Changing Your Ticket

Changing Your Ticket

July 21, 2009

You have your ticket, your trip is all set, maybe you are already traveling…and your plans change.  What do you do about changing your ticket?

Your Exito agent will be happy to help you with your changes, but there are some important things to know in advance.

First, most (but not all) tickets can be changed for some kind of a fee as long as you do so before the date you are scheduled to travel.  The one thing that you must not do is simply not show up at the airport.  If you no-show for your flight, your ticket is canceled completely.  The airline keeps your money, and you are out of luck.  If you cannot travel as scheduled, it is imperative that you contact either Exito or the airline at least 24 hours prior to your scheduled departure time, in order to cancel and, if necessary, rebook.

Second, there is a big difference between changing a ticket before you travel and changing a ticket after travel has begun.  If you change a ticket prior to departure, from the airline’s point of view you are canceling completely and starting all over.  Your fare will be recalculated based on your new dates and routing.  So in addition to the change fee, there will probably also be a difference in fare to be paid.

Third, when we speak of changing the return portion of a ticket, generally this refers to changing the return date only.   With most tickets, you can change the return date but not the routing.  The routing is set in stone.  There are occasions when the rules may permit you to reroute a ticket, but it is both very unusual and very expensive.

Changing the return date can range from fairly reasonable to extremely expensive.  It all depends the change fee charged by the airline, and whether  space is available on the flight at the same fare level as your ticket.

The concept of differing fare levels is not terribly intuitive, but makes sense when you think about it from the airline’s point of view.   Their goal is to sell every single seat on every flight that goes out.  If a seat goes out empty, that is money they did not make.  Naturally they would like to sell every seat for the highest possible price.  But it’s also better to sell a seat at a lower price than to have the seat remain empty (some money is better than no money).  So airlines have entire departments who try to predict how many people will be willing to pay a lot of money to be on a certain flight, versus how many people will refuse to fly if the price is too high.

They offer a variety of fares on flights, designed to attract different types of travelers.  And they will change the number of seats available at a certain fare level, depending on how strong demand is for a flight.  If a flight is selling very well, they may not offer any seats at the lower fare levels at all.

So, in order to change your return date without incurring a difference in fare, there has to be space available at the same fare level as you originally paid.  If there is space at the same fare level, you pay the change fee but nothing else.  If the flight is already sold out for that fare level, then you would have to pay the difference in fare between the fare you paid, and the lowest fare that is currently available on that flight.

The best way to avoid extra fees (besides not changing your ticket at all) is to change your date as far in advance as possible.   You are more likely to get the date you want if you rebook as soon as you are certain of your new return date.

You can also avoid unpleasant surprises by reading the change and cancellation section of your Exito confirmation before you purchase your ticket.  Your Exito agent will be happy to go over the change fees for your particular itinerary.

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