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Fare-Drop Refunds

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Fare-Drop Refunds

Q. My wife purchased a round-trip airfare a month ago on Frontier Airlines. Today I received an alert that the same itinerary is now $100 lower. She bought a “classic” fare (which is a discounted non-refundable fare), and they refuse to let her cancel and rebook at the lower fare. She can cancel the classic fare, but the $100 fare difference if she rebooks becomes a credit for future use. (There is no fee for cancelling the fare, but only the “classic plus” fare type is refundable). I know there is a lot of variability in this area these days and some airlines will refund if a lower fare is booked. Which airlines will give a full refund if a fare goes down between the time you buy it and the time you depart?

A. Frontier Airlines has three types of fares: “economy,” “classic,” and “classic plus.” The classic plus fares are fully refundable as you mentioned, and cost more than the other fares. No airline will actually give you money back when a fare goes down in price. But three U.S.-based airlines (Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest) will give you a credit, in the form of a voucher good for future travel, in the entire amount of the fare drop in such a circumstance. The other airlines deduct $100 to $150 on a domestic fare as a “service fee” or ticket change fee, so often any savings are wiped out. It looks like Frontier is offering the full refund on its classic and classic plus fares (but they charge a $50 rebooking fee for their “economy” fares). This may seem unfair but most retailers don’t offer price protection when a product goes down in price (prior purchases not included, reads the fine print), or if they do, it’s only for a short period. The airlines have been pretty good at offering fare drop credits, if not refunds, over the years, albeit, increasingly, with annoying service fees.

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