Flexible fares help

I’m hoping to pick the brains of those of you who know a lot more about transatlantic flights and fares, it’s over 20 years since I last crossed the Atlantic and 15 years since my last long haul flight of any sort so I’m definitely not well informed these days.

My intention is to fulfil a lifelong ambition to watch a major rocket launch by attending the launch of Artemis II, the first crewed mission to leave Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972. Currently it’s scheduled for “not before November 2024”, but I’ve seen early 2025 mentioned and past experience, when I missed a shuttle launch due to bad weather, has shown that no date is ever set in stone.

I therefore need a flight where the tickets are flexible enough to change the departure date by possibly many months, and to extend the return date should the launch be delayed once I’m in the USA. The ability to cancel for a full refund would be useful but not essential. I expect I’ll need to be looking at a fare class higher than Economy, and I’m willing to consider Business if that offers potential greater flexibility than Premium Economy.

I’m planning to go for 3-4 weeks and travel around a bit while I’m there, so I’m not too bothered about which airport I fly into, one of the Florida airports would be most convenient but other locations on the East Coast could also work (although I don’t particularly want to fly into Boston in the middle of a New England snowstorm!). I’d also be prepared to use a non-UK airport if that opens up more reasonable fare options.

Any thoughts on types of fare, airlines and departure/arrival airports would be gratefully received.


«1

Comments

  • bagand96
    bagand96 Posts: 6,025
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post
    Forumite
    edited 7 January at 10:25PM
    Most airline websites and agents show the cheapest non-flexible fares by default but will have options for flexible somewhere. An example from BA,  in the dropdown where you select the class, there's also a tickbox for flexible... 



    Premium Economy / Business / First tickets may also be non-flexible.  You have travel class (ie the cabin you fly in) but then also fare rules, so take time when you book to understand what the fare rules.  Each class will have non-flexible through to fully flexible options.

    Be careful booking through third parties. Most online agents charge admin fees to change tickets on top of airline charges.  They will advertise a "flexible" option, but often that's only in terms of waiving their own fees, they can't change the airline fare rules.  In fact if you're expecting to have to change the ticket I'd avoid online agents completely, it just ads a layer of complexity. 

    Fully flexible/refundable tickets will cost significantly more than the base fares.  Random selection to Miami later this year, return economy base fare £415.  Flexible/refundable ticket same flights, economy, £3000.  the flexible fare did include a checked bag though!  
  • SiliconChip
    SiliconChip Posts: 1,284
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    bagand96 said:


    Be careful booking through third parties. Most online agents charge admin fees to change tickets on top of airline charges.  They will advertise a "flexible" option, but often that's only in terms of waiving their own fees, they can't change the airline fare rules.  In fact if you're expecting to have to change the ticket I'd avoid online agents completely, it just ads a layer of complexity. 

     

    Thanks for all your comments, I hadn't spotted the flexible ticket box so I'll do some research with airlines that offer that option.
    In the dim and distant past I used high street travel agents for flight bookings, and I think the last time I used an online agent (Expedia) was in 2006, but my own inclinations bolstered by many horror stories on here mean that I exclusively book with the airline that I'm going to use now.
  • bagand96
    bagand96 Posts: 6,025
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post
    Forumite
    edited 8 January at 12:46PM
    bagand96 said:


    Be careful booking through third parties. Most online agents charge admin fees to change tickets on top of airline charges.  They will advertise a "flexible" option, but often that's only in terms of waiving their own fees, they can't change the airline fare rules.  In fact if you're expecting to have to change the ticket I'd avoid online agents completely, it just ads a layer of complexity. 

     

    Thanks for all your comments, I hadn't spotted the flexible ticket box so I'll do some research with airlines that offer that option.
    In the dim and distant past I used high street travel agents for flight bookings, and I think the last time I used an online agent (Expedia) was in 2006, but my own inclinations bolstered by many horror stories on here mean that I exclusively book with the airline that I'm going to use now.
    A specialist and reputable agent may be useful  may even have some knowledge that would help.

    But in your situation I'd steer well clear of the online only ticket sellers. 
  • DullGreyGuy
    DullGreyGuy Posts: 9,182
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    The problem with flexible tickets is they are exceptionally expensive, in many cases it would be cheaper to buy a non-flexible and just buy a new ticket when the plans change. As an aside, this is one of the best things about most airmile tickets, that they are semi or fully flexible up to the day of travel. 

    As others have said, class and flexibility are independent... you can buy a non-flexible Business that has the same limitations as a non-flex economy. 
  • HogMan
    HogMan Posts: 191
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker First Post
    Forumite
    Virgin Atlantic currently offer a Flex option where for a couple of hundred pounds or so you can make a restricted fare fully flexible.

    This allows you to make changes or even cancel the flight without the normal penalties.

    This is likely to be much cheaper than buying a fully flexible fare outright.  
  • SiliconChip
    SiliconChip Posts: 1,284
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    Thanks for all the comments, but particularly to @HogMan, the Virgin Atlantic flex option seems like it could well fit the bill, selection test dates suggsts it adds around £150 - £200 in Economy (depending on which variety is selected) and a little more in Premium, but Premium suggests that changes don't incur any extra charges whereas Economy may be subject to fare differences, so you'd know that there'd be nothing more to pay.
  • SiliconChip
    SiliconChip Posts: 1,284
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    It's only 2 days since I started the thread but a significant change has taken place today: NASA has announced that Artemis II won't launch until September 2025, with the Artemis III mission to land astronauts on the moon delayed until at least September 2026. Hopefully by this time next year the Artemis II date may be a bit firmer and I can look at booking flights, but I won't be surprised if things slip even more. I may revisit the question of flexible ticketing at that time to see if there is anything new that's been introduced in the intervening year.
  • TELLIT01
    TELLIT01 Posts: 16,256
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper PPI Party Pooper
    Forumite
    No surprise that the launch dates have been moved.  The Artemis launch a few days ago was basically a total failure, other than getting the rocket and payload into space.  All other elements of the mission have failed.
  • CKhalvashi
    CKhalvashi Posts: 12,033
    First Anniversary First Post Photogenic Name Dropper
    Forumite
    edited 14 January at 7:13AM
    I'd recommend an independent agency in this case.

    I can pass an agency I would personally use (that I don't have any commercial relationship with but 2 of my own suppliers do) subject to approval from the Forum Team on request. As this is a company I have personally spoken to in the past regarding our commercial offerings, I would prefer to message the FT before recommending on your request for permission as to not be in breach of forum rules on advertising.

    As a general advice, you may be best (time permitting) to use a fixed outbound option and a flexible return, subject to your personal needs, however the US is outside my particular area of expertise.
    💙💛 💔
  • SiliconChip
    SiliconChip Posts: 1,284
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    TELLIT01 said:
    No surprise that the launch dates have been moved.  The Artemis launch a few days ago was basically a total failure, other than getting the rocket and payload into space.  All other elements of the mission have failed.

    Well, it wasn't an Artemis launch and it's not strictly in the timeline for future Artemis missions (although the failure to be able to survey the lnar surface might well cause some concern for Artemis III), but I imagine any significant technical issues will contribute to delays in the Artemis launch schedule.
Meet your Ambassadors

Categories

  • All Categories
  • 341.8K Banking & Borrowing
  • 249.7K Reduce Debt & Boost Income
  • 449.2K Spending & Discounts
  • 234K Work, Benefits & Business
  • 606.1K Mortgages, Homes & Bills
  • 172.5K Life & Family
  • 246.8K Travel & Transport
  • 1.5M Hobbies & Leisure
  • 15.8K Discuss & Feedback
  • 15.1K Coronavirus Support Boards