Business travelers, more than any other fliers, know that last-minute travel disruptions are the norm rather than the exception.
In the past, airlines were much more accommodating in putting you on the unconfirmed stand-by list for free in case you needed to change your flight due to meetings running late or ending much earlier than expected.
Today, it’s a whole different ball-game as airlines figured out they can charge ancillary fees for just about anything, especially something as egregious as a same-day flight change.
Airfarewatchdog.com compiled a handy chart mapping the changes to existing airline same-day rescheduling policies and fees - these are great to keep in mind when booking with an unfamiliar airline; last-minute travel disruptions could have a big impact on the final cost of your air ticket.
Most customer friendly. It pays to be a frequent flier on Frontier since you’ll pay nothing for confirmed same-day flight changes. Don’t have preferred status? No problem - travelers who purchase Classic and Classic Plus fares enjoy the same benefits (otherwise it’s a $25-$50 charge depending on your fare type). AirTran is unique in that they don’t charge you anything to be on the unconfirmed stand-by list - most other airlines either don’t offer this once-standard perk or have eligibility restrictions in place.
Biggest fee increases. Be prepared to shell out if you have a last-minute change on American - confirming a flight change within 12 hours of departure now costs $75 (previously $50). Only elite fliers have the option of $0 unconfirmed stand-by, but even they aren’t exempt from the fee if they want a confirmed seat. jetBlue’s confirmed change fee jumped from $40 to $50, but if it’s an earlier flight you want, they won’t charge for unconfirmed stand-by on the flight directly before your originally scheduled one.
Diciest. Southwest has no extra fee for same-day flight changes - but you’ll have to pay the difference in price between the original cost of your ticket and the last-minute “walk-up” fare, which could be more than you bargained for when booking your trip.
The message here is that it pays to be on time, and avoids headaches for you and the airlines. However, sometimes unexpected travel snags happen, and you miss a flight or arrive at the airport with hours to spare. In many cases frequent flier status will save you some cash, but it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the idiosyncrasies of each airline’s policy restrictions.