At FareCompare, we get questions like this all the time - here is the latest version:
Q: “If I were to buy a ticket today and it went down in price, would I get refunded for the lower price?”
Good News, Bad News and Change Fees
A: The good news is that, by law, all shoppers get 24 hours after a purchase to cancel tickets without incurring a financial penalty. In most cases this penalty is the notorious change fee charged by the airline. So if a shopper buys a ticket and within the 24-hour post-purchase period sees the same ticket for a better price, he or she can simply cancel the first ticket and buy the cheaper one.
However, problems arise when the cheaper ticket is spotted after that 24-hour period. If the ticket was purchased from Southwest, there’s no problem – this is the one airline that has no change fee. However, the others do charge for changes – as much as $200 on American, Delta, United and US Airways.
Avoiding Change Fee Penalties
There are a few “outs” that let you avoid the change fee - such as purchasing a refundable ticket – but since this airfare can be far more expensive than non-refundable tickets, few leisure travelers take advantage of these fares.
Avoid the problem altogether by doing everything you can to find the cheapest flights right from the start, and here are quick tips on how to do just that:
- Compare prices: If you only go to a single airline site, you may pay too much. Any airline can have the cheapest price at any time.
- Shop the cheapest day: Tuesday afternoons (about 3 p.m. eastern) is generally the cheapest time to shop because airline sales have been launched and the competition has matched the lower prices.
- Fly the cheapest days: Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the cheapest days to fly (and some airfare deals require you fly those days). Another cheap day to fly is Saturday.