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Chart: Airline fare drop refund policies

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Chart: Airline fare drop refund policies

By George Hobica

Airfarewatchdog.com

What happens when you buy an airfare and then discover that sometime before take off the fare has dropped in price? Well, if the fare difference applies to the exact same dates of travel, exact same flight times, and exact same "fare bucket" (you know, those wacky fare codes like Q and K and T and Y), then some airlines will give you a fare drop refund. But many will not. And even most of those that will issue a refund are going to charge you a fee for doing so. Only three four U.S.-based airlines, as you can see from the chart below, will issue a refund (always in the form of a credit for future travel, not in cash) in full; the others charge anywhere from $75 (for a domestic fare) up to $250 (for an international one), which often wipes out any savings. And as you can also see from our chart, if you're flying on a non-U.S. airline or on a no-frills U.S. carrier such as Allegiant or Spirit, then you're out of luck. (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.)

 

 

Refund for fare drop after booking?

Charges/fees on domestic fares 

Charges/fees on int'l fares

The details

Browser says:

Aeromexico

No

N/A

N/A

N/A

A media relations rep stated that no airlines issue fare drop refunds. Not true, obviously.

Alaska

Yes

No

No

Refund is given as credit in form of electronic voucher, good for travel up to one year

Woof! One of the simplest and best policies in the industry, hands down. If only Alaska went everywhere we needed to be.

AirTran

Yes

No

No

You'll receive credit for future travel. Business class tickets can be changed with no charge.

The airline used to charge a $75 change fee but with the purchase by Southwest Airlines they're aligning their policy with the new owners.

Allegiant

No

N/A

N/A

"The airline unfortunately cannot refund or credit fare differences after a reservation has been made."

Well, that's what you get when you want to fly for almost-free, right?

American

Yes

$150

$250

The airline will issue a "rollover credit" good for future travel, in form of a travel voucher.

This isn't a widely publicized policy, but it does work.

British Airways

No

N/A

N/A

N/A

Refunds tend to be more of an American thing.

Delta Yes $150 $250 Voucher for future travel.  

Emirates

No

N/A

N/A

N/A

Buy it you fly it.

Frontier

No

N/A

N/A

N/A

It's hard to keep up with this airline with all its policy changes. But yes – no on refunds.

Hawaiian

Yes

$100

$100

Credit will be issued if you meet all their requirements (and if the amount is more than $100).

The policy's as strict as the other majors, but at least Hawaiian tends to be easy to work with.

JetBlue

Yes

No

No

Not a published policy, but standard practice to just credit you the difference.

No formal claim process or anything – just rebook online.

Lufthansa

No

N/A

N/A

N/A

The airline is moving towards a low-cost, low-rewards model.

Singapore Airlines Yes, except for heavily discounted fares (i.e., those with no changes or refunds allowed) N/A Depends on the change penalty for the fare in question Credit issued in same form of payment used to buy ticket Even fully refundable fares incur a $25 fee to reissue at the lower fare

Southwest

Yes

No

N/A

Simply rebook your fare and receive credit for the difference to your account.

Customers love this simple policy, and so do we! 

Spirit

No

N/A

N/A

No means no!

(What, you were expecting Champagne?)

United

Yes

$150 administrative fee

$150 administrative fee

Receive a voucher for any remaining difference after paying the fee. A voucher that will invariably be a pain in the butt to cash in and will also not retain any value if you use only a portion of it.

Basically, like Alaska's policy, except designed to never pay out, thanks to the $150 fee. Also, you have to call to claim. So, enjoy that. (Until a few years ago, United refunded in full, but that was then).

US Airways

Yes

$150

$250

They'll give you vouchers for the difference, providing the fare you find meets their terms.

Claims can't be made online – everything needs to be done over the phone. (Be nice, or the agent might slap you with a call center fee, too.) As with United, US Air used to refund in full.

Virgin America

Yes

$75

$75

Credit is held in your account for 12 months for future travel.

Those fancy exit row fares can sometimes drop quite a lot before travel, so if you booked one of those, check back at least once and see – you may qualify for a credit.

Check out comments below or add your own!

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