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Can I get a refund if the airfare drops after I book?

SmarterTravel

It’s happened to everyone: After staking out the cheapest possible airfare, you book your flight, only to find a lower price for the same flight a few days later. If you’re like most travelers, you’ll be frustrated, but assume your airline won’t do anything to rectify the situation. But, some carriers will issue a travel voucher for the difference. Read on to see which airlines offer what.

Travel voucher

Southwest‘s policies are the most flexible of any low-fare carrier, and as such, the airline allows you to re-book your ticket without a change fee to take advantage of the lower price. The difference in price can be applied to future travel on Southwest.

JetBlue, United, and US Airways will also offer travel vouchers if a fare goes on sale after you book, as long as it is the same flight on the same date. To get a refund, call the airline’s reservations phone number, and be sure that the lower fare is for the exact itinerary you booked.

Frontier‘s spokesman told me that while Frontier does not have a published policy, the airline may award travel vouchers on a case-by-case basis. It never hurts to ask.

Travel voucher (but it’ll cost ya)

ATA, American, Continental, and Northwest also offer travel vouchers for the difference in price, but charge administrative or change fees for the difference. Fees for domestic tickets range from $50 (ATA, Northwest) to $100 (American, Continental), while fees for international tickets are as high as $200.

American specifies that the new fare must be in the same fare category, for the same itinerary, and other airlines likely have similar stipulations.

It’ll be up to you to determine if the fare dropped enough to compensate paying the airline’s fee.

You’re out of luck

AirTran doesn’t have a specific policy, and a spokeswoman informed me that the airline “would not necessarily refund the difference.”

On the other hand, Spirit allows travelers to change their fare entirely for $60 on Spiritair.com. It may not be worth the change fee, however, unless the fare dropped by more than $60.

Low-fare guarantees

Don’t overlook the low-fare guarantees offered by American, Continental, Frontier, Northwest, and United.

Restrictions vary, but in general, if you find a price that is at least $5 or $10 lower for your itinerary within 24 hours of booking, the airlines will refund the difference and give you a $50 or $100 travel credit (or in Frontier’s case, award you with 2,500 frequent flyer miles). Read the fine print before you submit a claim, because these guarantees tend to exclude a wide range of lower fares that may seem eligible.

If you notice prices for your flight drop, call the reservations or customer service desk regardless of which airline you’re flying and explain your situation. You might be rebuked, but it never hurts to ask for a refund or a travel voucher.

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