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How to Change a Flight

The 2 Most Important Lessons I Learned During Approximately 3 Hours on the Phone with Delta and Orbitz:

  1. When you need to make changes to a trip, call the people you booked through, even if it wasn’t the airline.
  2. If you miss your original flight, you will be automatically taken off of your return flight.  Counter-intuitive, that’s why it’s important.


A few weeks ago Husband and I came across a very good deal on plane tickets to a destination we were planning on driving 24 hours to anyways.  We bought them.  We were stoked.  

As life is prone to do, things changed and we found out that we weren’t going to be able to make our original flight, but we would be able to make the return flight.  I immediately went to Kayak to see what the price was running, and was delighted (relatively) to see that it had actually dropped from $230/ticket round-trip, which we had paid, to $220/ticket.

Things were going my way.

I called Delta even though we had booked through Orbitz, because I wasn’t aware Orbitz even had phones or employees.  In my mind, Orbitz was just a big self-aware robot hell-bent on saving people money; it was a good robot.  

Two different Delta ladies (I called twice because I assumed the first lady was out of her mind) broke down the costs for me:

  • $150/ticket change fee – I’m told the president of Delta himself couldn’t get out of this one.
  • $50/ticket external (Orbitz) ticket handling fee – see learning point #1 above.
  • $100/ticket difference in fare

That’s a total of $600 in fees, etc.  I paid $460 for the tickets originally.  I could have bought a brand new pair right at that moment for $440.

$200/ticket of the fees apply even if you are simply canceling your first flight.  No, you can’t just miss your first flight, book another, and then take your original ticket home – see learning point #2 above.  My helpful Orbitz lady later explained to me the this is another source of revenue for airlines. 


Before begrudgingly purchasing two new tickets, I checked to see if Orbitz in fact had a telephone number.  They did, they do.  Here’s how their costs stacked up:

  • $140/ticket change fee – charged by the airline and unavoidable.  
  • $30/ticket handling fee – WAIVED.  I noticed that customer service at Orbitz had a little more leeway to DO things.  
  • $0/ticket difference in fare – Orbitz realized that the price had actually gone down.  

Punchline: the total cost for changing our tickets ended up being $280 at Orbitz, $320 cheaper than going through Delta.  


Incidental Lessons: 

  • Travel insurance and refundable tickets are not the same thing.  Travel insurance can be relatively cheap (about $25/ticket in our case), but it does not cover cancelation for just any reason (read about Access America’s “covered reasons“).  Our credit card actually provides us with travel insurance automatically.  A completely refundable ticket for our trip would have cost $1,062/ticket.  
  • Most of my arguments with airlines turn out to be fruitless.  So I was quite surprised by the initiative the Orbitz agent took to look for savings that I didn’t even think to ask about.


Hope this saves you an hour, or two, or three!


Article publié pour la première fois le 06/10/2010

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