I usually do my homework whenever I’m looking for a good deal on airfare. I compare prices on sites like Kayak, and others. But even if you do your homework, there is not guarantee that a couple of days later the same airline you booked your flight with, will post a new lower fare on their website and then you are stuck with the price you paid.
So is there any way to protect your purchase against lower fares after you make your reservation?
I emailed several airline companies and asked them that question. Here is what each one had to say regarding their lower price guarantee policy.
When a new lower fare becomes available after a ticket has been purchased, customers are entitled to a Lower Fare Guarantee refund within the following guidelines:
1. The lower fare is available for the exact itinerary previously purchased. No portion of the reservation has been flown. This policy does not apply to transatlantic or transpacific travel. Lower Fare Guarantee refunds are not available for online ticket exchanges. Certain promotional fares may be excluded. We will deduct a $100 service fee and apply residual funds in the form of a US voucher. Additional rules and restrictions may apply. Call our Reservations Desk to seek a Lower Fare Guarantee.
What all these means?
First, lower fare guarantee is only valid for flights within the continental USA.
Second, you’ll have to pay a $100.00 service fee to change your ticket, so is the difference in price is less than $100.00 is not worth it.
Third, it does not apply to certain promotion, which is usually when you get the cheapest tickets.
(Instead of answer my question directly a Delta representative referred me to their website and this is what it says:
For eligible tickets, if you discover the same Delta itinerary (yes, that means the same flight, day, time, cabin, booking class, etc.) for a lower fare on Expedia, Travelocity or another online travel agency, we’ll refund your money or give you the fare difference and a $100 travel voucher Refund your money. No question asked: You can cancel your itinerary within 24 hours of purchase directly at delta.com. Your credit card will be refunded for the entire purchase, and you will receive a confirmation receipt for the refund.
Receive the fare difference and a $100 travel voucher for use toward future travel with us.
The lower total fare found must be for exact same Delta flight, date, cabin, booking class (which begins with a letter such as L, U, T, B etc.) and flight time as the original itinerary purchased on the same day at delta.com, and the difference in total fare (including third party booking fees) must be equal to or greater than $10.
If that’s the case, submit a claim right here at delta.com. Once we have validated the lower fare, you will receive an e-mail confirmation of the refund amount to your credit card and your electronic travel voucher for $100
The form will require you to provide the lower fare amount and the website address (URL) where the lower fare is found.
If the lower published fare is validated by Delta, you will receive an email confirmation of the refund amount to your credit card and your electronic travel voucher for $100.
Requests can only be made via the claim form submitted on delta.com. Requests via phone, fax or email will not be accepted.
Delta must be able to verify the lower online published fare at the time of the claim and that the lower fare is not available at delta.com. Other methods of verification (e.g., fax, screen prints) are not eligible.
This policy seems to be pretty good; however there is one BIG problem. Airfares can change within hours, so even if it takes 1 to 2 days for Delta to confirm the lower airfare, chances are that by then the price had change again and Delta will not be able to verify the lower fare.
It is interesting that Delta would not accept faxes or screen captures as proof of the lower fare, which will be the easiest and fastest way to proof you found a lower fare, instead you must submit the url address and then they will do a follow up to confirm it. I have no choice but to think that Delta did this on purpose to avoid having to comply with their own Lower Fare Guarantee Policy.
Spirit was very direct with their answer. They simply do not match their own lower fare. They also informed me that the difference in price between their reservation department and their website is generally $5.00. This is not true.
Case in point: I recently tried to purchase some tickets from Fort Lauderdale to Costa Rica on Spirit’s website. When you purchase a ticket for an international flight on Spirit’s website, you must enter your passport information during the reservation. Unless you enter that information, you can’t purchase the tickets. Because I had sent my children’s passports out for renewals, I didn’t have the information with me, so I called Spirit’s reservation department and the quote I got was over $200.00 higher than the one they had on their website. The worse part is that they wouldn’t match their own price.
Spirit does allows you to change your ticket if you find a cheaper one, but then again, you have to pay a $90.00 change fee to rebook at a lower fare. So it is not worth it.
Jet blue told me that their prices are usually the same with both, on their website and through a reservation agent, but if there is any discrepancy, they will consider matching the price on a case by case basis.
Regarding lower fare guarantee, Jet Blue said that “customers who find a lower fare for the itinerary they booked may call 1-800-JETBLUE and request a credit, which is good for future travel on JetBlue for one year.
In other words, they would not lower the price of your ticket, but will give you a voucher for the difference, which you can use for later travel.
United Airlines said that their prices are the same regardless if you purchase the ticket on their website or with a reservation agent. The only difference is that their website does not charge booking fees.
They will also issue a travel voucher with the difference, so long as the new fare met all of the same fare requirements as the original. For a refundable ticket, a customer may receive a refund of the difference.
Once a ticket is purchased from any source (and travel has not yet started), the fare change policy (from AA Conditions of Carriage) takes effect. The new lower fare must be of the same ticket type for the same itinerary on the same day. If it is a “non-refundable” fare, then the difference would be given in vouchers for future travel - LESS any applicable change fees, which is usually $150 for domestic non-refundable tickets. If the reduction in the new fare is less than the change fee, seeking a refund may not make economic sense for the purchaser.
So what is the final verdict?
Delta has a very good policy guaranteeing their lower fare, however their method of confirm it is flawed and it leaves you with very low possibilities of actually benefiting from it.
US Airways, American Airlines and Spirit Air have very high ticket change fees, which defeats the purpose of paying less for your ticket and saving some money.
Jet Blue and United Airlines have, in my opinion, the best policies; because even if they don’t lower their price to match the lowest fare you found, at least they’ll give you credit that you can use on your next flight.
Note: For this article I am using only the information I received from the companies who responded to my email. Other airlines did not respond to my email, and therefore I did not mention them on this article.