Free Flight Changes and Cancellations Have Changed the Way I Book

Last updated on May 1, 2024

Posted on May 1, 2024

Confession time: Pre-COVID, booking a flight sent shivers down my spine. The fear of a life event colliding with a non-refundable ticket loomed large. Needing to reschedule a work trip due to a sudden client meeting or a family emergency popping up meant facing hefty change fees or losing the entire ticket price. It created a travel booking anxiety that honestly took the fun out of planning a trip.

But during COVID things changed, airlines started to eliminate change and cancellation fees. As the post-COVID travel fears dropped, airlines were struggling to fill their flight schedules due to the uncertainty. When airlines dropped their change fees, they relieved a lot of stress not only from themselves but from passengers who could more easily change their travel with changing COVID testing restrictions.

New Normal: Early Booking with Confidence

Photo by Blake Guidry

We all talked about the “new normal” in the post-COVID world. And for flight changes, I loved this “new normal.” At first, it felt like a temporary measure to deal with the uncertainty of the times. But here's the thing: it changed my whole way of thinking about booking flights.

Now, I'm an early-booking convert. I snag those deals months in advance, knowing I can easily adjust my travel plans without the financial penalty. This newfound flexibility has opened doors. Thinking about a weekend getaway to a charming coastal town in Maine in the fall? I can check flight prices for the next few months and pounce on a sale in February, secure in the knowledge that if a family reunion gets scheduled for that same weekend, I can change it. Suddenly, travel isn't a rigid commitment, but a fluid possibility.

Airlines Can Win Too

Photo by Chris Leipelt

But here's the thing, free changes and cancellations aren't just good for travelers. Airlines benefit too. Think about it: how many times have you seen empty seats on a plane? With flexible booking, those seats become more likely to be filled. Someone might initially book a non-peak day flight, but with the ability to change for free, they might switch to a more convenient time that was initially more expensive. This allows airlines to optimize their pricing and potentially capture more revenue they might have otherwise lost. It's a win-win!

Additionally, if you're still booking those non-refundable (but changeable) tickets. All that money still gets locked up at the airline as a credit that you can use anytime, anywhere. This is why I've focused more on bigger airlines to buy my tickets, I know that if my plans change I'll use that money towards another ticket sooner rather than later. Airlines don't care if you take a flight or not, they care that you are spending your money into the airline.

The Future of Flights

Photo by Levi Ventura

Of course, there are considerations. Airlines might need to adjust pricing structures to account for the flexibility. They might need to get creative with how they incentivize early booking, perhaps with exclusive perks or discounts for those who commit in advance. But overall, I believe free changes and cancellations are a positive change for the industry. It empowers travelers and creates a more dynamic, less stressful travel experience.

Here's the beauty of it all: with a freely changeable ticket, you can be more spontaneous and ready to seize the moment. Imagine this: you stumble upon a flash sale for a weekend trip to Paris. Pre-pandemic, you'd be hesitant to pull the trigger, worried about potential schedule conflicts. Now, you can book with confidence, knowing you can adjust the flight if needed. This opens the door to more impulsive adventures and last-minute escapes, enriching the travel experience tenfold.

But the benefits go beyond personal anecdotes. Think about the impact on business travel. Rigid schedules can be a thing of the past. A sales rep can book a flight to a potential client meeting with the knowledge that if the deal falls through, they can easily change the ticket. This can streamline business operations and potentially increase productivity.

Photo by Ramon Kagie

Free changes and cancellations can also open up travel opportunities for people who might have previously been hesitant due to unpredictable schedules. Freelancers or those with variable work hours can now book flights without worrying about unexpected project deadlines messing up their travel plans.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, free flight changes and cancellations represent a shift in the power dynamic between airlines and travelers. It creates a more collaborative environment, where both parties benefit from a flexible and dynamic travel marketplace. So next time you book a flight, embrace the flexibility! You never know where life's adventure might take you, and with a freely changeable ticket, you're more prepared to hop on board.

How have your flight bookings changed post-COVID?

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