The first rule in airline booking is that there is no rule in airline booking.
Axioms don’t always hold true: Booking early doesn’t always maximum savings, and booking at the wrong time—or at a high price—doesn’t mean you’re locked in.
Be prepared to have your mind blown: The airline can issue a credit for the difference if the price drops. It doesn't matter whether you have a refundable fare or not.
If you’re not happy with the price you paid, it’s more than possible to get a credit or refund for the difference, especially if the price drops. This applies to all fares, even for restricted tickets. (More on that in a bit.)
Though these days, admittedly, tracking the flight price after booking will require more human effort on your end. Still, it might be worth it for the extra couple hundred in savings. In order not to drive yourself crazy, it might pay off to periodically check the current price (or use a flight price tracker!) before departure.
Here are a couple of ways to get more bang for buck, even if the money is tied up in the airline.*
(*You can always use the extra credit for another flight or two. Think of it as a twofer.)
Nonrefundable doesn’t mean you can’t get anything back.
Airline jargon is so deceptively confusing, it's practically criminal.
Nonrefundable may mean you can’t get the money back on the original payment method, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get back credit at all.
More or less, in airplane lingo:
Change = Possible credit / maybe back to original form of payment
Cancellation = Possible credit / maybe back to original form of payment
Refund = Back to original form of payment
That means, more or less, barring an apocalypse, most travelers should be able to receive credit back. After all, the airlines have no problem keeping your money in their coffers for another day.
Basically, all you have to do is ask for the difference.
It really is simple as that. Though the price will need to drop in the same fare bucket, it does happen.
Even if it doesn't, it is possible to switch to another flight and get the credit. (Read on to the next section for that.)
TripAdvisor user comicman recently posted this:
Yes, many airline will sometimes give you a credit if the price on your flight (in the same exact bucket as your ticket is in) goes down on your dates and your route before you fly. I have even heard of refunds but never got one myself. I have got a credit when a price went down though.
You just contact the airline and ask them. Well, if you can contact your airline these days.
For what it's worth, here is a list of airline customer service numbers for easy reference.
Free changes means you can switch to a cheaper flight.
The advent of the pandemic brought free cancellations to an opaque and rigid system. It was about time.
It also means it opens up new possibilities for travel hacking that wasn't possible before.
Bought the flight for $467, but now if you take the earlier flight on the same day, the price is $382? That's an $85 difference.
Here's the thing: It is possible to take the original flight or it is possible to switch to the new flight (if you're flexible, that is, with very little impact on your schedule) and get $85 credit toward another booking.
I have done this before, and well, it didn't take long for the credit to be used up. 😂
It also means you can buy a cheaper, new flight and cancel the old one.
At this point, you're getting the idea.
In this specific scenario, it's important to cancel the original flight and get the credit back first before booking the new flight.
In a recent example, the original flights had been booked June 9 for $1,415.58. Over three weeks, the itinerary from Los Angeles (LAX) to Philadelphia (PHL) took a $200+ dip for June 29 to July 2, yielding a $400+ difference in credit for the two nonstop flights.
(The main caveat: It would have required being comfortable having $2,500+ of cash flow tied up in the airlines. Luckily, airfare is expensive, and $1,415.58 only lasts for a bit.)
Just have both flights open in the browser tab, so the new flight can be confirmed as soon as you receive confirmation the original flight has been credited back.