Refunds from an airline? Say it ain’t so

Just when you thought that airlines were nickel-and-diming us ruthlessly, (Let me check. Yep, they still are.) we get news to give us a sliver of hope.

An article in USA Today tells us that if the price of a non-refundable airline ticket that you’ve already bought goes down, you can ask for a refund. It just needs to be requested before the scheduled flight.

I’m not sure which idea is more surprising: prices going down, or airlines willingly giving up money.

Southwest makes it the easiest–they’ll rebook at the lower price, refund the price difference directly to your credit card, and they won’t charge you a change fee.

Other carriers give will you a refund, but they make it a little more tedious–giving you a voucher instead of reimbursing your credit card, and they might charge a change fee (from $75 to $150 for a domestic flight). The process for placing the request varies by airline, either by website or phone.

Refund by credit card, without change fee: Southwest
Refund by voucher, without change fee: United, JetBlue, Alaska
Refund by voucher, with change fee: Continental, Delta, US, Airways, Northwest, American
No refunds: AirTran, Virgin America, Spirit, Frontier

I hadn’t heard of Alaska’s guarantee before, but I like it: it applies if you buy a ticket on their website, but later notice a cheaper ticket (by $5) for the same flight on another website. If you call within 24 hours, you can still get the price difference applied to your credit card, plus a $50 voucher to boot.

Are you doubtful or encouraged? Yes, it takes some extra legwork to research fares and contact the airlines. And the refund might be nominal after the change fee. But the money that you get back might offset what the airline charges for checking luggage or requesting a blanket. Plus, it’s just satisfying to get money back from the airlines for once, isn’t it?

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