not a all.  They have contracts with various carriers to sell a certain amount of seats on their flights and in return they get net, bulk or a high commission. 

  42. What an idiot.

    Some airlines would have said (nicely). You’re a moron, you missed your flight, your old ticket is now worthless, now pay full fare !!!

    People try this on all the time. Airlines are basically a loss making venture no more.

    You buy a seat on a certain time/date don’t miss it.

    In the case of people arriving early, the airline might determine that the flight they were actually booked on, was overbooked, so good to get people moving, instead of a headache next day.

  43. A few years ago I had a string of bad luck around international flights.  One, on Mexicana, was (in my opinion) the airline’s flight.  There was code share chaos.  I went to the correct check-in counter and was turned away, and told to go to the other airline’s counter.  I went to the other airline’s counter and waited so long that check-in for the flight had closed… at the original counter!  Mexicana charged me for a new ticket to my connecting airport (where I missed the flight, by the way, and had to wait for a later one again!).  The other one was totally my fault.  I was very young and only taken one trans-Atlantic flight (to the place where I was when this happened).  My parents also were not experienced travelers.  My mom booked my flight home and told me all of the information over the phone.  I showed up at the airport three hours early to check in, but the agents couldn’t even find a record of the flight I was supposed to be on!  As it would turn out my mom hadn’t realized that Milan had three airports, and I hadn’t bothered to ask which one it was, and I was at the wrong airport.  Fortunately, I was so early that they got me on a connection to Frankfurt so that I could get back across the Atlantic on time as well.  Also, the people working at check-in were just really nice, and calm, and friendly.  That was Lufthansa.  It’s been many years and many flights since then, but I’m off to Europe on the weekend and guess which airline I’ll be taking?  🙂

  44. I voted against mediation.

    As far as I can see, the OP was very fortunate to have been asked to pay a mere $500.  I don’t want to be unduly harsh, but we have to take responsibility for our mistakes.  Showing up 24 hours late was a mistake.  Whose fault was it?  It certainly was not the airline’s fault. 

  45. I’d like to be sympathetic, but–a day late?  And not even an excuse such as stranded, hospitalized, whatever?  At $250 each, I don’t think it’s so bad.

  46. You are correct – this is a no-show, and he is lucky they even were flexible enough to change this ticket with only a change fee!

  47. Last week I booked a flight using my Dad’s Skymiles on Delta to fly my brother out to meet us for a family trip.  I read the confirmation email in horror as I had booked his return four days earlier that what we had planned.  I picked up the phone, called Delta and spoke to a very nice lady.  The web site wanted to charge me a $150 change fee within 15 minutes of buying the original ticket. I told her I could not ask Dad to pay it or my brother, that it was my mistake and it would cost me $150 for being a good son.  She spoke with her supervisor, changed the ticket to the correct date, and thanked me for choosing Delta, all at no charge!

    Man, was I relieved.

  48. Culture, culture,culture. We have all been Stockholmed into  thinking the airlines deserve their extorianary fees. They do not. Just what is the cost for changing a flight? Close to nothing is my guess. Hotels, for the most part, allow 24 hour free cancellations because competition demands they do. The airlines are nothing but thieves and the public, as usual, joins in its own rip off. Did you know, since the congresspeople have been paid off by this industry , that you can not sue an airline in a state court. It’s reserved to the Federal courts. Which makes filing a real and expensive hassle. No small claims courts for these bullies. Come on folks, wake up. It’s stupid to defile ones self.

    1.  If competition demanded that airlines have no/lower change fees, then that’s what would happen. The airline business is very different from the hotel business, and much more complicated, so it’s not useful to compare the two.
      Also, as consumers, we’ve demanded that airline tickets be as cheap as possible, even if they are inflexible or have high fees, so it really does come down to our culture looking at the initial price over everything else.

    2. It isn’t just the cost of the change, it is to get people to commit and make it hurt when they have to change.  If you ever have tried to put something together for a group of people, it is a PITA and if there is a fee involved, people stick to their plans better.  The airlines never use to charge, but people flake out now more than ever, so I get why they do it.  I charge a fee for canceling, too.

  49. Good try, but no cigar. Your statement flies in the face of a market economy. Only an oligopoly like the airlines could get away with this kind of price fixing. Another factor, brought on in my view, is the god awful management of the airlines. They are as bureaucratic and calcified as any govt. bureaucracy. Sadly as long as we suffer woth the Stockholm syndrome the apologists will encourage more of th same treatment

    1. The reason that airlines are an oligopoly is because running an airline is extremely expensive and complicated – no way around that. Anyone _can_ start an airline to compete, but the barriers to entry are extremely high, which other airlines had/have to overcome as well.
      I’m not encouraging this treatment, just saying that it’s perfectly fair and rational for an airline to do so. Don’t like it? Then buy a flexible ticket, fly another airline, or don’t fly at all. You have plenty of choice.

      1. Your excuse, complicated, for running a business poorly won’t hold up for my business. How about yours? My problem is that the airlines , like many others, have stacked the deck. Yet so many of us keep coming up with inane excuses  to free them from blame. OK, no accounting for taste. I like to speak up about being stolen from. Others obviously don’t mind.


        Arthur L. Finn, Los Angeles

        1. Good thing that you run your business and the airlines run theirs then, right?
          If you’re saying that they’ve stacked the deck by charging what they want, then fine. They certainly have, because what they want to charge for anything is their business. Of course they are (mostly) responsible for their fees and policies, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with them charging what they want other than you not liking them.

  50. And YOU have no way of knowing if they had crew members to board, were carrying extra cargo, or were heavy on fuel – things NO ONE is going to tell you – making exceptions isn’t always a benefit to both parties, so you got what YOU paid for – deal with it!

  51. And they are not required to kiss your….. – that is really NOT customer service.  And since you DO NOT understand how an airline works, and when others here who clearly DO try to explain, you still feel entitled to what you weren’t.  You got what you paid for – you aren’t entitled to more just because you no longer felt like waiting for your flight to leave. 

  52. If you are a TA – SHAME ON YOU!!!!  You, more than ANYONE, would understand the rules and regulations on a ticket, especially a RESTRICTED one such as this – WOW!!!!!!!

  53. Apples to oranges babe.  We’re not talking about the FAA notifications, the changes to the manifest, the changes to the overall pricing onboard (they need to figure that VERY carefully, as only a couple seats throws a flight for profit to loss).  I worked for an airline, and you obviously only worked on computers.  We’re not talking about a Big Mac order here, we’re talking about Federal Government oversights, etc.  So not just a few keystrokes.  The change fees are put in place for the express purpose of prohibiting carte blanche changes of all the ticketed passengers onboard (in which case – NO FLIGHT is going to be profitable)

  54. Thank you – hotels don’t have the government oversight the airlines do – and EVERY  change gets scrutinized by the FAA.  Comparing any other travel service really doesn’t make sense, as they have no such restrictions or limitations.

  55. So we’ll just have a government agency standing over your shoulder and watching every move you make, and taking legally binding penalties from you when you make what they feel is a “mistake”  Yeah – that’s what airlines deal with every day – believe me when I say you CANNOT compare their business model to any other one out there 

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