Do airlines change non-refundable tickets? Sometimes, yes

It’s happened to most of us at some point. You purchased a non-refundable plane ticket, but for unforseen reasons, you need to change it. “Sorry” the airline tells you, “you bought a non-refundable ticket”. Unless you part with a pint of blood and the full price of a new ticket, there’s nothing they can do. Or is there? According this story from frequent traveler Paul Karl Lukacs, airlines do occasionally make exceptions to this rule. You just need to know how to ask.

Lukacs recently purchased a one-way non-refundable ticket from Paris to Hong Kong and needed to change his date of travel. He was willing to pay a change fee and any difference in ticket price. Predictably, the customer service team at Qatar Airways denied his request. Sorry, said the ticket agent, “I can’t change the date of the ticket. You’ll have to buy an entirely new ticket if you want to leave earlier.” Familiar story. But Lukacs wasn’t giving up easily. Using an executive email technique he discovered at consumer advocate site, he contacted seven of Qatar Airways’ senior executives pleading his case and mentioned the other recent flights he’d taken with the airline. It worked. Two executives emailed him back, and within 24 hours, Lukacs only had to pay the fare difference – goodbye change fee.

Sweet! Does this mean we’ve discovered a hidden loophole in the dreaded non-refundable ticket policy? Not quite. Lukacs’ strategy is clever, no doubt, but it won’t work in all cases. Don’t expect that simply by writing a complaint letter to an airline’s executive team you’re going to get your way. That said, Lukacs does outline some smart tips for those looking for options:

  1. Find the right executive – Lukacs suggests only certain executive level employees are able (or willing) to make exceptions. Do your research on which executive to contact.
  2. Be polite – if you start your note or phone call with anger, you’re not getting anywhere
  3. Mention your status – if you’re a frequent flier or small business owner, mention it in support of your case.

Have you ever been granted an exception on a non-refundable plane ticket? What happened? Tell us about it in the comments.