This Piece of Paper Could Save You Hundreds on Airline Change Fees

Airline change fees

Airline change fees are the pits.

Paying nearly as much in change fees as the cost of your ticket is always a terrible feeling.

Though some airlines — cough, Southwest — don’t charge these fees, the rest vary from $75 to $250 per ticket.

But I recently discovered one little piece of paper can often get you out of change fees: a doctor’s note.

Here’s how it works.

How a Doctor’s Note Could Save You From Airline Change Fees

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Doctor’s notes don’t always work.

There’s no law stating the airlines have to waive their fees. (For some surprising rights you do have, click here.)

Although “there’s no guarantee,” one travel agent told Outside, it “yields a surprising number of results” for her clients.

A doctor’s note helped one woman get out of change fees with Virgin Airlines, she told Smarter Travel.

And American Airlines waived this Kiwi’s change fees when he sent one in alongside an impassioned letter and photos.

Even our executive editor, Alexis Grant, has successfully used this strategy.

On the day before a family vacation, her husband hurt his back. When they canceled their flights, they received a credit — minus nearly $200 in fees.  

“We then submitted a doctor’s note electronically through a form on their website, and they returned the fees to us,” she says.

“It’s still all a credit, so we need to use it to book another flight on Frontier, but we thought it was much better than change fee policies at most airlines.”

General consensus? You might as well ask.

As airline expert Gary Leff says, “Official policy aside, it’s quite common for airlines to waive change fees with a doctor’s note.”

Be polite, and if the first agent refuses, call back or ask to speak to a supervisor.

Check Your Credit Card, Too

If you bought your flight on a credit card, you might also qualify for trip cancellation insurance.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred, for example, states, “If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather or other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours and hotels.”

Getting sick or hurt and having to cancel your trip is bad enough, but if you use these tricks, hopefully you won’t have to compound disappointment with fees!

Your Turn: Have you ever used a doctor’s note to get out of change fees?

Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.