What happens when you buy an airfare and then discover that sometime before take-off the fare has dropped in price?

A Look at Price Drop Refund Policies by Airline

If the price dropped for the exact same travel dates, flight times, and the same class of fare, then some airlines will issue a travel credit for the difference in fare. However, most of those that will issue a refund are going to charge a fee for doing so.

If you happen to stumble upon a lower fare within 24 hours after you booked your flight, you can take advantage of the 24-hour rule for flights from or to the U.S. and get a full refund as long as your flight is at least 7 days away. This is the official Department of Transportation policy, but some airlines and third-party sites allow you to cancel for free even if it is less than 7 days prior to departure.

After 24 hours have passed since the original booking, only a few U.S.-based airlines will issue a full refund, in the form of a travel credit, depending on when the ticket is rebooked or canceled; and only one of those will issue a travel credit anytime up to 10 minutes prior to departure. The others charge anywhere from $50 (for a domestic fare) up to $750 (for an international one), which often wipes out any savings. And if you’ve purchased a Basic Economy fare, then you're out of luck.

Any travel credit issued is valid up to one year from the original date of purchase.

Note: This information applies to non-refundable fares only; fully refundable fares can be rebooked at any time, almost always without a fee, if the fare goes down.


Related: Strategies to Get a Refund on a Non-Refundable Airfare


Alaska Airlines

Will Alaska Airlines Refund if Price Drops?

Yes, for Main class fares and above. If a lower fare is available more than 24 hours after booking, a travel credit is given if there is any remaining value after fees. Saver fares cannot be changed more than 24 hours after booking.

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • No fees for flights wholly within the state of Alaska.
  • $125 change/cancellation fee on all other routes.

Alaska Airlines used to have one of the simplest and best policies in the industry, but have now adopted fees for the majority of its route network. Unless you are flying wholly within Alaska, the price will have to drop more than $125 for you to receive any sort of refund credit. Alaska also has a price guarantee, which issues a refund equal to the price difference (if greater than $10) if you find a lower fare on the exact same itinerary somewhere else within 24 hours of booking.

Allegiant

Will Allegiant Refund if Price Drops?

Yes, a credit voucher good for future travel will be issued for qualifying changes/cancellations. For bookings made without Trip Flex, any changes must be made at least 7 days prior to scheduled departure.

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • $75 per person, per segment for bookings without Trip Flex.
  • If Trip Flex was purchased during booking ($8-$20), no fee applies and changes can be made up to 1 hour prior to departure.
  • Electronic Carrier Usage Charge (online booking fee; $18 per passenger, per segment) is not refunded with or without Trip Flex.

Although Allegiant’s policy states that a travel credit will be issued if there are any remaining funds, there would have to be a significant price drop for this to happen after all the associated fees. Since Allegiant’s fares are already very low, it’s unlikely you’ll ever actually get a travel credit.


Related: 7 Questions You Should Ask Before Accepting an Airline Voucher


American

Will American Refund if Price Drops?

Yes, for Main Cabin Economy fares or above. Basic Economy fares cannot be changed more than 24 hours after booking.

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • $200 for domestic travel.
  • Up to $750 for international travel.

Since the fees are so high, you’ll rarely see any refund unless there is a drastic price drop.

Delta

Will Delta Refund If Price Drops?

Yes, for Main Cabin Economy fares or above. Basic Economy fares cannot be changed more than 24 hours after booking.

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • $200 for domestic travel.
  • Up to $500 for international travel.

Delta also has a Best Fare Guarantee for flights originating in the U.S., which states that if you find a lower fare by 12 midnight Eastern Time on the same day you purchased a ticket on Delta, you will receive a refund for the difference in fare (must be at least $10 less). If the lower fare is for the exact same itinerary and only found on another site and not on delta.com, you will also receive a $100 travel credit voucher.

Frontier

Will Frontier Refund If Price Drops?

No, Frontier will charge you a fare difference if the price is higher, but will not issue a travel credit for a drop in price. However, if you’ve purchased the Works bundle during the initial booking, the ticket is refundable and a new ticket can be purchased at the lower rate.

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • N/A

Although Frontier doesn’t issue any travel credits if you find a lower fare, it no longer charges a flight change fee for any changes made 60 days or more before departure.


Related: New No Change Fee Policy on Frontier Airlines


Hawaiian

Will Hawaiian Refund If Price Drops?

No

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • N/A

Hawaiian’s fare rules state that a “refund or credit will not be provided if a flight change is made and the applicable new fare is less than the original fare paid.”

JetBlue

Will JetBlue Refund If Price Drops?

Yes, tickets changed within 5 days of the original booking date do not incur a change fee as long as there are no changes to the origin/destination, stopover points, flights, and travel dates. A voucher will be issued for the difference in fare, which is good for future travel up to one year from date of issue. This lower fare policy will only be honored if you find the lower fare and call JetBlue Reservations at 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) to get the refund credit. Any changes made more than 5 days after booking will incur a change fee.

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • No fee if the flight is changed within 5 days of booking.
  • If more than 5 days from booking, $75-$200 depending on the price of the fare.

JetBlue also has a Best Fare Guarantee for flights originating in the U.S., which will issue a $50 credit if you find a lower fare for the exact same itinerary on the same day of purchase. The lower fare must be at least $5 less than what you paid and what is currently available on jetblue.com in order to receive the credit.


Related: When Is the Best Time to Book Your Flight?


Spirit

Will Spirit Refund If Price Drops?

Yes, surprisingly, Spirit states that if a new fare is less than the original fare, a future travel credit will be issued to be used within 60 days. Of course, the fare will have to drop more than the modification or cancellation fee in order for a credit to be issued.

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • $90 per customer, per booking for modification or cancellation made online.
  • $100 per customer, per booking if made over the phone or at the airport.

Southwest

Will Southwest Refund If Price Drops?

Yes, the simplest policy there is. Just rebook your fare and a travel credit will be issued for any difference in price to be used up to one year from the date of the original purchase.

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • No fees

Southwest is the only airline that truly gives a full refund credit any time a fare drops in price up to 10 minutes prior to departure.

Sun Country

Will Sun Country Refund If Price Drops?

Yes, if the price of the new airfare is lower, the difference is given in the form of a travel credit good for one year from the original date of purchase. The fare drop must occur at least 60 days prior to departure to get a full refund credit for any price difference. If it is within 60 days of travel, a change fee will apply.

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • No fee if the change is made 60+ days prior to departure.
  • $50 per direction, per traveler for changes made 59-14 days prior to departure.
  • $100 per direction, per traveler for changes made 13-0 days prior to departure.

Sun Country changed its ticket change fee policy in July 2019 to become more customer-friendly. We hope that other airlines will follow.


Related: New No Change Fee Policy on Sun Country Airlines


United

Will United Refund If Price Drops?

Yes, there have been multiple reports of an unofficial price drop refund policy on United. If the price drops within 30 days of booking the ticket, call a United Reservations agent to ask for a refund credit. Some agents may not know about this policy so ask for a supervisor or try calling again if your first attempt does not succeed. Basic Economy fares cannot be changed more than 24 hours after booking.

Charges/fees taken before travel credit is issued

  • $50 processing fee for price drops within 30 days of booking (unofficial policy).
  • For price drops more than 30 days after booking, a $200 change fee for domestic travel and up to $400 for international travel will apply.

While United doesn’t officially state its price drop refund policy anywhere online, it has worked for many travelers who have called United after a fare has dropped. Some have even mentioned having the $50 processing fee waived, though it seems lately that is not happening anymore so the price drop will likely need to be more than $50 for any refund credit to be issued.

It never hurts to try calling an agent and asking for a refund if you notice a significant drop in price for your flight. If you are courteous and you get an agent in a good mood, you may even be able to get a refund outside of the airline’s official policy. Just don’t have high expectations or demand any sort of refund that you are not entitled to, because an agent is less likely to do any favors for an angry customer.

Featured image by Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko / shutterstock.com
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