Wednesday Wisdom: Gaming Schedule Changes

The Game

Major US and European airlines will usually tinker with published schedules until about two months prior to departure, and most also let you switch to another flight or get a free refund when the schedule changes or a flight is cancelled. That leads to a game, especially when you can cancel tickets for little to no penalty if your game doesn’t work:

When you’re booking travel far out and your preferred date and time costs too much, book a flight that will likely have a schedule change so that you can switch to the expensive, ideal flight instead.

The Mechanics

How do you know which flights are most likely to have a schedule change? Look at both current flights and historical flights on a site like FlightRadar24 or FlightAware to see what an airline usually flies, then look for flights in the future with different schedules. Alternatively, take a look at what they’re selling in the near future and extrapolate.

For example, let’s say you want to fly from Salt Lake City, UT to Boise, ID on a Sunday. Currently, scheduled non-stop flights on Delta for Sundays in July leave at:

  • 8:06 AM
  • 11:00 AM
  • 3:45 PM
  • 10:50 PM

In Spring of 2025, the schedule looks almost the same:

  • 8:45 AM
  • 11:00 AM
  • 3:35 PM
  • 5:54 PM
  • 11:00 PM

But, the schedule has a smoking gun – that 5:54 PM flight doesn’t currently exist, and it probably won’t exist by the time Spring 2025 rolls around (#RemindMeOfThisPostIn2025). When that flight is inevitably cancelled, you’ll be able to switch to another day, a different flight on the same day, or if you’ve really got rizz, perhaps even switch to a different airport.

What Could go Wrong?

There are of course caveats:

  • Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results
  • Holidays mess up schedules
  • Football games and major concerts lead to one-off flights
  • Lubbock only has once daily frequencies

The best news is that you can probably play this game with three or four airlines at minimum, so you’ve got multiple shots at getting your way.

Good luck and happy Wednesday!

Honorary travel hacking shirt awarded only to those that can turn an SLC-BOI schedule change into an LAX-HNL flight.

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