How to find the best flexible flight deals

Choose British Airways’ “flexible” ticket, with free destination and date changes, and you could pay almost 17 times more than for a standard ticket.

A BA flight from London Heathrow to Alicante in February cost £57 when we looked in January, but ticking ‘Flexible ticket – change your flight without booking fees’ bumped that up to £966 for an ‘Economy Plus Flex’ ticket “.

Yet BA’s current ‘Book with Confidence’ offer means the standard £57 ticket is already flexible. The airline currently allows customers to change their flight dates free of charge until the gate closes. At the end of January, they extended the date when you can use the provided vouchers until April 2023, even for vouchers that have already been issued.

Given the current levels of travel uncertainty, most airlines have a similar program but, without delving into their terms and conditions, it’s not always clear what the rules are.

And while some airlines, like BA, will allow you to change until almost the last minute, others will still charge you a fee unless you make the change weeks before your trip. Most airlines still offer “flexible” tickets – despite the fact that it may be pointless to buy them, as standard tickets are flexible for many dates anyway.

When free changes are not allowed, it can sometimes be cheaper to buy an entirely new ticket than to pay to change dates.

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Explanation of flexible airline flight policies for new bookings

Can I change a BA flight?

Book a departing flight until April 30, 2022 and then you can move it to any new date for free until April 30, 2023. You can also change the destination.

Changes can be made up until the boarding gate closes (usually one hour before departure).

The only problem is that you will receive a voucher in exchange for your original ticket. If your new flight is more expensive, you will have to pay the difference.

British Airways also sells Economy Plus Flex tickets, which include increased baggage allowance and other extras. Do not choose this option. You can buy all the extras cheaply without it. We asked why he kept selling the unnecessary and expensive ‘flex’ tickets and he didn’t answer directly, but replied: “We offer our customers a wide range of options to provide more choice and best suit their individual travel plans. »

Can I change an easyJet flight?

There are currently no fees on new bookings for date or destination changes. Unfortunately, you can only make changes up to 14 days before travel. After that, you will have to pay a fee.

EasyJet also sells ‘flexi’ fares, which were between two and three times more expensive than standard fares when we checked. They only allow you to change your dates by one day before or after and you cannot change the destination at all. They also include other extras but, again, it’s cheaper to buy them separately.

Can I change a Jet2 flight?

Jet2 is the only airline we looked at that doesn’t offer free flight changes or sell “flexible” tickets. However, it only costs £35 per booking to change flight dates and you can do this up to five hours before your flight.

This is probably more useful, especially for a group booking, than being able to change your flights for free but having to give several weeks’ notice, as you do with some airlines.

Can I change a Ryanair flight?

Ryanair is offering free changes for bookings made until June 30, 2021. You can move your flight to any date until October 31, 2021 and change the destination, provided you do so at least seven days before departure . Customers are allowed up to two changes during this period before having to pay a fee.

Flights purchased under the u20ac5 flight sale promotion on September 1 and 2 are not eligible.

Ryanair also sells ‘flexi plus’ tickets, which were three to four times more expensive than standard tickets when we looked. They only allow you to change your date by one day, before or after your original flight. They also include other extras, which would be cheaper to buy separately.

Can I change a Tui flight?

Changes free of charge can be made for any flight departing until April 30, 2021. However, changes can only be made up to 21 days before departure.

With circumstances changing so rapidly during the pandemic, this is a significant downside. Tui’s explanation was that most customers buy flights as part of a package and that – in the event of a lockdown or change in government advice – package holiday customers would be reimbursed anyway.

Can I change a Virgin Atlantic flight?

For travel before August 31, 2021, you can make up to two date changes and/or one name change free of charge until departure. Dates can be moved up to 31 December 2022. If the new fare is higher you will have to pay the difference, but this is waived if the difference is less than £60 for Economy, £120 for Premium or £350 for Upper.

Virgin Atlantic also sells expensive and unnecessary “flexible” flights. A standard flight from London to New York that was £319 became £2,031 when we ticked the ‘flexible’ box on its website.

It was not clear on its website what the terms and conditions of this ticket are, or how flexible it is. Virgin Atlantic did not respond to our request for clarification, but said: “We are constantly evaluating how best to ensure our customers are kept up to date with the latest booking policies.”

Flexible booking policies of holiday companies

Some travel agencies also offer flexible travel for package holidays. You can see some of the best deals here.