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Getting an earlier flight for free

Edinburgh, United...
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Getting an earlier flight for free

Let's say you chose not to book the tightest connection offered by the airline or couldn't because it was outside the MCT. As it happens your incoming flight arrived early and you now have plenty of time to catch an earlier connection. You've got no checked luggage. Will airlines generally put you on this flight if you ask them?

I know Easyjet will do this for the inbound part of a return ticket and recently something like the above scenario happened to me when connecting in Copenhagen and Cimber Air (a small Danish airline) put me on an earlier connection free of charge. I'm just wondering if the major national carriers like KLM or BA are willing to do the same if you ask them.

Cala d'Or, Spain
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1. Re: Getting an earlier flight for free

Lex, it has happened to me with BA. I was returning from Edinburgh to London and got to the airport early. I asked at the BA inquiry desk if I could take an earlier flight and they said yes. Although my ticket was non transferable they just printed me out a fresh boarding card.

On another occasion also with BA, I accidentally spelled my wife's name wrong (after 34 years of marriage) and only realised the night before we flew. Again, I went to the inquiry desk and they made a quick name change, no hassle and no bother.

I always find a big smile and a 'can you help me' works wonders.

London
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for London
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2. Re: Getting an earlier flight for free

I think it's a case of 'If you don't ask, you don't get'. The worst they can do is say 'no'.

If they have a free seat on the earlier departure it is no skin off their nose to let you have it, and by freeing up a seat on the later flight you may be doing the airline a favour (overbooking, late transfer pax etc.).

New York City, New...
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for Air Travel
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3. Re: Getting an earlier flight for free

All depends on the situation, at least with BA. Is the flight you're on overbooked? Is the agent feeling nice, etc.?

I travel almost exclusively on inflexible tickets and have been given every permutation....offered to be put on earlier flight without asking, denied to be moved earlier when asking, and allowed to move to earlier flight when requested. This is as a longtime BA Gold and travelling on premium class tickets with the exception of domestic flights.

Newmarket, Canada
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4. Re: Getting an earlier flight for free

Most of my business travel is within Canada and without checked baggage, and I do this on about 50% of my return flights. However, AC will only do this depending on the fare class purchased and the routes being flown. On the cheapest fare classes, they don't allow same-day standby for earlier flights.

On flights between YYZ and YUL with flights every 30 minutes, AC seems to be the most flexible (as long as you don't have the cheapest fare class). I will typically book a later flight and if my meetings are finished early, or if I happen to get through traffic and airport security quickly, will try to slip on an earlier flight. Between other city pairs, AC typically only allows it on full fare flexible tickets or Business class tickets, and I've been told I have to wait for my originally ticketed flight (or pay a change fee).

I've also found this to be a way to occasionally save a little on the cost of a ticket. By booking a return ticket for say the 8PM flight, which is less popular and frequently cheaper than the 6PM flight, if there is last minute availability for the earlier flight, I can get on it for the price of the later flight. I'm assuming this is one reason airlines often don't allow standby for earlier flights except on the higher fares.

Berkshire, United...
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for Prague, Bohemia
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5. Re: Getting an earlier flight for free

10 days ago a BA flight from Newcastle to London, .....I was not allowed to change to an earlier flight even though there was a plenty of time. I was sitting in the lounge and the departure gate was 30 seconds away. so I guess it depends.

Edited: 15 October 2011, 18:32
UK
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6. Re: Getting an earlier flight for free

"generally" is the trick word here Lex ;-)

Far to many "it depends " to come up with even a vaguely meaningful answer.

There is a rant today on the flyer talk forums from a gold FF with BA bemoaning the fact BA won't switch them onto an earlier flight even though there there is plenty of room.

Leicester, United...
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7. Re: Getting an earlier flight for free

Wirewiper has it right with 'If you don't ask, you don't get'. Might be more chance with a connecting flight. Asked Air France a couple of years ago when a meeting finished early and was at the airport a bit earlier than expected. They allowed the transfer but at a fee. Think it was about £30 but worth it to me to get back to start the weekend early evening.

Edinburgh, United...
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8. Re: Getting an earlier flight for free

Thanks for the answers guys. As I expected, there seems to be no rules written in stone about this but sounds like it can be worth asking (as it was for me).

Houston, TX
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9. Re: Getting an earlier flight for free

Recently had a round trip booked on BA from Heathrow to Aberdeen. Got to the airport really early for return to Heathrow; was able to switch to an earlier flight because, I was told, there were seats available in my fare category.

Garden Bay, Canada
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for Air Travel, Business Travel
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10. Re: Getting an earlier flight for free

DIfferent airlines, different rules, so the answer is "it depends".

CO allows any connecting passenger to hop an earlier flight at no extra charge. But checked luggage would hinder this. While the airline can choose to put your bags on a different flight, the passenger can't make that decision, and the hassles of finding and moving your bags from one flight to another is not insignificant at most airports.

Another element can enter the picture... say you are on direct flight xx and it flies from MUC to EWR to IAH... but there is a plane change in EWR from a 777 to a 737 and connect time is 3 hours... but the 737 flight is still flight xx. You can't change to flight yy that leaves for IAH an hour earlier, even though you have no checked bags and you are sitting there at the gate. The system views this the same as changing from plane to plane at 38,000 feet... impossible.