Change your mind? Now you might pay before you buy your ticket

We all have friends and/or clients who are “decision-challenged.” One of my favorite such travel agency clients just asked me yesterday to change her return United Airlines flight from New York, but wanted me to wait until the end of the day to reissue the ticket.

Today, she wonders if she can have “one more day” because she might stay longer.

As it turns out, there is space available and I hadn’t reissued the ticket, so I was able to tell her yes. But had she been on Lufthansa, it would have been a different story.

The airline apparently has just put in an audit system that shows how often a record has been changed. And they will assess the appropriate penalty for each and every change, regardless of whether or not the ticket was reissued.

This means a traveler who changed a reservation coming back from Europe a week later, and then decided they could only stay six more days, for example, or wanted to travel on a cheaper day, would be assessed two penalties. Period. If the travel agent did not reissued the ticket at the time of the first change, Lufthansa will simply bill the agency.

Moreover, there is no grace period, a traveler or agent can’t hold the space even for a few hours without incurring the penalty.

United Airlines doesn’t have this policy in place, yet. But, it would mean in this case the client would be liable for $300 in penalties.

I fully realize that people who can’t make up their minds cause both the airlines and travel agents money. But sometimes travelers need to make a change, and then confirm with say, their hotel or family.

Waiting until the change is definite is one option, but then what happens if the space sells out? (Even a few hours can be a long time in this business.)

Clearly, there are people that abuse the system, and there is an opportunity cost to the airline of holding seats that will not be used, but it seems to me a 24 hour window, especially with the first change, would be reasonable.

But Lufthansa, who is clearly trying to get every bit of revenue that they can out of passengers and travel agents, doesn’t see it that way.

Who will be the first U.S. carrier to follow them? Or, will a new DOT regulations giving all passengers 24 hours to change their minds, make a difference?