Airline change fee through the roof
September 12, 2012 7:49 AM   Subscribe

$475 airline ticket change fee - really?

I need to move my mother's return flight and the travel agency is asking $475 to make the change. This is for the same class of ticket, apparently a very restrictive one. If I choose a date for which this class is unavailable, the change fee will also need to include the price difference, so it would be even more.

I have had to pay hefty change fees before, but never this bad.

The ticket consists of two legs: BA, then Croatia Airways (Boston-London-Zagreb).

I've called BA and Croatia Airways and both pointed me to the travel agency for any changes.

My question is two-fold: are these change fees standard now, and is there anything I can do to pay less? (I can hope, right?)
posted by Dragonness to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sadly, yes, this isn't too outside the normal bounds for international flights. Talk to the travel agency and see what they can do to minimize the pain. It might even be worth it to ask which flights are charging what change fee. And see whether having your mother stay in London for a night might cheapen it enough to offset a hotel (plus, "Hey, mom, I got you some time in London! Yay!").
posted by Etrigan at 7:57 AM on September 12, 2012

This doesn't sound like it's standard to the specific carrier but is more an issue with excessive fees charged by the booking agent, I think? I change international flights all the time and I have never paid over 100 euros to do so.
posted by elizardbits at 7:58 AM on September 12, 2012

That seems about right. There may be a $75 "we have to do something" change fee, plus the difference in the cost of the flight.

For example, if you got a deal for purchasing the ticket more than 21-days in advance, but the change will take place in 7 days, you lose that part of the discount, as the seat will now cost more.

Also, you're dealing with an area without a lot of competition. If you were to price a last-minute, one-way ticket for the same itinerary, it would probably cost the earth because there's only one airline servicing that route. Whereas, if you needed Dallas to Atlanta, you'd have 70 choices, and you'd have a good chance of ditching your original ticket and re-booking for less than a change charge.

Have you priced a new ticket for the same itinerary online? Or buying a whole new ticket via the airline directly? (Not mentioning a change or the existing itinerary.)

Here's Kayak and Expedia. Give it a shot.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:59 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

As stated, this is to be expected when changing international flights through a travel agency. Keep in mind that travel agencies make almost no money on booking plane tickets (since airlines generally no longer pay commissions to travel agencies); instead, the agencies make money by commissions from hotels/rental cars/etc and upcharging fees.
posted by saeculorum at 8:01 AM on September 12, 2012

I've been charged more than $200 by AA for changing one person's one-way nonstop domestic flight, so unfortunately $475 for a multi-leg international flight doesn't sound too unbelievable.
posted by phunniemee at 8:02 AM on September 12, 2012

In general - the cheaper the original ticket, the more restrictive it is and therefore the higher the change fees. The price doesn't sound outrageously ridiculous for two flights, in comparison to costs I've seen before.

And no, there's no way round it. The airline will have offered a flexible (and more expensive) ticket when you first booked, with lower change fees, and will tell you that you opted for the restricted option.
posted by Hobo at 8:06 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you. Sounds like the travel agency is tacking on their cut, then. That'll teach me to use a travel agency next time.
posted by Dragonness at 8:21 AM on September 12, 2012

I know that the travel agency I use for business would not charge additional fees for something like this. I would expect that most of the increase is due to the ticket's higher price today than when you bought it. Not only do you have to pay a penalty to change tickets, airlines also typically make you pay the difference between your original fare paid and whatever it would cost to purchase the fare on the day of the change.
posted by something something at 9:00 AM on September 12, 2012

I've had recent international flights on United that had $360 change fees, but the amount of their change fees seems to be dependent on the flight.
posted by Rash at 9:52 AM on September 12, 2012

The total change fee is:

airline change fee as outlined in the fare rules (I've seen as high as USD 200)
travel agent change fee if you used one (I've seen as high as USD 100)
fare difference

The travel agent should give you a breakdown of exactly where the fee comes from.
posted by grouse at 9:58 AM on September 12, 2012

My Air France flight cost $400 to change and I didn't use a travel agent. It was a direct flight from Paris to Houston.
posted by shoesietart at 10:34 AM on September 12, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks. The agency is telling me the penalty alone is $475, and that is if we can get the same class of seat. Otherwise, there would be an additional charge for any price difference. I will certainly ask for a breakdown though.
posted by Dragonness at 10:41 AM on September 12, 2012

Check into how much credit you would retain if you cancelled the flight all together. Sometimes a cancellation fee is less than a change fee.
posted by soelo at 11:38 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had international flight ticket changes in the past where at the end, it was near the cost of if I just booked a whole new trip rather than rebooking the existing ticket ($500 for a new ticket rather than having paid $900 to change the existing flight, which had already cost $600... just didn't bother cause I was already at the airport and assumed since it was approaching the departure date it would be even more expensive). Didn't make any sense, but ok it never makes sense. So it can be totally normal, not necessarily just a part of the travel agent's fees.
posted by peachtree at 12:14 PM on September 12, 2012

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