While’s it’s a good habit to think every plane ticket is nonrefundable, shit happens. Your car blows up, a friend cancels, conference dates change, you met the love of your life in the elevator, a cousin’s guinea pig dies. Now you want to change your ticket: good, the airline is going to charge you. Or you want to stay in New York, where you’re connecting, for a few days.
It depends on what the ticket rules say when you buy it, and though it may seem like the airlines are making up their own set of rules, they’re not. You agree to everything – how much a change costs, how many stopovers you have, whether you even get frequent flyer miles – when you buy the ticket. The goofy part is that it’s often notoriously hidden, sometimes intentionally.
While it looks like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, it’s the fine print that travel agents and airline representatives have to slog through when trying to help you. The problem is that it often gets hidden when you buy a ticket, and that's if ticket vendors even show you it at all.
It’s always buried as a small link, either as the “fare rules” or “fare conditions” of your ticket. If it’s displayed (how silly is that, right?), it will usually be shown after you make your flight selection or next to the checkbox when you agree to the terms and conditions of service. Travelocity is fairly good about showing the rules of a ticket; consolidators like Vayama won’t even show what fare bucket your ticket is in. And once you find the rules (we've got a small sideshow below), it’s even more aggravating CAUSE ITS ALL IN CAPS.
We’ve done a full breakdown below of one fare’s rules between Paris and Hong Kong on Air China, in plain English. And several important things pop up that we didn’t find out about in our search: for instance, if your visa application is denied by the embassy, you have the right to a full refund. Not to mention, children travel with a 25% discount and there's an extra charge when traveling to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport. Who said the devil wasn’t in the details?