How An Airline’s Flight Schedule Change Can Open Opportunities For A Better Flight

Jun 14, 2021, 6:10 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 10:02 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Flight times change all the time as airlines constantly tweak schedules to get the most bang for their buck. Those changes can throw a big wrench into your travel plans, but travel experts said you can also use them to snag much better flights.

Last summer, the pandemic left only 30% to 40% of flights operating as scheduled. Today, that number is closer to 90/95% said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights.

“That’s still 5% to 10%, sometimes a higher percentage of flights that are going to be changed in advance,” he explained. “And that likelihood is much greater when you’re talking about international flights.”

By law, you are entitled to a full cash refund if a schedule change is significant. But what counts as significant?

In United’s case, a change by 30 minutes is enough to be considered significant. For JetBlue and Alaska Airlines, it’s 60 minutes, and for Delta flights, it’s 90 minutes, while American says four hours is long enough to be considered significant.

Other changes that qualify as significant include a route change in your arrival or destination airport, or if your non-stop ticket suddenly grows a connecting flight.

But you are not legally obligated to take the refund from the airline, and Keyes said this is where opportunities open up.

“They’re (airlines) trying to do whatever they can to make sure that you don’t exercise that right,” explained Keyes. “And so, they’re actually much more willing to work with you to switch flights to make sure to keep you as a customer. But you must proactively call them up and ask to make these changes. They won’t necessarily mention it.”

Keyes said if your flight gets changed, your first move is to find a new flight with the same airline or a partner airline. Use booking sites like Google Flights, Kayak or ExpertFlyer.

“Ignore the fares, just purely look on the schedule,” advised Keyes.

Step two: Call the airline and let them know about this new flight.

“Say, ‘Hey, this new schedule that you gave me is not going to work. Can you switch me to this other flight that is better for me?’” said Keyes. “That gives you a lot of leverage to be able to now bargain for a better flight.”

A better flight could mean snagging a flight with a 10:00 am departure instead of 6:00 am. Or it could be taking off on Monday night instead of waiting for the Tuesday flight you originally booked because it was half-the-cost. Or now, you have found a non-stop ticket, instead of the original flight with tons of connections.

If the airline rep says no, Keyes’ advice is to hang up and call again. Airlines have hundreds of agents, each with discretion.

“I would say the odds are very, very good that the next agent will grant that request,” he said. “And the reason why I know is because I’ve done it dozens and dozens of times.”

The airlines bristle at the thought of giving out refunds for schedule changes, so overall, they are willing to ignore fare differences and let you switch to a new flight for free. The thing is: you must ask, maybe even a couple of times.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

A bus driver fills up at a gas station in Brooklyn on August 11, 2022 in New York City. While fuel ...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Ways you can save money at the gas pump

Inflation remains high for several reasons and one of the biggest is tied to gas prices. But you can bring down the price you pay with some relatively simple changes in your driving habits.
2 days ago
KSL’s Matt Gephardt fuels up his minivan to determine how much gas Google Maps’ eco-friendly ro...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Can Google’s eco-friendly routes really save you gas money?

Gas prices have edged down from their record highs, but they are still a far cry from being affordable for many Utah families. So, when Google rolled out a new feature for its Maps navigation app that says it can save you money on gas by using suggested eco-friendly routes, the KSL Investigators decided to put it to the test.
3 days ago
FILE: Back-to-school shopping (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Saving $ on back-to-school supplies with inflation

With inflation running amok this year, parents are tackling big price hikes on top of the stress. Fortunately, there are ways they can still save money.
6 days ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

KSL Investigators help bank customer regain access to his money after fraud incident

KSL Investigators help a fraud victim gain access to his bank account after nearly a year of being locked out.
9 days ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

What are the rules for airline travel credits?

After canceling a beach vacation to Hawaii, a Utah woman believes she has $1,400 in flight credits. Ongoing flight cancellations have plagued the summer travel season, and a lot of travelers are being made whole with flight credits rather than refunds.
10 days ago
FILE PHOTO - Shown are a smartphone and computer....
Matt Gephardt

Can a company pull the rebate runaround?

When a West Valley City woman took up Verizon on a rebate offer to upgrade but could not get the rebate, she contacted the KSL Investigators for help.
16 days ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
How An Airline’s Flight Schedule Change Can Open Opportunities For A Better Flight