Air New Zealand has rebranded its flexiplus fare option as flexidate in a somewhat strange move that will no doubt lead to some customer confusion around the product.
The airline previously offered four fare types on all domestic flights - ranging from a seat only option, seat+bag, flexitime, and flexiplus.
As of the 9th October the flexiplus option has now been rebranded as flexidate.
The flexiplus fare offered two checked bags, the ability to change the flight on the day of travel for free, a full refund of the purchased fare if the ticket is cancelled, and the ability to change the date of the fare - subject to paying the fare difference at the time of the change.
The new flexidate fare offers the exact same benefits as flexiplus. All that has changed is the name, seemingly to focus on the fact the date of travel can be changed.
As a frequent flyer I have never considered the ability to change the date of travel a core benefit of the flexiplus fare. I always considered the fact the ticket could be cancelled for a full refund to be the main benefit of the fare.
With a flexiplus or flexidate fare, changes to flights on the day of travel are permitted for free, however changing the date of travel in advance is subject to normal fare change rules which means you are required to pay the fare difference between the fare you purchased and the cost of the fare you want to change to.
If you purchase a flexidate fare well in advance its not uncommon to find that it could cost several hundred dollars to change at the last minute - as an example if you've purchased a Wellington to Auckland flexidate fare for $149 and are presented with the following options when you go to change your fare for the following day, the minimum it will cost you to change is $213
I say minimum because you have options. If you wanted to change to the 6:15PM flight it would cost you $315. If you change to the 7:45PM flight it will only cost you $213, and on the day of travel you have the ability of being able to change to the 6:15PM flight for free (subject to availability of a seat on that flight).
If you are changing to a date where a fare of the same price or cheaper is available, you will not have to pay anything for the change.
If you are going to buy a flexidate fare because of the ability to change the date, you need to be fully aware of how much a fare change a day or two out could cost you. This cost could be significantly more than the original fare cost.
Smarter frequent travellers like to avoid such issues buy simply booking multiple fares across different days. Numerous times in the past when I've been uncertain about return travel dates for work I have purchased fares across a range of days. By booking these in advance I have been able to benefit from cheaper fares and not had to worry about a last minute change costing several hundred dollars.
As flexidate fares are fully refundable I simply cancel the fares I don't need for a full refund (less credit card fees if you have chosen to pay by credit card) - just remembering that cancelling a flexidate fare after the flight has left will incur a $50 fee.
The change by Air New Zealand focusing on date changes will no doubt result in some passengers booking flexidate fares without realising that taking advantage of the main promoted benefit of the fare could end up costing them significantly more than the original cost of the fare.