Set multiple alerts for the parameters you want to keep an eye on.
he flight is booked. After an interminable period of searching for the utterly ideal flight and after keeping an eye on the fare until you’re sure it’s as low as it will go—you forget all about it until it’s time to check-in. Right?
As long as you haven’t purchased the lowest-priced Basic Economy (some airlines have different names for this most-restricted fare type), your ticket may not be refundable, but it’s still changeable, so you’ll want to monitor what happens to fares on your flight after you’ve booked.
Lower Fares Happen
The most obvious reason to keep a fare alert going is in case of a fare drop. If a fare goes down after you’ve purchased, you’re not due a refund if you purchased a nonrefundable ticket, but in most cases, you can get the difference to use as a credit toward a future flight.
U.S. airline passengers are largely not yet in the habit of checking for fare drops, because until a few years ago, airlines charged change fees. Sometimes ranging up to $200 per ticket, plus any additional fare, the fees put a damper on voluntary changes. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, most U.S. carriers got rid of the fees for most domestic flights. Now, the majority of airlines allow passengers to make changes for only the applicable fare difference, so there’s no disincentive to rebooking if a fare goes down.
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It may take a couple extra steps, however, to rebook. Most airlines don’t allow passengers to make changes without making changes—that is, without changing to a different flight. In situations where the fare has gone down for the same flight, passengers might have to call the airline’s reservations line to speak with someone, or change to a similarly priced flight to get the lower fare and the credit before changing it back to the original flights. In the most involved situations, passengers need to cue up a brand-new booking and then quickly cancel the old one to apply the ticket credit and keep the difference.
However it needs to happen, it can be a worthwhile way to recoup some of your money and apply it to a future flight. Just keep in mind that downgrading to a lower fare can result in more restrictions (particularly if rebooking to a Basic Economy fare), or fewer frequent flier miles earned.
Better Fares Happen
It’s also worth setting alerts for both Economy and First Class fares. Had your eye on that First Class seat at the time of booking, but it was much more than you wanted to pay? Set an alert, and if that fare drops to a less-eye popping number, pay the difference and enjoy the extra space.
On domestic flights, U.S. carriers have long sold what are termed “Instant Upgrade” fares for First Class. They’re technically coach fares, but if there’s a First Class seat available when you buy it, you’re entitled to it. They’re usually a set amount higher than the prevailing coach fare, and the inventory is tied to what coach fares are available, so fluctuating seat availability in the main cabin can sometimes affect pricing up front. If it creeps down to a price that’s worthwhile, grab it. Even “Instant Upgrade” fares typically come with the added perks of First Class, like bigger baggage allowances and bonus miles.
Better Flights Happen
Really wanted that early evening departure, or the nonstop flight, but they were too expensive when you bought your ticket? Set alerts for your preferred flights, too, so you can change to them if the fares go down—maybe not to what you paid, but to a more acceptable difference.
Google Flights allows users to save fare alerts for a city pair for all carriers for an entire day, or filter for specific carriers, or even specific flights or classes of service. Set multiple alerts for the parameters you want to keep an eye on (like First Class fares for your chosen flight), and the system will send e-mails whenever there is a change to the fares for those flights. Remember to act quickly upon receiving an alert, keeping in mind that fares are always subject to change until ticketed.