There are always times when we wish we’d booked a different flight. Maybe you want to get home earlier, or you need to spend a few more hours visiting a client. Sometimes changing a flight can mean earning more miles or a better chance at an upgrade. Or you just booked the cheapest flight and hoped to change it later. I’ve explained several reasons why you should request a same day change before. But the rules for each airline vary quite a bit. I’ve attempted to consolidate these rules for six of the biggest carriers in the United States.
Quick vocabulary lesson:
- Same day change = when the agent confirms your change onto another flight. In most cases you no longer have a reservation for your original flight.
- Standby = when there isn’t availability to confirm a change. Instead, your request is placed in a queue and may be processed if there are empty seats remaining on the flight. Your reservation for the original flight remains intact until this standby clears.
Note that same day change and standby rules usually do not extend to long-haul international flights, such as New York to London, although American Airlines has tested them. Shorter international flights, such as to Canada or the Caribbean, may still be eligible.
I’m limiting the focus of this post to domestic routes within the United States. If you have questions about an international itinerary, I recommend you contact the airline directly.
Summary of Same Day Change Fees
This table should help those just looking for information on fees, but read on for the specifics of how to request a same day change or standby. Not all fees will apply to all customers depending on your elite status or fare class. Often a confirmed change can be made on the phone or online, but standby requests must be made at the airport.
|Airline||Same Day Change Fee||Standby Fee|
|Delta Air Lines||$50||$50|
Southwest Airlines is listed as “not applicable” because they don’t have a true policy for a same-day change. These requests are subject to their standard policy on changing flights at any time before departure, which is discussed below.
Same Day Change Rules by Airline
I’ve tried to simplify the rules for same day changes into a single table. Be sure to read the detailed explanations below for each airline if something doesn’t make sense, or ask a question in the comments. The table is mostly to provide a quick insight into how different programs compare in their same day change rules. Same day standby policies are not included in the table, but I do explain some of their nuances for each airline in the text that follows.
|Airline||Same Day?||Before or After Original Flight?||When to Request?||Different Routing?|
|Alaska Airlines||Usually||Before or after||6 hr before new flight (or 10 PM day before)||No|
|American Airlines||Yes||Before or after||24 hours before original flight||No|
|Delta Air Lines||Yes||Usually before; some elites can leave after||24 hours before original flight||Yes (but not nonstop)|
|JetBlue Airways||Usually||Before||After midnight on day of departure||No|
|Southwest Airlines||No||N/A||Any time||Yes|
|United Airlines||No||Before or after||24 hours before both original and new flights||Yes|
Alaska Airlines charges a $25 fee for a same day confirmed change and no fee for a standby request. Although these fees are low, the rules behind them are much more complicated than for other airlines.
Same day change requests can only be made for travel between the same cities, including the same connection points. Co-terminal changes to other airports in the same city are not allowed. The $25 change fee is waived for travelers with refundable economy class fares (Y and Z) or first class fares (A, D, and F) and customers with MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K status.
The new flight must be on the same calendar day with one exception: if your original flight departs between midnight and 3:59 AM, you may change to a flight that leaves as early as 10 PM on the previous day. A request for a same day change can be made up to 6 hours before departure of the new flight (not the original flight). However, all elite members can take advantage of another exception and request a change beginning at 10 PM the day before departure of the original flight.
Standby eligibility is extremely limited. Only customers in refundable economy class fares (Y and Z) or first class fares (A, D, and F), customers with MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K status in any fare class, or customers on shuttle flights are eligible for standby on an earlier flight.
American Airlines charges a $75 fee for a same day confirmed change or a standby request. The fee for a confirmed change is waived for Executive Platinum members only, but the fee for a standby request is waived for a much larger group of travelers that includes all elite members and customers with full fare tickets.
Same day changes can only be made within 24 hours of the new departure time — not the original departure time (see FlyerGuide and the comments for confirmation). The new flight can be earlier or later than the original flight as long as it’s on the same calendar day.
Also, the routing of the new itinerary must be the same, including the origin and destination airports (no co-terminals allowed in the same city). There must be availability in the “E” fare class, which is reserved for same day changes — find this under “Awards & Upgrades” when using ExpertFlyer. Cross-reference this with availability in the “A” fare class if you’re trying to improve your chances at an upgrade.
There is a $75 charge for standby requests that must be paid in advance, but the fee is refunded if the standby doesn’t clear. Unlike the same day change, however, my interpretation of the rules is that customers with elite status may be re-routed to a different co-terminal in the same city.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines charges a $50 fee for a same day confirmed change or a standby request. Like American, it charges the $50 standby fee in advance, and then refunds it if the request is not successful. Fees are waived for Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion members.
Note that Basic Economy fares booked in the “E” class are never eligible for same day confirmed changes or standby requests regardless of elite status. You should receive a pop-up warning of the limitations on Basic Economy fares when booking them on Delta’s website.
Same day confirmed changes for most economy class fares can only be made if there is availability in the same fare class, although flexible fares may already allow changes without a fee. Premium fares in the front cabin can be changed to any flight with an empty premium seat. Unfortunately, rules prevent changing from a connecting flight to a non-stop option.
Standby requests can be made beginning 24 hours before departure of the original flight, but the new flight must be on the same calendar day. Worth noting is that Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion members may standby for a flight after their original departure. Silver Medallion members and those with no status can only standby for an earlier flight.
JetBlue Airways charges a $50 fee for a same day confirmed change and no fee to travel standby on an earlier flight. The $50 change fee is waived for customer who purchase a Blue Flex fare (it still applies to Mint fares).
Confirmed changes to a new flight must be requested after midnight on the day of the original flight, and the new flight must also occur on the same calendar day. Same day changes are not available for cities with only one flight that day.
Standby requests may only be made for one flight before the originally scheduled flight and must be made at the airport. If the city has only one flight that day, a standby request can be made for the last flight of the previous day. Travelers with Mint fares may be downgraded to the economy class cabin.
Southwest Airlines charges no fees for a same day change or standby request. This is because it already has no fees to change or cancel tickets. However, the total cost to change a flight could actually be more expensive as a result.
Confirmed changes to a new flight require you to pay the difference in fare (or receive a refund if you choose a cheaper flight). This is not unusual. Many carriers allow you to change to a different flight by canceling and rebooking your ticket, paying the difference in fare. The only difference is that Southwest doesn’t have a fee for this; on other carriers you may or may not pay a fee depending on the fare class.
What’s unfortunate is that flights often become much more expensive up to and including the day of departure. If you’re making a change far in advance, then Southwest is probably a cheaper option since there may be little difference in fare and no fees. If you’re making the change close to departure, then the difference in fare could be several hundred dollars — a costly change even without a fee.
Standby requests to an earlier flight do not usually require any additional payment. However, they can only be requested at the airport on the same day of travel. In addition, travelers with the cheapest “Wanna Get Away” fares must first buy up to an “Anytime” fare.
United Airlines charges a $75 fee whether you request a same day confirmed change or a standby on an earlier flight. However, the fee will only be charged if your standby is successful. Members with Premier Gold, Platinum, or 1K status do not have to pay this fee.
A same day confirmed change requires availability in the fare class originally booked. The difference in price will be added to the change fee if you choose to book a different fare (because your original fare class is not available). The change must be requested within 24 hours before departure of both the original flight and the new flight. Travel must be between the same two cities, but different connection points are permitted.