/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Why is amending flight tickets so pricey?

When I was in New Zealand, I needed to catch an earlier flight home due to an emergency. To change my flight I had to pay an extra £350, even though the plane was half empty. Was this charge really fair?

My colleague found himself in a similar situation recently. He was stunned to find that changing the dates of his flights would cost him £280, when he could book entirely new flights for just £220. When he asked the customer service rep why he should bother amending the booking, the rep agreed that he’d be better off booking new flights. To me, that’s madness.

Another colleague found that his girlfriend could no longer travel on the flights she’d booked. He looked into changing the name on the flight so one of his friends could go instead, and was told the fee to change the name would be £110 – when the flights originally cost just £70.

You’ll pay for your mistakes

How can an airline justify charging £110 for the simple task of changing a name on a booking system? When our Amanda Diamond was in the same situation, she was told by Ryanair that the fee exists to ‘prevent anyone from buying up large numbers of the cheapest tickets, changing the names and then selling them on for profit’. While that sounds fair, why punish consumers for genuine, honest mistakes?

This got me thinking about admin changes more generally. Shouldn’t charges reflect the cost to the business that’s charging them? Admin fees and charges levied by airlines and other companies shouldn’t be used as a way to make money from their unsuspecting customers.

As a result of Which?’s surcharges campaign, the government has promised to implement a ban of all excessive card surcharges by the end of 2012. But unfortunately, this won’t cover excessive fees and charges that don’t relate to card payments (such as the admin fee to change ticket dates, for example).

Take a gamble

The airlines do mention these fees in their T&Cs when you book the tickets, but you’re essentially taking a gamble on the hope that you won’t need to change your tickets later. Plus, is hiding this in the small print good enough?

Have you ever been stung by charges due to changes in your plans, or because of an honest mistake? Do you ever pay more for flexible tickets to avoid these situations?

Owen says:
10 August 2012

On one occasion some years ago I inadvertently booked my wife twice on the same Ryanair flight. The total flight cost – including all fees and charges was only £20. When I contacted Ryanair I was told I could get a refund – at an admin cost of £30. Needless to say I didn’t bother and just chalked up the loss. The flight at £40 was still a bargain.

Chubster says:
25 August 2012

I recently had the misfortune to fall foul of Ryan Air’s charges for a genuine typing error when booking a flight. I was advised to contact their Head Office in Ireland to sort the problem out, easier said than done. I sent 6 emails, 3 letters and a fax and to date, 7 months after the initial query, I have not had the courtesy of a reply.

The error cost me an additional £85. Needless to say, I have advised family and friends of the abysmal customer service given by Ryan Air, and I personally now look for alternative flights with other airlines when travelling.

Richard McMillan says:
6 May 2014

I know we read the T & Cs when booking airline tickets but, a charge of £35 per flight, no rebate for a cheaper flight but charged the difference when the ticket is dearer. Original flight booking cost £260
on top charge for rebooking £154.
This is daylight robbery. Where is the best place to complain?

P murphy says:
19 July 2015

While on a 4wks holiday in Usa my wifes sister died just 2wks into our holiday.She did not have any familf in usa so her family in ireland wanted her cremated and brought home for burial in ireland.We contacted our travel agent Thomas Cook to have our flights home brought foreward by 1 wk to suit the services at home.We were shocked to say the least when we were charged another £ 820 untop of our original cost,I thought given the circumstances they would have shown good will, but I was told that was the going rate for changing your tickets early.

Last year we were to Switzerland on summer holidays and our flight was with Easyjet. When we booked the seat ,charges of above 18 years was £ 300. When we reached airport and boarding the flight, we were told that I have to pay £ 50 extra, as fares has been revised by the governement. I called Easyjet Customer Service and apprised them all the situation. They after hearing me told that as I have booked my seat one month back and this criteria is not applicable to me. Those who have booked their seats after this period it will be applicable to them. Whole of the conversation was listened by the ticket operating person and he allowed us to go on previous tickets rates. Revision of the fares are not done by independent authority but it the decision of the Government which has to be followed by all.