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Refundable airline reservations?
April 12, 2013 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Whenever I buy airline tickets via kayak, they are non-refundable. Is there any way of making reservations, e.g. to Europe, that would be refundable or exchangeable? Or is this just the cost of getting the "best" fares? (As if) (who knows?)
posted by DMelanogaster to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
 
Refundable tickets exist, but they are usually a lot more expensive and not available on price checking websites.

Southwest and Jet Blue are the two airlines that I know of that don't have change fees, meaning that you can change the date and/or destination of your ticket and only have to pay the difference in fare. If the new fare is lower, you will not get refunded the money. Other airlines have change fees, and those vary quite a bit.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:07 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason non-refundable fares are so cheap is because the airline gets its money whether or not you fly.

A refundable fare is a gamble. The airline isn't sure you're actually going to use the ticket, you get the convenience of being able to cancel, but they have the risk of flying with an empty seat, hence, they are more expensive.

You can buy refundable fares directly from the airline's website.

They are MUCH more expensive. (Most businesses have agreements to buy refundable fares at a discount via corporate travel agencies, they're rarely used by consumers.)

A way around it might be to insure your flight/trip. I know American offers this insurance and it allows you to cancel for illness or weather or other covered events.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:08 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most airlines give you the option to buy refundable or nonrefundable tickets (though I suppose I haven't seen refundable ones available on discount sites or sites like Expedia). The refundable ones are much more expensive.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 11:08 AM on April 12, 2013


As a rule, refundable fares will cost significantly more. (There can be exceptions, but you're not likely to encounter one.) Like people have said, looking for flights on an airline's website should give you an option to search only for refundable fares. It is, however, conceivable that some airline might have a fare that is changeable within some parameters, but not properly refundable, so there may be a middle ground if, for some reason, if you think you might need to change your flight by a day or two, rather than cancel entirely. Open-return tickets also exist.

I was hoping that ITA would have an option to search for refundable fares, but it doesn't seem to. Kayak doesn't either. (I didn't check Orbitz, but given that they're technically a travel agent and selling you the ticket themselves, rather than sending you to the airline like Kayak, I'd rate it less likely. An actual human travel agent, on the other hand, could search for refundable tickets specifically.)

The list of covered events for the insurance the airlines will sell you is not exactly extensive.
posted by hoyland at 11:21 AM on April 12, 2013


As a rule, refundable fares will cost significantly more.

I see this daily - I often book business travel for my bosses, and I try to book refundable fare for things; sometimes I'm asked to get a particular flight non-refundable as a cost-cutting measure. The refundable fare has sometimes been as much as $500 more than the non-refundable fare for the same flight.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:24 AM on April 12, 2013


A non-refundable ticket + trip insurance is almost always a much more economical option than a refundable ticket.
posted by something something at 11:35 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Trip insurance does not cover many reasons that someone might want to change or cancel a flight.
posted by bq at 1:42 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah Southwest is great for this, even their cheap "Wanna Get Away" fares have no change fee (other than paying any difference in price). I changed one flight recently 4 times...

Most airlines charge more for such tickets, though.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:21 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Southwest and Jet Blue are the two airlines that I know of that don't have change fees, meaning that you can change the date and/or destination of your ticket and only have to pay the difference in fare. If the new fare is lower, you will not get refunded the money.

JetBlue does charge a $100 change fee on most tickets, but if the new price is lower they will credit the difference towards the fee.
posted by sriracha at 5:03 PM on April 12, 2013


Coincidentally, I just bought a ticket last night (Charlotte to San Diego in September) on the United website. The ticket was about $250, and United offered me the option of switching it to a refundable fare for "only" $850 more.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:05 PM on April 12, 2013


I was hoping that ITA would have an option to search for refundable fares, but it doesn't seem to.

You can search by fare code or booking class using ITA, although it's not for the faint of heart.

The only way to know for sure if a fare is refundable (in whole or in part) is to read the fare rules, which are available via ITA and (less easily) via the OTAs and airline booking sites.
posted by armage at 12:52 AM on April 15, 2013


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