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A couple of weeks ago I bought a plane ticket in Expedia, from YVR to EZE, that cost me 1700 CAD. It's non-refundable and non-transferable. I was under the assumption that the earliest you buy the ticket, the cheaper it will be.

Yesterday, however, I went back to the website where I bought it and to my surprise, the same ticket is now 1000 CAD (same exact flights). I'm furious but I don't know if there is anything I can do.

If there's nothing I can do, can I prevent something like this from happening in the future?

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    If it went up in price, would you expect the airline to charge you the difference? You paid the price you were willing to pay at the time. – Moo Nov 23 '19 at 2:53
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    @JonathanReezSupportsMonica I would note that she is asking about how to prevent this sort of issue in the future, which is actually very different between hotels and airlines. In my experience hotel price fluctuations are no where near as extreme as are airline price fluctuations. – Bunji Nov 23 '19 at 3:37
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    Not from the reseller (Expedia) or the airline, but possibly yes from your credit-card company if they have a price-matching guarantee, ask them about their the terms and conditions. Keep a screenshot of the lowest price you found. Also, the problem with non-refundable itineraries (is this WestJet?) is now you can't cancel the old one, buy the new one, and just swallow a ($300) cancellation fee. So you can't arbitrage price-drops close-in to your travel date. – smci Nov 23 '19 at 23:00
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    Have you contacted the airline directly to ask for advise/assistance? They know their systems and loopholes. – Criggie Nov 23 '19 at 23:13
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    Note that the current pricing was influenced by you buying your ticket. It is even possible that your ticket is cheaper now because you bought it for the higher price. So, is makes not much sense from the math alone to allow you to change. – Volker Siegel Nov 25 '19 at 3:44
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Unless you bought a high fare class that explicitly allows for cancellations at no penalty (unlikely given the price you paid), there's almost certainly nothing you can do. Sorry!

As for the future, buying airplane tickets is tough, but I have had moderate success doing the following -- especially for international travel where prices can fluctuate wildly:

  • Start monitoring the price early (~3 months before the trip). Sign up for alerts with flights.google.com or similar, and actually write down the price each day for a couple weeks. You may notice that the prices tend to be lowest when booking on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and highest on Thursdays and Fridays.
  • After those two weeks have gone by, start looking for days when the price is lowest. Monitor the trends. Sometimes you get lucky, and the prices dips even lower than during your 2-week waiting period, but more often it is cyclic, and will simply occasionally return to the lowest price during that waiting period. Often on Tuesday afternoon.
  • On one of those low price days, buy the ticket. (Ideally buy directly from the airline rather than expedia or similar).
  • Don't wait any longer than ~6 weeks before departure to buy the ticket.

This is, of course, just a rule of thumb method, but it does tend to work decently. I was able to get a ticket ~$450 less than the "average" rate for a trip to the UK recently with this method.

In my experience there is a sweet spot for the lowest prices between 3 months and 6 weeks before departure, but sometimes waiting until the last couple weeks can really pay off (presumably when a plane isn't filling). It's up to you to decide how risk-averse you are!

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    "there's almost certainly nothing you can do". Sorry, that's not true: Most tickets will allow a change for a fee so you can get at least some money back. In this case the change fee is probably $200 so there is a good chance she can recover $500. – Hilmar Nov 23 '19 at 13:31
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    @Hilmar: But a change fee is only applied when you're actually changing flights. The OP wants to keep the flights she booked originally, which can only be done by cancelling the current ticket and making a new booking. As Bunji says, that would probably not be worth it. – Mophotla Nov 23 '19 at 14:15
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    @Hilmar I guess if the OP was willing to change the day she flew it might be possible to recover some money if the change fee was less than the price decrease... that also assumes she didn't buy a "basic economy" (or similar) ticket, and that booking through Expedia doesn't alter the rules. – Bunji Nov 23 '19 at 15:47
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    "Ideally buy directly from the airline rather than expedia or similar" Why Is that? I personally haven't found direct to be cheaper and then you miss out on other benefits... I'd suggest changing this to "be sure to check directly with the airline, not just expedia or similar" – Mars Nov 25 '19 at 1:01
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    @mars other benefits ? except for some hidden useless insurances I don't know what benefit these other travel agent offers. But even ignoring any benefit, if you buy your ticket from the airline you can call and modify 24/7 whereever you are in the world, or simply go to the ticketing desk at the airport and they can access your ticket for you. If it is bought from a travel agent, any other party (including the airline itself) will tell you "we cannot touch this ticket, you have to deal with the agent who sold you the ticket" ... – Hoki Nov 25 '19 at 14:54
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Yes, you can almost certainly get some of the difference back - although the exact details will depend on the airline...

As mentioned in Taking advantage of Jetblue sale when I already bought ticket?, United airlines will give you a full refund of the difference minus $50 if you bought the ticket less than 30 days ago. Other airlines may have similar policies.

If you don't quality for a policy like that, then you could still get the difference back as a credit voucher, less whatever the change fee is (likely between $150 and $250). This is generally possible even if the airline doesn't have a specific policy on price drops - in effect you are just making a "change" to the flight which causes it to be re-priced at the current fares. After paying the change fee, the difference will be refunded as as credit on the airline.

You can also achieve the same thing by canceling the booking (which results in a credit, minus cancel fee), and then rebooking at the current prices using your credit. This works because despite your fare being "non-refundable", you can generally still make changes on the fare, or even cancel it and get a credit - you just can't get the resulting credit refunded back to you as "cash". Some airlines do have fares that don't allow changes in which case this may not work, but these fares are still fairly rare - especially for international flights.

Your best course of action is to contact Expedia and see what they offer. If that doesn't work, try contacting the airline directly.

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    All of your options are highly dependent on the airline involved, and many of these options simply won’t work with many airlines out there. For many airlines, cancelling a non-refundable booking does not result in a credit voucher being issued, it results in nothing. Complete loss. – Moo Nov 23 '19 at 4:50
  • Re: "Other airlines may have similar policies.". How do I find out if my airline (Air canada) does this? – Maria Ines Parnisari Nov 23 '19 at 5:07
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    @Maria Ines Parnisari Call them? – Traveller Nov 23 '19 at 5:35
  • "but these fares are still fairly rare" I would say they're a lot less rare in the last 4-5 years as more and more airline are creating the 'basic economy' fare classes, which are typically not changeable, don't include checked baggage, etc. Air Canada sells such fares, including on long-haul flights. I think all three of the major U.S. carriers do, too. – reirab Nov 24 '19 at 19:18
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Most (but not all) tickets are changeable. You pay the difference in ticket price plus a change fee. If the new ticket is cheaper than the old one, you do get a refund.

The reason why the ticket is cheaper was that Air Canada opened up a lower fare class that previously was blocked. You can try to change your existing ticket to the new fare class. Expect to pay about $200 in change fees, but you may be be able get around $500 back this way.

You should read the confirmation e-mail that spells out the fare rules for your ticket. Make sure you understand what the rules and fees for changes are and whether the cheaper ticket comes with some extra fees (seat reservation, bags, etc.). Then call the airline directly.

If possible, make sure you know the fare class of your current ticket and the new fare class. Ideally you open the conversation with something like "Hi, can I change my ticket from a G fare to an A fare". If you don't know how to do get the fare classes, try "Hi, I see that the price on your website for my ticket is a lot lower now, can I change my ticket to the lower fare?"

You may be get lucky with an agent since up- or down-faring is about the smallest change you can do to a flight and they may waive or discount the change fee. This would also depend if you have any status with the airline.

Depending on the arrangement between Expedia and Air Canada, Air Canada may refuse to execute a change. In this case, you can try the same approach with Expedia, but I would start with the airline.

From Air Canada's website: https://www.aircanada.com/ca/en/aco/home/fly/customer-support/cancel-booking.html

My fare is not refundable: If you purchased a non refundable fare and wish to cancel your booking online, the value of your ticket will be banked for use as a future travel credit. To use the value of an unused ticket for future travel, please contact Air Canada Reservations. You may also want to refer to the Refund Services page for detailed information on how refunds are processed, and how you can apply your unused ticket value to the purchase of a new ticket.

Make sure you can quote this during the call with airline. If push comes to shove, you can cancel, and use the the travel credit to book to the new ticket. In this case you would not end up with cash but travel credit, but that's still better than nothing.

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I called Expedia. They offered to give me a voucher of 1700 CAD - 150 CAD fee = 1550 CAD that I could use for myself on the same airline, before October 2020.

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The current pricing was influenced by yourself buying your ticket.

That means it makes no sense from the math alone to allow you to change.

That could be mathematically overcome if you pay extra to make that change possible. Your new price would not be much lower in total.

It is even possible that your ticket is cheaper now only because you bought it:

Imagine there are two seats left.
You book a seat.
The airline knows that the flight is booked mainly by couples.
The risk not to sell the single seat is great, so the price is reduced.

If you had not booked your flight, a pair of seats for a couple would be still available, and no reason for lowering the price would exist.

You caused the low price yourself by buying a ticket earlier.

The example shows that it does not make sense on the level of math alone, so you should not expect to get the cheaper ticket for a lower price¹. The lower price is an offer to people who do not yet have a ticket, not for you.²

(This does not strictly mean that you can not get the reduced ticket, because companies do not always behave rational.)


¹ The example is contrived and only applies to the last two seats on the plane. As a general rule, the opposite is true: Last-minute prices are the lower, the fewer tickets have been sold. Buying early drives late prices up.

²(It would be ethically controversial, but there may be a way to cheat that system.)

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    The example is contrived and only applies to the last two seats on the plane. As a general rule, the opposite is true: Last-minute prices are the lower, the fewer tickets have been sold. Buying early drives late prices up. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Nov 25 '19 at 14:43
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    Airline pricing is very complicated and based on a lot of different factors , primary among them being demand and days left for travel. I don't think as simple as described regarding the last 2 seats left. Last minute prices are only cheaper for low demand flights where the booking curve hasn't been very steep, as a general rule last minute pricing for high demand travel dates ( like holidays ) can be very high. – ML_Passion Nov 25 '19 at 15:40
  • @ML_Passion Of course it is not that simple. It is meant to show there can be a situation with that effect. It is a case were the complex pricing mechanism worked out to the advantage of the airline. The point is: If that is possible at all, it makes no sense that they give up that advantage. Intuitively, pricing is so complex that the airline can only try to get a good price on average, not every time. They won the game this time, so the will keep what they won. That the example is possible illustrates and proves the game exists. – Volker Siegel Nov 26 '19 at 2:49
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica Tha is true, of course. The example proves it can be different, even with a direct effect to the own pricing. It is a counter example to what happens normally. The general strategy makes the airline win on average, that's the whole reason of the strategy. Sometimes the customer wins, and this time they won, so why should they forgo that? But I should point out what you say to make it less confusing. – Volker Siegel Nov 26 '19 at 2:57
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica I added your comment as a footnote to the answer. Thanks! – Volker Siegel Nov 26 '19 at 3:06
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In an immediate sense it’s not likely you can demand relief, but there are specific uncommon circumstances when the fare includes fees, refunds, or rates imposed by a sovereign power, so a large fare change on an international flight from Vancouver to Buenos Aires might be the result of an action that would include you.

You can nonetheless request assistance from the ticket vendor and if they give you no relief then the airline. Both of those classes of vendors are rumored to be more responsive to pleas on social media than elsewhere.

Ticket brokers buy blocks of seats at a discount from face value and assume the pricing risks and no-sake costs. An unsold ticket is a total loss, so if they don’t sell their inventory of tickets early they’re forced into a discounting spiral to the bottom - last minute $100 round trip fares and the like.

Airlines like early ticket sales to make more precise rate setting and operational planning decisions and they are keenly aware that an aggrieved traveler burned by a large fare change will retell that story for years and persuade hundreds of other travelers to delay their own ticket purchases. If you do a lot of traveling or plan to do a lot of traveling buying tickets from the same vendor or flying on the same carrier this has an effect on the latitude their agents have for granting relief.

There’s no benefit to being outraged to the vendor’s or airline’s customer service people on any medium, they’re given a guidebook of policies and procedures and only limited personal latitude for interpreting them. You are more likely to be satisfied by the outcome if you are someone they want to help than if you are someone they want to have go away.

That said, if you can’t obtain any relief, then as long as you stick to factual truth and the effect on your own person, you’re free to make your story progressively more widely known until they see the cost of making you a satisfied customer as less than the consequential cost of lost reputation. Don’t impute motives, cast invectives, or make generally disparaging comments - that could boomerang on you. Stick to the facts of the story and how it actually makes you feel and don’t use the actual names of any company’s employees so that you neither libel nor defame any party and avoid legal entanglements.

  • So you essentially suggest to bully the airline on the media until the airline gives in? – Dmitry Grigoryev Nov 25 '19 at 8:09
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If you purchased your tickets with a credit card, many cards have a price protection policy for this kind of scenario. Credit card companies usually use the example of a TV going on sale a few days after purchase, but it's worth checking if your card also covers flight price changes.

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You didn't "lose" the money, you paid them to be sure you have a seat. That low price will not last for long, so a customer who can only pay 1000 could easily miss the opportunity and get no ticket at all.

If you can tolerate not to get a ticket at all, you can make a bid on a flight (plenty of sites do this, e.g. skyauction). If the ticket price ever drops below your bid, you will get a ticket. Otherwise you get nothing (but you get to keep your money of course).

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    I am understanding that when the airline bumps you involuntarily they have to pay you 4X your fare. It seems that the airline will bump $1,000 ticket holders before $1,700 ticket holders. – emory Nov 25 '19 at 17:08
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I'm not sure if anything can be done right now to get your money back, other than to cancel and rebook with a lower price after paying the change of $ 200 CAD.

However for future travel, I'll point you to Flight Network's price drop Protection ( it's a Canadian online travel co. based out of Missisauga and I have never used them)

https://www.flightnetwork.com/price-drop-protection/

Also I'll point you to a couple of blogs:

https://www.airfarewatchdog.com/blog/8468624/how-to-get-a-refund-when-your-flight-price-drops-after-you-buy/

https://thepointsguy.com/guide/refund-when-flight-drops-in-price/

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