Delta Changes Rules, Charges Up $70 For Same Day Flight Change

Reader Will has had it with Delta Airlines. Here’s why:

I travel a lot on business. I’m on travel right now, in Orlando. Luckily for me, my business this morning was completed ahead of schedule, and as I left my vendor’s office, I phoned Delta Air Lines to move up my return flight time a few hours.

This kind of thing happens all the time; up until Delta joined the ranks of the bankrupt airlines, making a change on the day of a flight was free, assuming seats were available on the alternate flight. A while back Delta tacked on a $25 fee, which was annoying but not a show-stopper. It’s worth $25 for me to not waste half a day waiting on a flight.

Unfortunately, I’ve just discovered that Delta has changed the rules again. Now it’s a $50 fee to make a change, plus another $20 if you make the change over the phone. It’s “only” $50 if you put in for a change on Delta’s web site–but you can’t make a change on the web site if your original booking wasn’t directly through Delta. Like most corporate travelers, I’m not allowed to book directly with an airline, I have to use my company’s contracted travel agency.

I can defend a $25 fee. I’d have a hard time defending a $70 fee, and even if I could, I don’t want to. I’m not going to give Delta any more money for this flight. The original ticket, booked on Monday, was more than pricey enough.

Will is switching to AirTran. He says

“To hell with ’em. AirTran is cheaper, much more accommodating, and unlike Delta, their gate reps and stewardii don’t act like they did you a favor by showing up for work.

So long, Delta. You suck.”

In the interest of helping Will make an informed choice, we looked up some other airline’s same day flight change policies. Charging a fee for a confirmed seat is standard practice, but if you show up to the airport early enough to catch an earlier flight and there are seats available most will not charge you. US Airways seems to be the exception to the rule. Delta’s $70 fee does seem a little high:

United Airlines
American Airlines
US Airways

A Farewell To Delta [Vodkapundit]


Edit Your Comment

  1. bilge says:

    AirTran also has those cute little Boeing 717s!

  2. llcooljabe says:


  3. Freedomboy says:

    Delta means change right?

  4. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    So USAir sucks more, and AirTran sucks a little less…?
    If you’re flying for business, go with AirTran and the business class fare, then there’s no charge to change your flight(s) as necessary.

  5. Rubyredgirl says:

    These charges annoy me too. Really, you are doing them a favor. If their early flight has empty seats and you take those instead, they still have time to sell the seats on the later flight, instead of letting the flight leave half empty. I can understand a 20, 25$ charge for “processing” but anything more than that is too much.

  6. nweaver says:

    Southwest charges the price between the fares.

  7. robotprom says:

    I hate Airtran more than any other airline I’ve even flown. I used to fly LGA-ATL a couple times a month, and I would typically go with the cheapest of them. Airtran was never on time, the seats suck (even the new planes’ seats) and there was always mysterious delays.

    My new favorite airline is Allegiant, it’s like a flying Greyhound bus passenger and service wise but the seats rock.

  8. rjhiggins says:

    @robotprom: Agreed on AirTran. Obviously some people have had good luck, but to me the cheaper fares are nowhere near worth the aggravation, long lines and inattentive, uncaring personnel.

    If the change fee is important to you, Will, go ahead and switch, but you may not like the other trade-offs.

  9. Gari N. Corp says:

    I’m assuming this poor bastard has go through that hell-hole Atlanta a lot, because both of those airlines own that place, and both suffer for it.

  10. thepounder says:

    @Gari N. Corp: I had assumed the same thing. That armpit… err, airport in ATL is just a disaster to get thru. Luckily the last time I could not avoid going thru there I had just under 2 1/2 hours to get to my next terminal… it took just over 2 hours to get to that terminal. blech.

    The last time I had to pay a change fee it was on the company’s bill so I can’t say I cared one little bit.

  11. BrockBrockman says:

    Every time I’ve done this on Southwest, it’s been free. I can see them charging the difference in fare, though.

  12. mikesfree says:

    I have never had a problem doing this on american, so I always fly american

  13. philipbarrett says:

    AA charges $100 to change a ticket plus any fare differences, this includes day of travel.

  14. Notsewfast says:

    Flying from Denver, I try not to fly anything but Frontier. Awesome service, DirecTV, on time more often than many other airlines, and cheap to boot.

    The one drawback is that there is no first or business class, so when I fly back east or on longer flights, I tend to go for a bigger airline.

    But I highly recommend Frontier if its an option for you.

  15. Skiffer says:

    $70 isn’t bad for a change fee – I’ve been hit with a $100 change fees before when I re-scheduled a flight 5 minutes after booking it…
    (Booked for AM, not PM…)

    Independence Air out of DC/Dulles was the absolute best for business – no change fees to switch to an earlier flight…which is probably why they went out of business…

  16. Craig says:

    “Delta” stands for “delay” as far as I’m concerned: Don’t Ever Leave The Airport

  17. Buran says:

    @nweaver: I was going to say this — NO CHANGE FEE on Southwest. Just another reason they’re well-liked. The flight I’m taking this weekend was already changed once, fee-free (a tropical storm hit my destination, pushing back the conference I was going to). I could change it again if the latest storm causes a problem, still no fee incurred.

  18. yg17 says:

    @philipbarrett: Yep. Last time we went out of town, we were considering changing our tickets to get home a bit earlier (hotel checkout was 11 AM and the flight home was at 7 PM…poor planning on our part) and when I called, they told us it would be 100 bucks per ticket (and there were 4 of us) to change it. So naturally, we said fuck that. Luckily, we had the rental car until 5 so we just drove around the city a bit and stopped at a few places.

  19. agb says:

    @Buran: I was ALSO going to say this. If I need to fly between cities, and Southwest will take me there, I don’t even look at other airlines.

  20. nweaver says:

    Guys, if you have a full fare ticket, there are no change fees on any airline that I know of.

  21. crnk says:

    That was a totally different type of change than this story. And, every single airline will do that in the same situation. But nobody, including WN, will let you change a discount coach ticket by a week for free because you don’t want to go at that moment.

    And for everyone saying that $70 to $100 or more for a change fee while they are on business needs to look at some information. If I’m billing at $75 an hour, then saving an hour of my client’s time has an intrinsic value of the same as the flight change fee. Thus, spending $75 for a 3 hour time savings should be a no brainer….and even more so if you’re just driving around town instead of working.
    PS…for those of you with no concept of money or business practices…you usually bill at a rate of about 3x your hourly rate.

  22. Buran says:

    @crnk: I don’t see any such same-day restriction. Here are the tidbits from Southwest’s help on changing trips:

    # Things you need to know prior to changing your itinerary:

    * Changes will apply to all passengers in the reservation.
    * Changing your itinerary may result in a higher fare.
    * You may be required to pay a higher fare on all segments in your itinerary even if you only made changes to one segment.
    * Any changes you make will apply to all Passengers in your itinerary.
    * Changing your itinerary is subject to availability at the time of change.
    * Some flights and fares that were available when you booked your original itinerary may no longer be available.

    It looks like you probably would have to do it before you check in, but I seem to remember seeing the “change itinerary” link there the day of flights in the past. If I remember, I can look for it on Friday.

    But it looks like Southwest is an exception to your ‘every single airline’ rule.

  23. Buran says:

    @BrockBrockman: They do. If your ticket is cheaper post-change, you get the difference to spend on a future ticket. If it’s a full-fare refundable ticket, you can have the money refunded to your card.

    No fee just for the change, though.

  24. b612markt says:

    When I fly I prepare for the worst service ever and am usually pleasantly surprised. I try to fly SWA and AA as often as possible, but take other carriers now and then. The halcyon days of luxury air travel are over for us coach-class travelers. With the price of fuel and the fare wars, they’ll try to squeeze out every penny from your wallet – this $70 fee isn’t shocking at all, really.

  25. 2Legit2Quit says:

    Oh MAN! I do love AirTran. Honestly, those who have never checked ’em out, need a cheap flight, and they have a connection available go with ’em. The seats are comfortable, the staff is nice, and they’re just B+ all around… (No airliner in the USA gets an A in my book sorry)

    Though I don’t remember flying Delta ever, I can recall my hatred for US Airways. UGH. Fuck you!

  26. mikesfree says:


    Maybe I have been given exceptional treatment, because I havent ever had to pay, I am talking about flying standby earlier though.

  27. lmbrownmail says:

    I’ve flown AA quite a bit, They don’t charge for a same-day change if you go stand-by. And if you’re stand-by for an earlier flight and you can’t get on you still have your confirmed seat on your original flight.

    They do charge if you want a confirmed seat on the flight to which you wish to change.

    I’ve always done stand-by and I’ve always made the earlier flight.

  28. n301dp says:

    I sent in a tip a few months ago about something similarly fishy at Northwest (Corporate Motto: We’re Not Happy Until You’re Not Happy).

    As of April it now costs $25 to space-available stand-by on any Northwest flight within the United States. This is an unconfirmed standby that only gets charged if you make it on the flight. I believe Northwest and USAirways are the only two airlines that practice this.

  29. jnachod says:

    how does southwest airlines make a profit without having to charge these stupid kinds of fees ?

  30. Brad2723 says:

    For a same day departure: show up at the airport early. Head straight to the gate of the flight you want, skip the ticket counter, and ask if they will let you go standby at no additional charge.
    This has worked for me in the past. If they say no, no big deal, you’ll just be spending a little more time in the airport. This strategy is most likely to work when the flight you are originally scheduled for is sold out.

  31. GrandGouda says:

    @THEPOUNDER AT 09/12/07 05:35 PM

    @Gari N. Corp: “it took just over 2 hours to get to that terminal. blech.” What did you do, crawl on your hands and knees backwards through the connecting halls? I’ve flown over 30 trips the last three years, and every one of them connected in ATL. The longest it’s ever taken me to get from one terminal to another is about 15 minutes. And that’s if I walk and skip the subway/tram.

  32. anams0184 says:

    I’m an assistant here in Houston and we use a Corporate Travel Agency too…there are many times when we have meetings that end early and therefore the participants want to fly out of Houston and get home earlier. I have dealt with many many many different airlines with having to change flight times and have to say that SWA and Continental are the best in my book for this. SWA will allow you to change your flight times day of if there is room on an earlier flight and Continental will do the same too usually with a small fee and sometimes with no fee at all. On a personal use for myself I recommend SWA if you dont have a long flight(like Houston to Dallas)…its a 30min flight and theres usually always room on every flight you can always go standby if you’re already at the airport and just dont wanna wait around.

  33. Buran says:

    @MaxPayne3476: Ah yes… ex-Valujet. The airline that put hazardous oxygen canisters in the hold, started a fire, and sent a plane straight into the Everglades.

  34. Joe Hass says:

    FWIW, here’s what a Southwest gate agent told me:

    If you are willing to go unconfirmed standby, there’s no charge. That being said, you wind up at the absolute bottom of the standby list (even behind non-revs), and you will board last. If you want to do a flight change (where you’re guaranteed a seat on a different flight), they’ll charge you the difference between your fare and the unrestricted fare. That being said, if it’s in the airline’s best interest to get you on an earlier flight (e.g., oversold flight, bad weather), they’ll waive the charge (and have the ability to do so without supervisor approval).

    To piggy back on N301DP, Northwest now does charge $25 per passenger to change flights day of if you’re not an elite customer. However, my mom (who is Silver Elite) told me she’s never seen it collected at the gate. What this means: if you’re going to try to same-day switch flights at NW, don’t make the change at check-in. Go to the gate you want to try to get on, and make your case there.

  35. magus_melchior says:

    @Freedomboy: More like “difference”. Note that it can be negative, so always subtract the first number from the second.

  36. cccdude says:

    Southwest is as greedy as any of them. If you want to switch flights for your own convenience, then you must pay full fare. If you purchased one of their discounted fares, the nice gate agent will be happy to put you on an alternate flight as soon as you cough up the difference between what you paid and the price of their unrestricted ticket. The kicker is that they won’t let you swap flights even if your original flight is overbooked AND there are open seats on the earlier flight.

  37. n301dp says:

    @Joe Hass
    You are partially correct. The “helpful” self-service kiosk has you swipe your credit card to be added to the standby list. When I flew I didn’t even think to ask at the gate. I’m now a Silver Elite so it doesn’t make a difference but I’m going to rue Feb. 29th of 2008 when it runs out :-D.

  38. RHL592 says:

    The fee is now up to $120. Here’s the kicker: It’s non-refundable. I was actually stupid enough to bring myself to pay the $120 fee to change the flight (didn’t really have any choice at the time) and the flight got canceled. Do you think they refunded my money? Hells no. I’m STILL in the process of calling everyday to fight for a refund.

    Best part: That was my honeymoon flight. They don’t care though. They have no souls.