Best and Worst Airlines for Flight Change Fees
There’s nothing like the anticipation of an upcoming trip. Planning your itinerary, imagining all the fun things you’ll do, counting the days until takeoff…
…and then suddenly your plans change. Everything comes crashing down as you scramble to salvage your trip without losing all the money you already put down on flights. But how can you avoid it? It takes months to plan a trip – so if something comes up between the time you booked and when it’s time to go, it seems like there’s nothing that can be done.
Flight Change Fees: Here’s What You Need To Know
But there is something that can be done! Experienced air travellers know that if you do a little research before you fly, you can ensure that you choose the best airlines for flight change fees. It may not always be easy to choose an airline based on this criteria (especially if you’re traveling to a remote destination), but the more options you have and the more you know ahead of time, the better you can minimise your risk of expensive fees.
British Airways takes the first place prize because they don’t charge a fee at all for a flight change – as long as you make the change online and not with the help of an agent in person or over the phone.*
Air France’s fees are a bit more complex, but their overall fees are low enough to warrant them second place. In general, you’ll pay £15-£25 for a flight change on Air France. Here’s the breakdown:
If the ticket was issued by AF/KL/DL, there’s a £15-£20 charge for the flight change.
If the ticket was issued by a travel agent or online agency, you’ll pay around £25 for the flight change.
If you have an AF-057 ticket, the flight change is free (if you change the flight online).
Turkish Airlines also has a more complex fee system, but the amount you could be charged hovers at a reasonable 20-40 Euro. Here’s the breakdown:
If you purchased an economy ticket and your flight is a short or medium-haul international flight, you’ll pay 20 Euro for the flight change.
If you purchased an economy ticket and your flight is a long-haul international flight, you’ll pay 40 Euro for the flight change.
If you purchased an economy ticket and your original flight was longer than the new one, you’ll pay 20 Euro for the flight change.
If you purchased a business class ticket and your original flight was longer than the new one, you’ll pay 40 Euro for the flight change.
If you change your flight less than 12 hours before departure, you’ll pay a fine of 30% of your fare.
SAS group is ranked a little lower because their language is vague, although their quoted fee is relatively low. Here’s how SAS describes the fee on their website: “Most tickets purchased on flysas.com can be rebooked for €60 per person per segment within Europe.”
So, most of the time you’ll pay 60 Euro (circa £50), but there’s no way to tell from their website what makes the exception.
Austrian Airlines’ fees vary based on the issuing country. This ranges from free to £60. For example, it’s free to rebook tickets that were issued in Canada, the U.S., and much of Europe. View this chart for the detailed fee list, sorted by country.
Norwegian Air Shuttle is the first airline on this list to break into the triple digits for flight change fees. The regular flight change fee is £45 and the long distance flight change for U.S. and Thailand is £100.
Air Berlin has the most complex fee structure yet, separating their flights into zones with the fees ranging from £25 to £250. Here’s the breakdown:
Zone 1 – There’s a fee of 75 Euro to change the following flights: from Germany domestic and Spanish domestic to Germany domestic and Spanish domestic
Zone 2 – There’s a fee of 75 Euro to change the following flights: from Germany, Austria, or Switzerland to Europe (except Zone 3) and Russia
Zone 3 – There’s a fee of 75 Euro to change the following flights: from Germany, Austria, or Switzerland to Azores, Canaries, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Madeira, North Africa, Turkey
Zone 4 (Economy)- There’s a fee of 130 Euro to change the following flights: from Europe to Africa and Middle East (except Zone 3), Asia-Pacific, North/Central/South America, Caribbean
Zone 4 (Business Class) – There’s a fee of 240 Euro to change the following flights: from Europe to Africa and Middle East (except Zone 3), Asia-Pacific, North/Central/South America, Caribbean
Zone 4 (flights starting from the U.S., economy) – $275 flight change fee
Zone 4 (flights starting from the U.S., business class) – $350 flight change fee
Finnair, like SAS, keeps their flight change fee description vague: “Change fee depends on your ticket fare type. If you have a changeable ticket the change fee is between $0-$400.”
So, your fee could be nothing…or it could be a whopping $400! Before flying Finnair, it might be best to contact them to ask about fees for the type of ticket you’re thinking of purchasing.
Lufthansa gets last place for being both vague and expensive about their flight change fee. If you’re flying from the U.S., it can cost you $250-$1,000 to change your flights. Lufthansa’s website doesn’t make it as clear to see how much the flight change can be when traveling to and from other countries, but you could search for your country individually on their website or contact one of their agents to get an idea of the potential fees prior to booking.
Other popular airlines such as Alitalia, KLM, Swiss International Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic don’t specify the fee amounts. They require that you log in or contact a service agent to find out the specific fee, which means it would be best to contact an agent to inquire about potential fees prior to booking your flights.
*Note: Fees mentioned in this post do not include fees you may be charged for “reissuing” a new ticket when you rebook – or the difference you may be charged if the new ticket is more expensive than the original ticket. Another thing to keep in mind is that almost every airline charges yet another fee if you change your flight with the help of an agent over the phone or at the airport. If you can, it’s best to always change your flight online.
Flight delays happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept them. You may be entitled to as much as £530 in compensation if your flight was delayed, cancelled or overbooked within the last three years.