I've had good luck with booking travel thru the Sandboxx app or with Southwest without penalty.
United will charge you both a $200 change fee and a fee if there is a difference in the airfare... although, you can send them an email with the "why" and I've received a refund on the $200 (but not the difference in fare).
Hope this helps!
Delta let me change due to our son being in the military.
Southwest does not charge a change fee. You can use your original ticket price toward any new ticket within a year. I don’t think it offers refunds.
We got really stiffed by American. Our son didn't go through PIR with his division as he was pulled during the final Battlestations exercise because he had pinkeye. This was the day before our flight was due to leave. American did not refund our tickets and charged us to put points back into our points bank on two of the tickets of the four we had purchased. Because we had already changed tickets once because change date on PIR, we were charged change fees. BEWARE OF AMERICAN AIRLINES!
We always used Southwest because of their no change fee policy - but yes, you do have to use them within a year from the DATE OF PURCHASE - not the date of the flight.
The other option would be to purchase insurance - I know that can get costly but it would be worth looking in to if Southwest isn't an option.
Sandboxx wasn't available (or we weren't aware of it) when my son was in the Navy but I have heard good things about it.
We look to fly SWA whenever that is an option. Best customer service and the ability to change travel is a plus when it comes to travel when the Military is involved!