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If you book your flight far in advance, chances are that at some point before departure, there will be a schedule change – either the flight will be cancelled or perhaps the timing might be adjusted. Some airlines publish firm schedules a year out and rarely change them, while other airlines constantly update their schedules throughout the year based on demand and aircraft availability.

If your itinerary has a schedule change, you can use it to your advantage – you may be able to get a full refund or get rebooked on a different flight at no additional cost, depending on what the actual change was.

Schedule Change: Flight Cancellation

If your flight was cancelled, you always have two options – you can get a full refund to your original form of payment (or accept an airline voucher) or you can be rebooked on a different flight at no additional cost that gets you from your original departure city to your destination.

Some airlines love to play games with refunds and will take forever to process them back to your credit card. If some time has passed and you still haven’t gotten your refund, be sure to file a dispute on your credit card. The bottom line is that if your flight was cancelled, you’re always owed a full refund if you want it.

Schedule Change: Major Flight Adjustment

If a schedule change has appeared on your itinerary and your flights were significantly adjusted and you’re now due to arrive or depart 2-3 hours earlier or later than what you originally booked, you’re generally entitled to a refund if you’d like it or free rebooking.

Every airline has their own policies based on how many hours the timing of your flights has to change in order to be eligible for a free refund or changes, but the general timeframe is a difference of 2-3 hours.

In the case your flight time is majorly adjusted, you also have the option to get rebooked on a flight with timing that works better for you, at no additional cost.

Schedule Change: Minor Adjustment

If your flight time was adjusted by less than 2 hours, you generally can’t get a free refund (though some airlines are more generous than others), but you might be able to get rebooked on a better flight closer to your original timing. Every airline has different policies and some even allow you to rebook if your flight time was adjusted by a small 30 minutes.

Many airlines offer tools on their websites which allow you to modify or cancel your flights without calling them. If you’re notified of a schedule change, be sure to check if you’re able to adjust your flights by yourself without having to call and wait on the phone.

If a schedule change really doesn’t work for you and the front line agent is refusing to help, always ask for a supervisor or simply call again until you get an agent who is flexible and understands your concerns – after all, the airline did promise you a certain arrival time.

Monitor Your Reservations

Always have a look at your airline flight bookings on their websites a few times a month or more frequently if you’re flying sooner in case there was a change and the airline did not notify you. Airline systems are largely outdated and sometimes they don’t notify or send alerts to passengers. This can be a problem because sometimes you have to accept a schedule change by a certain time, or your ticket gets messed up and might be hard to fix later.

Don’t trust on the airline reaching out to you and always monitor your bookings – not only for schedule changes, but also for seat changes and other items. Sometimes special meal orders get cancelled or not properly confirmed and therefore it is important to check all of the details on your booking a few times prior to departure to ensure you have a smooth trip.

Generally speaking, the further out you book your flight, the more itinerary changes you may have as airlines finalize their schedules prior to a flight’s departure. It is important to note that if you booked a flight initially that you weren’t fully satisfied with and there’s a schedule change, you can use that to your advantage and get rebooked on your preferred flight, depending on what the change is on your itinerary. Always reach out to the airline and ask what your options are if there is a change to your itinerary.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.