Thursday, January 08, 2009

If Airfare Drops, You May Be Entitled to Credit

We’ve never paid too much attention to drops in airfares after we’ve purchased our tickets. We figured that was just the way it was, or that any refund amount would be too minor to be worth the hassle (and change fees). Maybe it’s time for us to change our attitude.

A recent article on USA Today notes that many airlines will issue a travel credit or voucher if the fare drops (usually by more than a certain amount) since you purchased your tickets. Some airlines add their ridiculous change fees to the “new” ticket, others don’t. As the charts on airfare search site Yapta (see image below) and accompanying the USA Today article show, the best airlines (no change fees) are Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest, and – gasp! – United.

So with those 4 airlines, if the fare drops much at all, apply for the credit. On most other airlines, you’ll need to see a bigger fare drop to cover the change fee – up to $150 in the case of American, Continental, and USAir; $100 for Delta, Hawaiian, and Midwest. And according to Yapta’s chart, change fees are even higher for some international tickets.

You’ll have to decide if the change fee outweighs the credit, but the way the airlines treat us, and with their opaque pricing system, we don’t see any reason to give them a dime more of our money. Claim that credit.

Airline ticket change fees, per website, December 2008