One of the only few good things to come from the year of 2020 was the fact that airlines eliminated change fees on flights – you could change your ticket as much as you wanted, within the validity of the ticket (which is usually one year from the date of original issue). You also could cancel your trip and instead receive a voucher valid for 2-3 years in some cases – many airlines also extended these vouchers and some of them are valid up until the end of 2024.
Airlines offered (delayed) refunds if your flight was cancelled in 2020 and eventually did refund you – however flyers had the option to take control of their trip into their own hands and exchange tickets without penalty – even Basic Economy at the time.
Flights on U.S. Airlines Change and Cancel Options
Airlines outside of the U.S. have mostly returned to their pre-2020 cancel and change policies – the cheapest tickets are nonrefundable and non-changeable, etc. – it, of course, depends on the airline, but airlines outside of the U.S. are not as generous when it comes to changes or cancellations.
U.S. airlines have kept their free change and cancel options – however, there are restrictions that come with that, which include:
- most Basic Economy tickets remain nonrefundable and non-changeable
- there are a few exceptions to this rule, check with your airline
- some U.S. airlines still charge a change fee if your ticket does not start in the U.S.
- you should be able to cancel your ticket for a voucher for future use
- every airline has their own rules and they are different; make sure to understand them before booking
Basically, if you book a domestic ticket that is not in Basic Economy, you should be able to change it for free (plus a potential fare difference) or cancel it for a voucher for future use. International tickets may have different policies.
Track Your Itinerary For Price Changes
After you have booked your trip and confirmed you can make changes to the ticket for no charge in the future, make sure to set alerts on Google Flights. Google will email you when the price of your flight changes, at which point you could rebook your trip and get a voucher for future use for the price difference.
- visit Google Flights
- type in your flight details
- number of passengers
- select your airline
- select your exact flight(s)
- set a tracker to Track Price Changes
- enable email alerts
You could also set trackers for different flights from the airline you booked, and then change to a different routing (if permitted) at a lower price, and still potentially receive a voucher for future use for the difference.
You will get an email usually once a day if the price changes on your itinerary. Google also sometimes includes predictions if the price may increase.
Rebook Your Flights
If the price on your flight drops or a different itinerary becomes less expensive, you should be able to rebook and receive a voucher for the difference in price. Remember that in order to do this with the airline directly, you must have booked on their website or app.
Many airlines allow you to make changes online and therefore all you would need to do is simply visit Manage My Booking, find your flight, find the change option, enter the new details, and accept the change. If your airline does issue vouchers for the difference in price, you should get that shortly in your email.
If the price dropped on your exact same flight, sometimes you can’t “change” your flight to the same flight – if you try, you might not see your flight listed. In cases like this, you could cancel the whole trip for a voucher and then use that voucher for a new booking (and you potentially would have leftover credit on the voucher for the future).
If you do not want to cancel and rebook with a voucher, what you can do is rebook your flights onto something else that is a similar price and then rebook again on your original flight (which is now less expensive). You would have to go through the rebooking and change process over again, but this would be another way to do it.
All in All
Google Flights is a great tool that I use daily – to find the best flights, set alerts, and much more. Best of all, Google Flights is free to use and therefore you should always set trackers on flights you’ve booked if they allow free changes – you always want to get the best deal and that could mean booking what is available now and monitoring it for a price drop. There are also online travel agencies out there that monitor flight prices and refund you the difference if you booked with them directly, but I find that this does not work well – better to take control of your itinerary and rebook it yourself should the price drop.