I have been in a situation this entire year where all of my trips are subject to change, which is not my "norm." This brings up the question about when it's best to pay extra (sometimes a lot extra) for refundable airfares vs. the lowest priced non-refundable airfares. IAHFLYR's mention of being able to purchase a refundable airfare on AS for a trip to SEA got me thinking further about this.
AS change fees are $125, so when I purchase AS tickets for FAT-SAN at $69 non-refundable each way vs. $284 refundable each way, it's a no-brainer. Non-refundable. Even if I have to change my flight by one day only three days prior to travel, the last minute fares are still cheaper than the refundable fares. Certainly not more.
AS non-refundable tickets for SJC-HNL are $198 each way, but the same refundable ticket is $533 each way. I'm trying to understand why would I spend that much more money, unless I had a definitive appointment with death? It's not like I'll never fly somewhere again. If I can't make the flight for any reason, I pay the $125, and the money spent on the ticket can be used for a future itinerary. I would book my future itinerary out far enough in advance (minimum 14-21 days in advance) to take advantage of low pricing again. I can't think of why I would need to change a flight by just a day or two. If I can't make the trip or the exact itinerary, I reschedule for when I can make it at an affordable rate.
I guess I'm not understanding the need or advantage of purchasing a refundable ticket that costs 4 times the amount of a non-refundable ticket when you can just pay the change fee and "move on." For business travel, maybe, but not for leisure travel. Any thoughts and insights are welcome and appreciated. Hoping to learn something here.
pluto77 the only thing I can add to this is that sometimes when I have been searching for tickets and pricing differences, I will run across refundable for same price as non. Why? Who knows why the airline industry does anything they do????? Maybe some tickets purchased cannot be exchanged for that type of fee? That would be the only other reason I would know. As long as you can exchange to another date or destination for the $125, I would certainly purchase the non-refundable. 9 out of 10 times (ok I know you said this year has been change after change but that is usually not normal) there would be no need for exchange of tickets. One thing I would add though is if there are "expected" circumstances in the future where you are more certain that your flights might be delayed for a long period of time or indefinitely (parent getting ill and may have to start taking care of them; surgery coming soon; kids drained savings account, might need cash in a hurry, etc.) I would look closely into the differences and if there isn't much, refundable would be the way to go.
I look at it kind of like insurance. If you want a guarantee you are going to have to pay for it
There does seem to be an entire alphabet full of varying types of fares. Boy, talk about a pricing grid a la erc... My Alaska fares are so cheap (short distance travel) that it's not that much of a worry. When going to Nashville on AA, they give me the option of purchasing a changeable fare ($200 fee waived) for only an extra $60-$160 (depending on fare and itinerary), which I've been doing. It includes a number of other benefits such as a free checked bag, group 1 boarding, complimentary adult bev, bonus miles, etc. though it doesn't lock in the airfare price if a change needs to take place (still have to pay the fare difference). I haven't needed to make any changes (so far), but it has bought me some peace of mind for a relatively fair price. The thought of needing a refund doesn't compute for me I guess, as it would be very rare for me to have to just slightly change some dates close to travel time. If I couldn't go on the dates that I purchased, I'd just postpone it to the earliest dates in the advanced purchase window.
I haven't run across any refundable pricing being the same as non-refundable, with the exception of booking a short notice flight, where the pricing is sky high.
well its more complex as you pay the change fee plus the new higher fare that could be substantial if close to the date. AA charges 200 to change. One tip I use since there appears to be no price advantage to book round trip I book two one ways so that if I have to change one I only get one higher fare of course if you have to change both ways that negates that . I also use SW a lot now that I pay for most of my trips as there is no change fee. Partly why airline profits are at records
As jerryl mentioned you may also consider Southwest Airlines for domestic travel when your plans are not set in stone. Even if you purchased their lowest fare there is a No Change Fee if you have to cancel or reschedule. This has come in very handy a copule of times when I had some unexpected changes to my travel plans. You can also bank the funds for future travel if you have to cancel.
I fly Southwest about once a year and have had pretty good experience so far and their rewards program is also very good in comparison to other airlines. They offer two free checked bags and free carry on. The biggest oddity to me is their seating policy as they assign you a group number on your boarding pass which is how you board the plane. Once on board you can pick any open seat that you want. I If you are like me and not crazy about their seating policy you can opt for their "Early Bird Check In" for $12.50 which automatically checks you in and assigns you to the "A" boarding group which means you will be in the first group that boards the plane and then will have plenty of good seats to choose from. Their planes are well maintained and if you have a mobile device like an iPad you can watch live tv (Dish) network for free on it. One last note since you mentioned Nashville. Southwest uses Nashville as a hub so there is a good chance you could get a direct flight when flying there on Southwest.
vaboywnder I have never paid the early bird fee you mention but have gone online 24 hours before flight time and checked in and I have always been able to get the Group A seating. Of course you still want to get there early so you can get up close to the front of the line if you are very picky about your seat. All in all SW is still one of the top in my opinion. I have to fly AA when flying business but when flying personal I use SW when I can. They are going to more and more places now. I remember when you couldn't go but just a few states with them. They must do something right because they are definitely growing whereas so many of the others are having to consolidate just to stay alive.
Thanks for the tip. I'll keep that in mind. I've also noticed that once you reach their "A-List" status from earning 35,000 points within a year you are automatically upgraded to A Priority boarding.
You are right there route map is expanding more and more. Just this week they announced many new flights from their base in Dallas, and also from Dulles and Regan airports in DC.
Not sure if any of you saw this...its from late March so not breaking news but I suspected this was the case over the past two years. Being in the NYC market, I have the luxury of searching EWR (home airport), LGA, and JFK for my flight needs. There were lots of times I was looking to fly to ORD and the mainline carriers had only mediocre prices. I would then think to check Southwest. Almost 100% of the time the fares were HIGHER on SW than the mainline carriers. Plus at the time only flew to MDW which was useless since I wanted to be at ORD. Simiar searches to places like PIT and DTW yielded higher fares as well and usually connections which as you can imagine is ridiculous when EWR to PIT are only 400 miles apart.
Southwest does NOT have the best fares nor have they for some time now. Their labor costs are some of the highest if not the highest in the industry and their fuel hedging that carried them for so many years ran out so they are hedging at higher fuel costs as well. They also still fly the B733 and B735 neither of which are fuel efficient when comparing them to NG's.
they I believe still buy new 737 planes( I have been on their newer planes) but they also save in maintenance with only one type of plane in their fleet but you are right not always less but when one factors in bag fees , change fees and seat selection fees they usually are pretty good at least compared to big three
I found this on a Southwest Corporate Fact Sheet:
As of December 31, 2013, Southwest and AirTran operated 680 Boeing jets:
Southwest's winglet program began in 2007, and in 2010 we completed the installation of winglets on 102 Southwest Airlines 737-300 aircraft. We estimate that these winglet installations are resulting in annual fuel savings of more than six million gallons. Southwest's 737-700s and 737-800s also are equipped with winglets. Overall, winglets on aircraft in the Southwest Airlines fleet currently save roughly 54 million gallons of fuel each year.
If they'd dump the 300/500's they'd have a average of about 8 years.
As would UA if they'd retire all the old and former UA planes. CO did have the youngest fleet before the merger and probably still would as they have taken delivery of many 900ER's and of course the wonderful B788.
I agree that Southwest does not always have the lowest fares. It does pay to compare fares with all the airlines if your on a budget. JetBlue is still may favorite airline and I think the most competitive in the markets they serve. Unfortunately the Jet Blue route map is very limited. The one thing that Southwest beats every other airline on is their refund and cancellation policy as there is no "Change Fees" which is the reason I mentioned them in this posting. If your travel plans are not definite you may want to consider Southwest for this reason since other airlines Refundable fares maybe significantly higher.
The last time I flew SW was many years ago. I purchased a refundable one way and non-refundable the other.because I knew that one way might change and the other was fixed. I put them on the same ticket and as I had in the past. I went to cancel the refundable and was told that if any of the ticket was non-refundable, the whole ticket was. That was it for me.
ks77 thanks for heads up for SW flights in your area. I have had good luck flying out of OK maybe because Dallas is so close? Of course you have a point with this announcement coming out in March, I haven't tried booking anything lately so that may be the case here as well. I have no such luxury of flying straight through anywhere from OK. unless I want to go to DFW, Atlanta or Chicago.
Thanks for the post. I will keep that in mind when looking for my next trip.
Vaboywnder (and Madmax and Jerryl),
I will at least take a look/see when I book my next flight to Nashville. I am pretty particular about where I sit though, and I loathe jockeying for position at the gate at boarding time. SW doesn't fly where I live, but I do often catch flights out of So. CA. To Iahflyr, thanks for keeping it real. If I do bite into SW, I'll at least steer clear of anything that's not a B738.
I sure hope I didn't get your mind in overload with my AS idea, but if so I am sorry!! jerryl has pretty much hit on the concept of what I was thinking with the much higher price that is possible as the cheaper tickets have been taken already in most cases.
A recent experience I went through made me look more carefully at these refund/non-refund tickets. We had booked tickets to NYC and IAH-LGA had a very low first class fare, about half of the IAH-EWR first class fare however; it was non-refundable with a change fee while the EWR fare was fully changeable etc. The flight time was perfect so we booked it only to find out a few weeks later the airline cancelled that flight and put us on the next flight. That was very nice, but got us into NYC later in the day than we could accept so I had to change to the EWR flight. The fare was not only higher than when I first looked so now we had to not only pay the change fee, the higher fare which was a couple of hundred dollars above what it was when I first looked. Fortunately the airline was kind enough to waiver the change fee since they cancelled the LGA flight we needed. All that got me looking closer at things regarding these type of fares as I'm not flying for business any longer using full fare tickets.
As someone who lives near EWR, if you aren't flying United the fares are usually lousy. Even when you are flying United, they are extremely frustrating with their fare pricing. My wife flies to ORD probably on average about once a month and the EWR fares are almost always higher and much higher at that than LGA flights. Since she is AA Plat, its a no brainer to fly from LGA. They offer like 15 non stop flights a day to ORD and reasonable rates. EWR has maybe 2-3 flights and with their runway work and having the monorail shut down for 2 months right now it makes EWR a true pain to fly from right now.
One of my fears on flying an old 737-3/4/500 is metal fatigue. Yes all aircraft are maintained and they are supposed to look for that but everyone knows the more cycles it has the more likely to fail. You can't tell me a 20 year old 737-300 is in just as good a shape as a 737-7/8/900 when it comes to that.
I used to love love love Southwest and would pick up some really good deals with their DING! app. Unfortunately, their fares are no longer competitive with other airlines where I don't have to stress about fighting for a seat. I now use Flights - Google Search to get a quick peek at the cheapest flights available, and then I do a more in-depth look from there.
But, having said the above, if Southwest goes there and I am concerned that my flight might change, I am more likely to book with them.
I just checked out the Google Flights link you posted. It's really cool and gets me general info at a moment's notice -- thanks, missgee! So helpful!
And I also decided to give it a click, the IAH-SEA fare on AS has come down some, but it sure does compare prices at the speed of light. Nice link and thanks missgee.
I found out today when I changed from Paris to Greece that Delta has instituted yet a new undesirable policy, which means I'm collecting everything I can get in mileage and points for use next year and beyond. It used to be that if you had a nonrefundable ticket it could be used toward a new ticket with a change fee plus any difference in the cost of the ticket. It always used to be that the change in the cost of the ticket was higher so you'd pay $250 plus the difference.
Well, guess what? No surprise. Now the ticket you bought has to equal or exceed the cost of the original ticket plus a change fee of $300. So if you're changing your ticket on an int'l flight, no point in looking for a cheaper one to make up the change fee difference. I did go for it, exchanging my free ticket to Venice in December for my free ticket to Greece next month, but the whole thing cost me quite a bit. Still, I'll be flying Alitalia Business again in 3-1/2 weeks, so I am delighted with that part.
But I am equally firm in my commitment that next year will probably be my last year with Delta, relying on this years mileage and travel. I am VERY upset with everything about Delta's 2015 changes, none of which benefit me even though I spend at least $70,000 on Delta tickets per year. At next year's rate that will probably be called Delta dollars = 28,000 or something close.
That is so not representative of the actual CPI, which means that it's just terrible (or "Turrible, just turrible," as Charles Barkley would say). They've tightened their belts, worked smarter, not harder with respect to flight schedules and airports, fuel efficiency, etc. in addition to adding fees, fees, fees (baggage and in flight meals), even charging more to sit nearer to the front of the plane in a still economy 31" pitch seat for cripes sake, and are making good profits. Airfares are twice what they were 9 years ago (why I cannot afford to retire if I want to continue traveling). A $300 change fee is "just turrible!", but then I think that a $200 change fee (what AA charges) is "turrible" too. That and their (back to Delta) new mileage earnings matrix is enough for me to ditch them (not that I am a frequent flyer). Let's just hope it doesn't stick and they back down. What will be telling is whether or not other airlines jump on board. I was unpleasantly surprised last year when I booked an Air Berlin flight, only to find out that they charge for a seat assignment. I just figured that it was because they are a bargain airline (at least that's how I see them), but then later in the year, I was utterly dismayed to discover that Qantas, a class act, had begun to do the same thing. I think it's scandalous. They have us hog-tied, because on a long haul flights, seat assignment is SO important and they know it. That's an extra $12,000 in revenue per flight. When the day comes when all airlines charge for seat assignment and checked baggage for international flights, it will be a bad day indeed.
Because of a family member's terminal illness, all of my flights this year are subject to change, so planning and paying change fees can be a real issue and possibility for me right now. I still can't see purchasing a refundable ticket. If I have to cancel, I just pay the change fee and rebook at a later time when the airfare will be about the same. I would be hot under the collar though, if I had to pay a $300 change fee. No mercy whatsoever. Yep, no Delta for me, even though it means that my four airport lounge passes will go to waste. (If anyone can use them, they are transferrable and expire at the end of Dec., just let me know).
Alaska only charges $125 for change fees, just up from last year's $75 change fee. And I can get FF status just by flying 30 segments (small, 350 mile segments too.) That gig will probably end at some point, but for now, I'll enjoy it while I can.