If an airline involuntarily bumps you from a flight, chances are you can ask for a whole more than you think, like meal vouchers, a hotel stay or just cold, hard cash. But what are your rights if an airline suddenly decides to change your flight’s departure time entirely? It happens; over on Reddit, u/kaileen shared their family member’s experience when an airline changed their itinerary last-minute.
“My brother bought a ticket from Frontier Airlines back in August,” they wrote. “The original flight was for this Saturday at 5:45am. He just got an email for a new itinerary that has him leaving Sunday at 6:00am … If this isn’t a mistake, is there anything that can be done to get a discount or some kind of compensation for the inconvenience? I know Frontier isn’t famous for being great to fly with, but this just seems ridiculous.”
It is ridiculous—but don’t expect any compensation. Generally, in the best-case scenario, you can ask to be rebooked on a different flight for free or to just be given a refund, which you can use that to rebook on another airline, at least.
Below are several policies for several major U.S. airlines that you should definitely take a closer look at, so you can better understand what to ask for when your departure time changes in a major way:
- American: If your new departure time is scheduled less than 90 minutes away from your original time, they will offer to change your flight for another same-day flight within the same “fare bucket,” meaning one economy seat for another. If your new flight exceeds 90 minutes from your original departure time, then you have the option to rebook on any AA flight within any class, on another date, and even on one of AA’s partner airlines. (As the Points Guy writes, AA is generally pretty lenient with even minor schedule changes.) To request a refund, which might come in the form of a voucher, your scheduled flight must exceed 60 minutes from your original departure.
- Delta: Delta’s policies aren’t so clear. According to Delta’s contract of carriage, if your scheduled departure time exceeds 90 minutes from your original time, Delta will “transport the passenger to the destination on Delta’s next flight on which seats are available in the class of service originally purchased.” According to a customer service rep I spoke with, however, a passenger can change their flight for free “if either their departure or arrival time is delayed for 30 minutes or more.” The same goes for refunds.
- United: “If your scheduled departure or arrival time changes by 30 minutes or more, we’re happy to try to find other available flight options that meet your needs.” (Note: This is the only airline that indicates that it will rebook you if your arrival time changes, too.) For a refund, if your scheduled departure or arrival time changes by two hours or it affects your ability to make a connection, you may qualify.
- Frontier: If your departure time changes by an hour or less, you’ll have to pay for rebooking and differences in airfare. If your departure time change exceeds 60 minutes and your flight changes within 72 hours of its scheduled departure, you can rebook for free; if your flight changes beyond 72 hours, though, you’ll have to pay for any differences in airfare. Over three hours and you can also request a refund.
If you want to change your flight or request a refund, understand the policies that affect you and contact your airline immediately to request a change. It’s worth noting, however, that if a scheduled change affects your ability to make a layover, chances are the airline will try to better accommodate you (though there are no rules in place that point out specific time limits).
Also, if you booked two legs of a trip on separate airlines, and might risk missing the connection, know that your second airline doesn’t owe you much of anything in this scenario. In this instance, you might want to check out our guide on airline change fees ASAP.