How to Get Your Money Back When Airfare Drops

What happens if you buy a non-refundable airline ticket and then the price on the same flight drops? The answer may be better than you think. In fact, you may be able to recoup some or all of the price difference.

Doing so requires that you track price fluctuations and then request a refund before the price goes back up again – so it takes some diligence – but if you can save even more on your airfare, then why not?

The Five Things You Should Know About Finding Cheap Airfares

Not every airline offers to price match their own airfare, and those that do often charge a fee for it, so you have to be sure that the fare difference is enough to offset the fee you will be charged for making the change.

Getting Your Money Back, Airline by Airline
Domestic airlines that do not refund the difference when a fare drops include Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit. International airlines that do not refund fare drop differences include Aeromexico, British Airways, Emirates Airways and Lufthansa.

This table shows which major U.S. airlines allow you to claim some or all of the price difference when a fare drops, and what fees they charge for domestic and international flights.

Airline Domestic flight change fee International flight change fee Notes
 AirTran None None
Alaska Airlines None None Lower fare found on sites other than alaskaair.com within 24 hours of purchase receive refund of difference plus $100 voucher. Lower fares found on alaskaair.com until departure have difference refunded.
American Airlines $150 $250 After booking on AA.com, if a lower fare is found on another site by midnight Central Time on same day of purchase, customer can have refund of difference plus $50 promo code for future travel.
 Continental $150 $250 See United
Delta $150 $250 For travel booked on Delta.com, if lower fare is found the same day on another website for identical itinerary, Delta refunds difference plus $100 voucher for future travel.
 Hawaiian Airlines $100 $100
JetBlue $100 $100 If lower fare for identical itinerary is found by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on same day as booking on JetBlue.com, JetBlue will issue $100 voucher for future travel.
Singapore Airlines Varies Varies, but is $25 for changes even on fully-refundable fares If lower fare for identical itinerary is found by midnight Pacific Time on same day as travel is booked on SingaporeAir.com, Singapore Air refunds difference plus 5,000 Kris Flyer miles.
 Southwest Airlines None Not applicable
United Airlines $150 $150 For travel booked on United.com, if lower fare is found the same day on another website for identical itinerary, United refunds difference plus 20% voucher for future travel.
 US Airways $150 $250
Virgin America $75 $75 For travel booked on VirginAmerica.com, if a lower fare is found within 24 hours of booking, you can cancel and rebook at no charge.

If you have booked a flight and then the airfare drops (assuming it drops more than the amount you will need to pay for the change fee), here is a list of dos and don’ts for pursuing your refund.

  • Do phone the airline, provide your name and confirmation code, and explain that a lower fare is now available on the web and you are requesting a refund for the difference.
  • Do ask to speak to a manager if the customer service representative is not familiar with the airline’s policy.
  • Do track international fares closely, because wide swings in fares are more likely on international flights.
  • Don’t expect your refund to be given in cash. They are always given in vouchers or credit toward future travel.
  • Don’t wait too long to use your refund. Most refund credits must be used within 12 months.
  • Don’t expect to be able to claim a refund unless you have booked your flight directly with the airline.

Being aware of your airline’s policy about refunding fare differences on non-refundable tickets can offer you some peace of mind when you’re buying airline tickets. Online frequent flier forums show that consumers have had the best experiences getting this type of price difference refund with Southwest, AirTran, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue, which are coincidentally the four airlines that do not charge fees for the service.

Of course, you can relieve yourself of the hassle of pursuing a refund by making sure that you book the cheapest airline tickets to begin with. FareCompare has an email alert service that can help you monitor fares so you can grab them at their most affordable.

Author:

Updated: November 13, 2014