Success changing a flight with Delta last minute

I mentioned that I am currently on a trip in Europe with my family. While more details on the trip are yet to come, I want to share a short story about the booking of this trip.

The goal was to get to Paris, on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. So while tickets were sure to book up, I was able to book a Delta One ticket to Zurich the Friday before for only 70,000 Delta Skymiles and $5.60 in taxes. Which would mean I’d only have to add a short flight and hotel onto the trip — one more city and more travel to experience, why not!


Anyways, at the time of booking the best price I was getting was a flight leaving DCA to JFK early in the morning, and then the JFK to ZRH flight not leaving until that evening. At the time of booking I knew it wasn’t ideal, but I also knew that I would be able to work in the airport for that time and experience more lounges. So I would keep track of the flight (as well as any other flights around Europe, or Paris) in the coming weeks in hopes that maybe the award price would drop on a flight with less of a layover.

Of course, it didn’t. And I soon found out I should not have expected it to.

While some airlines will release ‘saver’ level awards within only a few days of flights, Delta is not known to do that. Which means I was out of luck. Not the end of the world, just had to prepare myself to be at an airport all day.

So first, what were my options…

Before I get into my experience, I want to quickly go over the rules that are laid out by Delta. If you have booked an award flight with Delta and need to change your flight, you have the following options…

Can Award Tickets Be Changed?

Yes. Members can make changes to an Award Ticket up to 72 hours prior to the original departure time (outbound or return). All taxes and fees associated with that ticket will apply. The fee for reissues is $150 USD. The fee is waived for Diamond and Platinum Medallion members, provided the member makes changes at least 72 hours prior to the original flight departure time. Miles for Award Travel are nonrefundable for flights canceled or changed within 72 hours of the original flight departure time. See Award Travel Fees for full terms and conditions.


In other words:

  • You must request the change for your flight within 72 hours of the original flight time.
  • You will be charged a fee of $150 to change your flight, unless you have Platinum or Diamond Medallion status
  • You will have to pay the taxes and fees associated with the new ticket — essentially doubling the amount of taxes and fees you pay altogether
  • If there is a difference in miles required for the new flight you will have to pay that (works the other way as well — where points will be redeposited in the event the flight is less)

Since I am a Platinum Medallion member with Delta I was able to change my flight for no charge, up to 72 hours prior to departure, and only pay the taxes and fees on my next flight. So for about 2 weeks leading up to my flight I stalked Delta’s website in hopes that something may pop up.

What to do when you’ve run out of options…

As the subtitle alludes, the flight never popped up. The same flight I had booked for 70,000 SkyMiles was now going for 225,000 SkyMiles — and just about anything else from the US to Europe was up there as well. As mentioned, it would not be the end of the world if I had to lounge hop in JFK all day, but I really did not want to. So I kept calling…

I think many people in this business would tell you that if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again…and hope for a better service agent. I would say that all Delta customer service agents are competent, but there are some that just seem to know the system better.

As my flight was leaving Thursday, I started calling on Sunday — I knew there was nothing available for points, but there were plenty of flights later in the day from DC to JFK. And so I’d continue to try for the next few days just to see what I got. (Once I got within the 72 hour cut-off, they would always say that they could waive the fee because of my status, but didn’t necessarily have a flight for me)

So finally, on Wednesday I was able to find a decent service agent. I wouldn’t say that I am especially convincing, but the fact that I was calling only a day before my departure must have got me some sort of empathy.

I really did not have to explain very much to the agent, but stressed that I didn’t want to be at the airport all day and had some “personal” things to attend to in the morning. She put me on hold for a bit then came back and said:

“OK sir, you are confirmed for the 2:30 pm flight leaving from Washington DCA and getting into New York – JFK. Please confirm that you can see the new flight on your app.”

And sure enough it was there. Nothing more out of my pocket, and I had the new flight I [wanted] needed.

So, what did I learn

  1. Delta continues to be my favorite US based airline. Even the people that weren’t able to get me what I wanted were still extremely polite, and always did everything they could to get me my answer.
  2. If you need something, it never hurts to ask. The best policy is to just call the airline and there’s a good chance you will like what you are able to achieve.
  3. Having status with an airline rocks! I am fortunate that I have status, but if you can get it, damn it’s nice.

Tucker is an avid points and miles enthusiast. Being fully involved in the world of credit cards and frequent flying for only a few years now, he brings a very fresh and unique perspective to the world of travel.

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