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One of the things I love about United is their Same Day Change policy. With this policy, space permitting, you are able to change your flight to another flight once you are within 24 hours of the original flight. In practice what that means is that once you check-in for your flight you can potentially switch to an earlier or later flight that better meets your schedule. The routing on the flights doesn’t even have to be the same – just the origin and destination.
The fee for this privilege is $75 for non-elite and Silver Premier elites. However, once you have Gold Premier status or better, there is no fee. This is one of the things that makes having United Gold status a very important goal for myself. I will hit Gold status next month, but up until then I have to pay $75 every time I want to take advantage of SDC. That can add up pretty quickly when traveling with a family, but when I am by myself I use it all the time to minimize the time I have to be away from home, or to adjust accordingly when my schedule changes.
This week my flight to the Chicago Seminars turned out to be a little earlier than what I needed given some things I needed to do that day. I also wanted to be able to see my daughter in the morning before I left. When I checked into my flight I saw that a 12:49PM flight was available, so I quickly and happily paid the $75 to switch to that later flight. It allowed me enough time to get some things done that morning, and to be able to see Little C before I left for the weekend. I even scored a pretty great seat, so I was pumped about that change, and super pumped that it was one of the last flights where I would have to pay $75 for the change since I would have Gold status very soon.
I noticed I wasn’t on the upgrade list for that flight, but didn’t think much of it since I knew I would have no shot at clearing on a hub to hub flight on a Friday afternoon. I figured it was just a glitch that would sort itself out. I went about my day and then later that night logged on to see what the seating chart was looking like. I noticed that my itinerary was not displaying on United’s website. Again, this was weird, but I thought it to be a glitch, so I looked at the boarding pass I had printed out so I could search for my reservation using my confirmation number.
When I looked down at my boarding pass I immediately knew I had screwed up. Big. The boarding pass was for the 12:49PM flight for that day – as in about seven hours prior. When I did the same day change, I wasn’t paying enough attention and I selected the correct flight time, but on the wrong date. Just to paint an accurate picture of what happened next, we had prepaid dinner reservations that we needed to leave for within about 5 minutes, and Little C’s teacher had informed us at pick-up that she refused to nap that day. So, I had no flight for a conference I needed to go to the next morning, dinner reservations that we couldn’t miss, and a very cranky and unhappy two year old.
I Immediately called United and explained what had happened. The man I spoke with said the only thing I could do was pay the $800 fare difference between my old ticket and the new price for a ticket to Chicago. He said if I just wanted to keep my return ticket then I could pay an additional $300 to turn my return flight into a one-way ticket. All I could think was $%$#%#$! As much as I wanted to get to Chicago, I didn’t want to pay an extra $800 to do so. I jumped online and found reward availability that would work for 12,500 miles to Chicago for the next day, so my plan was to book a one-way reward ticket, and then pay $300 to turn my return into a one-way as there was no reward availability for a return on Sunday.
On the way to dinner, I called United back, again explained my mistake to a different agent, and before sharing my plan, I asked if there was anything that could be done. She said she would check the fare difference….but I already knew how that conversation would end up. Instead, I stopped her and asked if it was possible to just do another Same Day Change to a flight that hadn’t yet departed. She put me on hold to see what she could do. I crossed my fingers, toes, said a Hail Mary, and rubbed a rabbit’s foot while I was on hold for about 10 minutes.
When she came back she said that would work, but the only flight available for SDC was departing at about 5:40AM. That means I would need to get up to start getting ready by about 2:45AM. It was already about 7PM at night, I was exhausted, I hadn’t started packing, and I had a ticked-off toddler. It also meant that when I landed in Chicago at 8AM I would probably have no hotel room for many, many hours. Basically, while it was amazing news that I could do another SDC instead of paying $800, the time of the flight made me want to cry. Okay, maybe the thought of it all did make me cry…
Regardless, I thanked her profusely, accepted the 5:40AM flight, and she even waived the additional $75 fee for changing again since she felt sorry for me. We suffered through dinner with an angry toddler by walking around the restaurant more than sitting inside and eating food, I packed as quickly as I could after getting her to bed, and then got myself to bed as quickly as possible. Right before going to bed I checked online to see if any later flights were yet available via Same Day Change. No luck there, so my plan was to get up at 2:45AM and see if there were any other later flights available via SDC before heading to the airport.
My eyes could barely handle the bright light of the computer when the alarm went off in the middle of the night, but the most beautiful sight ever was an array of later flights that were available to change to for the bargain basement price of $75. The 12:49PM flight that I had meant to change to in the first place was even available, so I quickly switched my flight (again), paid $75 (again), and happily went back to my own bed for several more hours. Thankfully I was ultimately able to get the flight time I needed, spend time with my daughter before heading out of town, and not arrive in Chicago until after the regular hotel check-in time. However, my original $75 SDC almost cost me $800 due to my own carelessness. In the end it just cost me an extra $75, a mild panic attack, and a bit of lost sleep in the middle of the night.
The moral of this long-winded tale is that while United’s Same Day Change is absolutely fantastic, keep in mind that you may not only be changing the time of your flight, but also the date. Be very careful when making those changes so that you don’t end up like me! If you do find yourself in a situation like mine, hope for a very nice agent on the phone, and ask about doing another same day change for a flight that hasn’t already departed. Maybe you will get lucky like I did! I know I will be much more careful next time.