Always Check For Price Drops Even After You’ve Booked Your Travel

Airfares are really dropping right now in a lot of markets. I just priced a trip to Los Angeles with prices running $48 each way from Austin for most flights. These aren’t basic economy fares, these are regular economy fares with no change fees.

We can go through all of the reasons for this –

  • the traditional drying up of leisure travel starting in the second half of August
  • compounded by rapid spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19, and concern over breakthrough infections
  • business travel, which usually comes in to replace leisure, not coming back as quickly as airlines had expected earlier
  • airline schedules – supply of seats – remain bulked up based on earlier signals of travel resurgence

There are simply too many seats chasing too few passengers right now and that’s driving down price. And that means many tickets that have already been purchased would be less expensive if you were buying them today.

The great news is that with no change fees for non-basic economy tickets (Delta is even more generous than this through end of year) you can get a credit back when prices fall on tickets you’ve already purchased – but you have to stay vigilant!

I just repriced tickets for travel over the next several weeks and fares have dropped $50 and $150 respectively. Pocketing $200 back in vouchers for future travel is worth the hassle of cancelling and rebooking. With no change fees you can apply the credit from one trip to another trip – even if that other trip is exactly the same.

Airlines knew this was coming. That’s why United’s initial policy, when they led the elimination of change fees, was that you couldn’t keep the difference in fare when using a voucher towards a less expensive ticket. However optics and competitive pressure, when other airlines copied the elimination of change fees without this restriction, even forced United to loosen up.

Reprice those airline tickets! Reprice your hotels too, and your rental cars. I’m allergic to prepaid, non-cancellable bookings unless the difference in cost is truly substantial. AutoSlash.com and HotelSlash.com will help automate your car and hotel price tracking, by the way.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I found that UA in the change dialog would not let me rebook the dame flight – only other flights. I assumed they did that to stop people from benefitting from a reduction in the price of their existing flights. Rationale for the airline presumably being that they promised no change fees, but didn’t promise to give you a credit if the cost of your existing flight went down.

  2. I used a money saving service online before offered by a well known credit card company. But after using it, I failed to save money. When I shop online at certain department stores and use cash back rebate sites, I sometimes get cash back from online purchases. I do have a solution to what you’re blogging about, but I’mma keep quiet for now. It’s a good idea though. 🙂

  3. It’s worth mentioning that Google Flights has a fantastic price alerts feature. I monitor every single one of my booked flights with it. It’s amazingly flexible as well as super-granular.

    For example, I am currently monitoring Thanksgiving flights I just booked today from FLL, PBI to JFK, LGA, EWR only on JetBlue and only leaving after 8AM (parents don’t like 6am flights) and non-stop only. You can even track pricing on an individual flight.

    While the alerts are not instantaneous, Google Flights gets a mind-boggling number of requests every day, so they have enough data to alert you pretty quickly after a decrease occurs. I’ve literally saved thousands of dollars over the years this way, especially pre-Covid as a B6 Mosaic (no change fees).

  4. The one thing to keep in mind here is that AA is not like Southwest where you can “change” to the lower price ticket on the same flight without releasing your inventory. There is always the small chance that the airfare increases between cancelling and rebooking, especially if AA has IT issues and rebooking isn’t instantaneous. Safer way to go is if there is a backup flight for the same lower price, change to that backup flight and then immediately change back.

  5. @Michael Que, cars are in short supply. The supply is so short it makes your manhood look tall, even at your 4 inches.

  6. Not quite true about United. You can’t use a future flight credit toward the exact same itinerary with the exact same flight numbers and dates as the original. However, nothing is stopping you from canceling your existing reservation, using the credit some other time, and re-purchasing your existing flights with cash. This is what I was told by multiple Premier reservations agents. Alternatively, you can pay a fee — I think it’s $50 — if you want to avoid this hassle and keep the same confirmation number (and avoid having to purchase a new ticket outright).

  7. Gary, I’d appreciate it if you calling out the service TripIt for their premium member price tracker falling apart. It’s still assuming fixed change fees for all major airlines except Southwest, and despite numerous bug reports over the last year or so, they haven’t gotten around to fixing it.

    A little needling by a major blogger will probably get their attention, while my efforts certainly did not..

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