My $75 Same Day Change Almost Cost Me $800

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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.

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  1. So the system let you change your ticket to a different day? Seems like a glitch on their end as that is not a same day change from your original ticket. Or am I missing something?

  2. Congrats on the ultimately successful change. VERY cool the second agent you got took pity on your situation and allowed the SDC after you “missed” the first flight and didn’t charge you the fare difference. And I’ve noticed, too, that inventory the day-of-flight tends to drop all the way down to the lowest fare buckets if there are seats still available.

  3. Crazy stuff! Glad it “only” cost you $150…and looking forward to the time in the very near future that it won’t cost you anything!

    FYI, IME it is usually the case that as you get closer to your desired SDC flight change “window” that initially, flight(s) you may want to SDC to will not be available to confirm initially (because your fare bucket will show zero inventory), but that a few hours later, UA will open up the fare buckets so that any unsold seats will be listed under *all* fare buckets, allowing you to confirm the SDC. So the lesson is, if at first you don’t get the flight change you want, try, try again. 🙂

  4. 4 hours seems to be the point at which they open all the fare classes, if there is space. The other change for United is that they don’t enforce the routing rules like they used to on United pre 3/3. If you opt for same day confirmed change you may see options with more stops, which is great if you have time on your hands and need a couple more miles.

    And even though the phone agents insist it can’t be done you can always just go to the airport and standby on a space available basis, even for a different route to your destination. Your status will get you higher up the list

  5. @ Ian- yeah, it read like the ticket was changed to a different day- so not sure how that works. If check-in is 24 hour prior then how would the system let you select a flight that leaves at the same time as the time that you’re actually changing the ticket (i.e. 24 hours exactly before hand)?

    Can anyone fill me in on what I’m missing?


  6. @Mommypoints – How about consider getting a first year free United Club credit card that waives $75 close-in fee without status? In your case, you are becoming gold and would not need it but for others I think this is a great feature to save money on last minute travels as it applies to people in your party as well.

  7. -SDC can be done to 24 hours before or after your flight, so it can be on a different day regardless of the name “Same Day Change”. So be careful!!

    -MillionMiler, yes for others it is a very good deal – I think that I am getting it soon, but if I wasn’t about to have Gold I would get it for sure!

  8. I’m so glad you made it to Chicago! I enjoyed your presentation and you were flawless! Thanks so much for your generous time and sharing some great tips this weekend!!

  9. Hmm, I use SDC on DL almost every time, though you can only SDC to a flight within 3 hrs of departure on the same day, and I pay $0 as a Plat, and I just call in, and they take care of it within 2 minutes….

  10. The same thing happened to me last week! United really needs to update their website to make this more clear, I’m fairy certain that it did not display a date, just a time.

    I should have factored in the 24 hour rule, their system is way too confusing (united 1k) for the SDC online.

  11. I enjoyed hearing you speak at the Chicago Seminar, and meeting you briefly. Hope you make it home smoothly. The afternoon tornado , has things big time delayed at ORD.
    Jim Hughes

  12. Close call there! Couldn’t make that seminar as we were out and about with the scouts, but sounds like many of the flights back from Chicago got hosed.

  13. This is a great option, especially for a pickle-minded woman like me.
    This is an innovative idea to cater avid flyers. Giving better options for working women, mothers and business men who joggles with several responsibilities. Kudos to United to coming up with this brilliant option!

  14. @Eddie & Ian- you can SDC to any flight that is departing within 24 hours with availability in the same fare class. So if I check in for a 3:30pm flight at 3:30 the day before, and there is availability on a 5:00pm flight that day, I can move it up. I would have to wait until 5:00pm that day before the 5:00pm flight the next day (after the scheduled flight) became available. It can be a little tricky, so definitely check the dates. You can’t change to the flight exactly 24 hours beforehand, because you can’t check in before it leaves, but theoretically you can leave up to 23 hours earlier or later than you planned if there’s availability (I’ve done this, 24 hours is their def’n of “same day”).

    @Mommypoints- glad you made it there and back! That tornado wreaked havoc on my travel yesterday and I wasn’t near chicago. I can’t wait for gold status either (end of this month), as that $75 fee is getting really old. 🙂

  15. I did the exact same thing today…have a 6am flight home for Thanksgiving tomorrow, checked in on United mobile app today at 8am (22 hours per flight), and browsed the same-day change options. Selected a 9am (should have known that getting the empty seat on such a busy travel day was too good to be true!) and realized later I changed myself to a flight for 9am today, missed that flight, and cancelled the reservation. Luckily they reinstated my original ticket (I am Platinum and was clearly very flustered). What seems so bad about the feature is that I was offered flights on both today and tomorrow (e.g., the 7:30 a.m. flight I was offered was tomorrow since it was already 8am today) yet they were all visually displayed the same way in the same list in the app. Plus, you would think that by rebooking myself onto a flight that leaves in an hour (rather than 25 hours) there would be some warning? Like a ” your selected flight is in an hour. If you are already in the airport, tap confirm to continue with change.”. !?!?!

    • @NYCJen, so sorry you had to deal with that too! I know the feeling! They really should make it more obvious that you are changing days since I have now talked to several frequent travelers who have done the exact same thing. Glad it worked out for you!

  16. Lousy that United only prompted you with $$$ options instead of the SDC. You’d hope that in explaining the situation they’d recall (as you did) the SDC alternative.

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