Good To Know: How to Take Advantage of a Schedule Change on your Flight

If you are like most people, you probably book your flights 3+ months out for any type of big trip or vacation. If you are using miles, you might even book earlier, as in my experience the more time I give myself to find a flight using miles, the more likely I’m able to get the flights I want for free. However, the downside (or upside to some) of booking early is there is a greater chance of a schedule change for your flight.

In some cases, the schedule change might actually benefit you. If you’re in no rush to get to your destination, an extra hour to sleep in and avoid that 6am flight sounds lovely. Unfortunately, I’ve had more bad schedules changes than good ones but here are two key takeaways to remember when dealing with a schedule change, especially ones not in your favor.

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1) The Ability to Switch to a Better Flight 

When you purchase a flight, your overall objective might be to secure the cheapest flight so you agree to take a flight that maybe gets in later in the day after dinnertime even though you’d really prefer to get there mid-afternoon so you can enjoy a little time on the beach. Sp you booked the cheaper flight that gets in later about 5 months ago but guess what – you just got an email from the airline that now you will arrive about an hour later. It’s time to make this schedule change go from a negative to a positive by asking the airline to schedule you on the best flight for you to your destination.

I actually had this exact issue happen to me for our flight to Alaska last month. We were initially booked on a 12pm flight (using miles) on United leaving JFK that connected in San Francisco to a flight to Anchorage that would get us in around 7pm.  I got a notification that the San Francisco to Anchorage leg changed to two hours later, now causing a 3.5 hour layover and an arrival in Anchorage after 9pm. We were meeting friends for dinner so this was not going to work.

I wanted to get to Anchorage even earlier and I saw a flight from LGA that connected  in Chicago that would get us in to Anchorage at 1:22pm but there was no award availability. Some people would stop here and not bother calling but I’m here to tell you it didn’t matter there was no award availability. I simply called United and explained the new flight times from San Francisco to Anchorage didn’t work for us as I had a meeting “I needed to be at” by 8pm so I needed to get to Anchorage by 7pm to make this “meeting”.

Instead of letting the representative suggest a replacement flight for me, I told him I researched other flights and I would like the LGA-ORD-ANC flight and he had no issues putting us on it as he was manually able to open award availability for it. When we first booked our flights, that specific flight was not available on miles but the San Francisco option was so we chose that even though our goal was to get to Anchorage as early as possible. The schedule change by United actually allowed us to switch to a better flight for us (though due to a bunch of other issues we actually didn’t fly this route…that’s the next blog post).

2) The Ability to Cancel Your Flight for Free

Sometimes the schedule change is so great it doesn’t make sense to take the trip anymore, especially if its a short trip. Since the airline didn’t hold up its end of the bargain with the scheduled flight times you booked, you can request a free refund for your flight, even if its on a non-refundable ticket. For example, your return flight was moved up two hours but now you can’t make a “scheduled lunch with a client” so you can explain that to the agent and tell them you need to cancel the flight as a result. They should waive the $150 or $200 cancellation fee and put the money right back on your credit card.

You can also take this approach to cancel a flight that you booked that you don’t want to take anymore. This actually happened to me as I booked Andrea and myself a weekend getaway last December to Miami when I saw a cheap fare under $200 but as the trip was drawing closer, we both didn’t want to go anymore. She was working a lot and we wanted to enjoy the Christmas season at home together. Looking for a way out of this flight, I looked at the reservation and noticed the return flight changed to arrive 25 minutes later than scheduled. 

I had my ticket (no pun intended) to cancel this flight for free. I simply called up Delta and explained arriving any later than initially scheduled would jeopardize an onward connection I had on another separate ticket so I needed to cancel this flight. They offered to put me on an earlier flight but I told them I had changed to an earlier flight myself separately, so they proceeded to cancel our flights for free! I might have stretched the truth about an onward connection that I would miss but it allowed me to get out of a non-refundable ticket for free.

One BIG PIECE of Advice – H.U.C.A

For a small time change in the flight of say under 20 minutes, it might be tough to convince an agent that you need to be switched to the earlier/later flight. Even if its a legitimate change of several hours some agents might refuse to change it still. Don’t let that discourage you. Follow the mantra of H.U.C.A. (hang up, call again) and you might get an agent who is more sympathetic about you being late to that all important “business meeting”. I’ve found saying you will miss something business related, family related or missing another flight that you booked on a separate ticket are the easiest ways to convince an agent why the schedule change doesn’t work for you and you need to cancel/change flights.

Leave me any questions in the comments!

 

 

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Good To Know: Chase Freedom Accounts Now Shows Rewards Earned Per Transaction!

One of the nice features of a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred is that when you log into your online account and click on an individual transaction, you can easily tell how many Ultimate Rewards you earned for that transaction such as my parking expense below.

Glad to see I got 2x on my parking expenses in Canada

Glad to see I got 2x on my parking expenses in Canada

It was an easy way to verify you were correctly earning 2x points on all dining and travel expenses. However for a long time, this functionality on the Chase Freedom was not available. I’m glad to report  (though I’m not quite sure when the change was made)  this functionality now exists for Chase Freedom cardholders!

Each quarter the Chase Freedom card offers a different 5% bonus category but it is capped at $1,500 of spending in that category to earn the full 5%. After $1,500 it reverts back to 1% so it is important to track your spending by category if you wanted to max out the $1,500 without going over. The old way to track this was either waiting for your month end statement to see what was coded to the bonus categories or to use Chase Blueprint, a free service that tracked your spending in predefined categories.

Now though you can simply log on into your Freedom account and view the rewards earned per transaction.  I logged into my Chase Freedom account and expanded the view on three transactions that should qualify for 5x points as they were all restaurants.

5x Points Earned as Expected

5x Points Earned as Expected

As you can see, it now shows how many points I’ve earned on a transaction level and I’m no longer forced to wait for my month end statement or to use Chase Blueprint.

Kudos to Chase for rolling out this feature to Freedom cardholders! Now start using this to track the 5x categories for Q3, which is gas stations and Kohl’s.

P.S. While I am probably Chipotle’s biggest fan, I did not spend $366.25 on myself at Chipotle. Give me a few weeks though and I might come close to that…

Good To Know: How Changing Your Location Can Result in Cheaper Airfare

Some of the most common questions I’m asked are “when should I buy a flight” or “do you think this is a good price for this flight” and I never have a perfect answer. Airfare pricing is confusing – it changes up to 3x daily, it varies for no discernible reason to us outsiders as it is based on secret algorithms from the airlines and if someone tells you they know the best time to find the lowest price for a flight, they are lying to you (ya that whole 3pm on Tuesday is a myth).

However, a friend forwarded me an interesting article over at Map Happy about how changing where it appears you buy the ticket from can drastically lower the price of your flight. This works best for certain international flights and domestic flights within a different country (not the US). Let me explain.

When most people go to check prices for a flight, they might use popular sites like Kayak, Orbitz, Google ITA or even the airline’s own website. The one common denominator with all those sites is that it assumes you are purchasing the ticket from the US – as in your current, physical location is in the US when purchasing the flight.  That is obviously most likely true but what the author of the article pointed out is by tricking the computer into thinking you are in a different country, you might be able to get a lower price on the SAME EXACT flight.

I’ll let you click through to the article for more details but the author cites searching for a domestic flight within Colombia on the standard sites with a US-centric approach and then searching Google ITA by changing her location to Colombia. The US-centric approach produced an Avianca flight costing $137 while when searching Google ITA while appearing to be in Colombia, the price changed to 116,280 pesos (it prices in pesos since it thinks your in Colombia) which converted to USD is only $61.59! That’s a difference of $75.41 –  Over a 55% savings!!

The one problem with Google ITA is you can’t actually book the flights through them. The author recommends going to the airline’s website at this point that had the cheapest flight and finding the menu or drop down when you can select the location you used earlier (in this case Colombia). From there, she was basically able to get the same price on the flight and save herself a ton of money for the same exact flight!

Changing your location on LAN's website for example

Changing your location on LAN’s website for example

Here are some tips to make this work for you:

  • Use Google Chrome as your web browser and use the translate feature if the website is not in English
  • Always choose the country of the flight you are searching for (i.g. searching for Brazil flights? Choose Brazil as your location)
  • Remember this works best for domestic flights within a different country (sorry but not the US)
  • Always use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees as these sites will bill your credit card in pesos or whatever the local currency is

(H/T to Dale for sharing)

Good To Know: Do Not Open a Frequent Flyer Account for Your Cello

This is actually a bit of old news but a musician and his cello were kicked out of the Delta SkyMiles program. Yes, this musician, Lynn Harrell, opened a frequent flyer account for his cello as he always booked a separate seat for his cello and earned several hundred thousands miles. That’s easily worth a few round trip flights in business to Europe or a ton of domestic flights – I get why he did it.

However, Delta apparently frowned upon that and closed not only the cello’s account but also Lynn’s account as well. It’s safe to say he was not happy.

Stephen Colbert cover this in a pretty funny piece featuring one of the premier points  and miles blogger, Gary Leff, from View From the Wing. Check out Colbert’s piece here.

Cello1

I hope everyone has learned a valuable lesson from this – do not open a frequent flyer account for your favorite wooden instrument.

**PointsCentric is on vacation, using his points and miles, without access to wifi and thus, cannot respond to emails or comments. Please enjoy this run of scheduled posts – I will respond to all email and approved comments upon my return. Thanks!**