Which Airlines Offer a Price Guarantee?
"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week — Mondays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.
Airfares can change drastically day to day, and sometimes even as quickly as minute to minute. So are there any airlines that can guarantee you aren't paying more today for your ticket than you will tomorrow? That's what TPG reader Darrin asked us in a Facebook message...
[pullquote source="TPG Reader Darrin"]Do any airlines offer a price guarantee if the price comes down after booking?[/pullquote]
Most people assume that when they purchase a non-refundable ticket, they're locked in at the price they paid. But that's not entirely true, at least at some airlines.
One of the best "price guarantee" policies in the industry isn't really a price guarantee, but simply the ability to change any ticket at any time without penalty. That's the rule at Southwest, where even the cheapest "Wanna Get Away" fares can be rebooked whenever you'd like at the current price without paying any fee at all. That means if you find a lower price after booking, all you need to do is rebook your existing ticket at the new cheaper fare — you'll get a credit for the difference on future Southwest travel if you booked a "Wanna Get Away" fare, and a refund for other fares. Easy peasy.
Alaska Airlines is another carrier with a generous price guarantee. If you purchase your ticket directly with the airline and then find a lower price on alaskaair.com any time before your departure, you can file for a credit or refund of the difference.
How about JetBlue? If a price decreases within 14 days of the original booking date, you can call the airline and get a credit for the difference that's good for up to one year. And even after 14 days of booking, you can still get a credit, but you'll have to pay a $50 fee on Blue and Blue Plus fares (change fees on Blue Flex fares are always waived).
On the other hand, the "Big 3" legacy carriers — American, Delta and United — are less forgiving on price changes. While Delta offers what it calls a "Best Fare Guarantee," it only applies to Delta fares you find on other websites on the exact same day you purchased the ticket.
Now, even on the legacy airlines, non-refundable tickets that aren't basic economy fares can often be changed, but you'll pay a hefty fee to do so — usually at least $200 and possibly more depending on the terms of your fare. If the price change is more than that, it could be worth calling to take advantage of the lower fare and eating the fee. But otherwise, you probably can't take advantage of a price drop.
And finally, remember that thanks to the US Department of Transportation, all airline tickets involving a US city can be canceled without penalty within 24 hours of booking regardless of the terms of the fare, so long as the ticket is booked at least seven days in advance of departure.
So Darrin, make sure to keep an eye on those airfare prices even after you've bought your ticket, and thanks for the question. If you're a TPG reader who'd like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.