A sudden illness, a change in travel dates, oversleeping your alarm, an unexpected flight re-booking is not only a hassle, it can be expensive so we've answered your questions on how to avoid charges when changing your time for takeoff.
Q: What is the best way to activate the travel insurance I purchased? Due to an unexpected illness, a person in my party cannot take the trip. We are two weeks out from the travel date.
A: First, congratulations for purchasing travel insurance. The most common reason for making claims on such insurance is indeed sudden illness, either experienced by the person buying the insurance or by someone in the traveling party. In order to file a claim, under the fine print of most policies the person who is ill must seek medical attention before the date of travel. You cannot simply tell the insurer that you or your traveling companion is ill and leave it at that. Create a paper trail showing a diagnosis and that medical treatment was sought.
Q: Is it possible to by an airline ticket without knowing the exact date of travel? I’m wondering if I can purchase a ticket ahead of time and decide later when I was going to fly.
A: You can always purchase an airfare and change the dates of travel, but the fare may change (either up or down) for travel on the date you decide to fly, and in most cases the cheapest fares will also require a change fee ($150 on a domestic fare on most U.S.-based airlines) if you change dates. Of course, you can buy an expensive fully-refundable fare and change the dates all you want, but I’m guessing that’s not what you had in mind. You can also purchase an airfare on Southwest Airlines, which doesn’t charge a change fee, but again, the fare on your new dates of travel may be higher or lower than the fare you originally bought (you’ll either pay the difference if higher, or get a travel voucher for future travel if lower). American Airlines now also sells a fare upgrade called “Choice Essential” that allows you to change your travel dates without a fee, but that also requires you to pay extra if the fare changes on your new dates of travel. Choice Essential fares cost $68 above regular fares but also include a checked bag round-trip and priority boarding.