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Airline low price guarantee policies explained

It happens less frequently than in the past, but once in a while you'll find a lower fare (same dates, same airline, same flight, same class of service) on a third-party website such as Travelocity than on the airline's own website. And when that happens, most airlines will do something for you. Here's a rundown of a sampling of airline low price guarantee policies.

Do they have it?

What you get

How to get it

Read between the lines

Alaska

Yes. The Price Guarantee, for when you find fares more than $10 lower than those booked at alaskaair.com.

If you find a lower fare on another site within 24 hours, you'll get $100 toward your next flight. Find a lower fare onalaskaair.com any time before your travel date, and you'll get a travel credit for the difference.

Both offers have their own regulations, but both claims can be initiated via simple online forms at alaskaair.com.

A fairly easy-to-use (and rather generous) policy.  Note that if you are claiming on a refundable ticket, you get money back, while those traveling on cheaper / nonrefundable fares get travel credits.

Allegiant

No. Allegiant sells its fares only on its own website.

Allegiant has a very clear policy about staying out of this whole process – a policy too many of its customers fail to read before booking, unfortunately. 

If you purchase the airline's TripFlex, you can switch to lower-priced itineraries as you wish; there are no rewards, however.

Allegiant's fares do sometimes drop closer to travel dates, if you're flexible and can wait to book.

Air France

Yes. The Best Price Guarantee, for when you find a fare over $10 lower elsewhere, after booking at airfrance.com.

The airline will issue a voucher for the difference, plus $50 bonus, both good only for future purchases on Air France

You'll need to take a screenshot of the exact same itinerary with a lower fare and email it in before midnight on the day of booking.

Not a terribly slick or easy policy (happy cutting and pasting / emailing!) but worth a shot.

American

Yes. The Lowest Price Guarantee, for when you find a fare over $5 lower elsewhere, after booking at aa.com.

The airline issues a voucher for the difference, plus a $50 promotional code for a future purchase.

An easy online claim form is available. They'll request a screenshot if they cannot confirm your claim. 

American is doing its darndest to control its fares these days (though they did recently rejoin Orbitz after that nice judge ordered them to). Either way, don't get too excited about catching them with their pants down.

British Airways

The airline's Price Promise, which assures that the best fares will be found at BA.com.

The airline will issue a check within 28 days for the difference in cost between the fare you bought and the one you found and brought to their attention.

You must fill out a rather extensive online claim form – same day of purchase, before midnight, like many other airlines.

Pretty standard stuff – prove it in the time allotted, and they'll play ball. We like the idea of getting money back, vs. just vouchers for future travel.

Continental

Yes. Their Low Fare Guarantee, which is fundamentally the same as the other legacy carrier policies.

They'll refund the difference to your credit card and will also give you an electronic voucher for $100, good for future travel.

Unlike other airlines, you have to call reservations to make your claim. The agent then has to be able to verify the existence of the fare you're calling about.

While it lasts (and when you can actually take advantage of it), this is one of the more attractive guarantees out there.

Delta

Yes – check out their Best Fare Guarantee, good for fares booked on delta.com.

They'll refund the difference and give you a $100 voucher for future travel. You can also just cancel the ticket and start all over again within 24 hours of booking (at delta.com).

Claims must be initiated before midnight (Eastern Standard Time) on the day of purchase of a ticket at delta.com. All claims must be made online only and the airline will notconsider screenshots as proof.

This policy is essentially a copy of Continental's, albeit with online claim capability (no phone calls, please). Like most things Delta does, it will always sound better on paper. (The fact that they don't even want to see screenshots is really weasel-y, to be honest.)

Frontier

Their Best Fare Guarantee is good for fares found at frontierairlines.com.

The difference gets refunded to you, plus you get a $100 electronic voucher for travel at a later date.

Make claim by 11:59 p.m. (Mountain Time); the airline will have to verify that the fare in question was available when you booked with Frontier. The airline specifies that you should have a screenshot handy as proof.

The best way to approach this one (and actually most of these guarantees) would be to find the lower fare, screenshot it,then book with Frontier and make the claim immediately. 

JetBlue

Yes. Their Best Fare Guarantee, which works pretty much like most others – rewards you if you find lower fares than those you booked on jetblue.com.

No refunds, but you will receive a $100 credit for future travel on JetBlue.

You have to call in by 11:59 (Eastern Standard Time) on the day of purchase and be able to prove the existence of the lower fare while on the phone with an agent.

A fairly straightforward policy, except for the phonecall part – luckily, dealing with JetBlue agents is often rather quick and painless.

Southwest

Yes. But they don't make a big deal about it. Like Allegiant, Southwest does not sell its fares on third-party websites.

Receive the fare difference as credit for future travel if you find a lower fare on swa.com after you book.

If you see a lower fare on their site, go into your account on swa.com and rebook your flight; any difference will go into your account for future travel. 

Southwest was an early leader on this front and continues to please the majority of its customers with this simple policy.

Spirit

No. (You had to ask?) It's actually the case that Spirit's fares are always higher on third party websites than on Spiritair.com

N/A

N/A

United

Yes. Their Low Fare Guarantee,good for fares purchased on United.com only.

For fares more than $10 lower found on other sites on the same day, you get the difference refunded and 20 percent off your next flight (in voucher form). Find a lower fare onunited.com any time before your travel date, and you'll get a travel credit for the difference.

Claims for fares found elsewhere must be filed online (make sure to keep a screenshot for proof.) Claims for fares found on United.com can be made online or over the phone; (However, claiming on non-refundable tickets means "administrative" fees of $150 or more.)

United's policy looks good, until you start reading the fine print. There's no harm in playing the game, but with this one, it always seems like you're less likely to win than on other airlines.

US Airways

Yes. The fairly weak Lower Fare Guarantee.

You'll receive a domestic travel voucher for the difference, minus a $150 domestic and $250 international change fee.

Must call reservations and prove your case over the phone; the typical terms and conditions apply.

This isn't really a policy.

Airline data above subject to change without notice

What we are most famous for is getting you airline tickets at the best prices, even airline tickets for cheap!

Chase the fare, not the destination

Chase the fare, not the destination

Kayak's explore tool (kayak.com/explore) is useful for searching multiple airline fares at a time. 

You'll instantly see a map with all the destinations listed under a set budget. 

Leave on a Wednesday

Leave on a Wednesday

It's the cheapest day to do it, saysFareCompare.com, especially for domestic travel. 

Per the website: "The day with the most seats is likely to have better supply, and thus ... more empty seats that require discounting to fill the plane—meaning they'll have to release more seats at their cheapest price point." 

Book on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Time

Book on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Time

A study by Farecompare.com found this was the best time to buy airline tickets and shop for domestic travel. 

Check Twitter and Facebook

Check Twitter and Facebook

Airlines have been experimenting with blasting fares via social media, especially Jet Blue, reports the AP. But you have to be fast: Some deals can be gone within hours. 

"If you find something, jump on it," says John DiScala, who travels frequently and writes baout it at JohnnyJet.com. 

Some airlines announce special sales to Facebook fans as well. 

Fly two different airlines

Fly two different airlines

Sometimes it's worth it to mix and match. Most airlines now sell one-way flights at reasonable prices, meaning one might be cheaper for the outbound flight while the other works better for the return. 

You could even fly to one airport and depart from another.

Become a frequent flier

Become a frequent flier

It pays to cozy up to your airline of choice. 

Become an elite member of the airline's frequent-flier program or use a credit card that's tied to the airline to get a leg up on other travelers, says U.S. News' Daniel Bortz. 

Likewise, if you're using a credit card that offers rewards, check to see if those rewards can be redeemed for miles or travel gift cards, suggests Ask Mr. Credit Card. 

What we are most famous for is getting you airline tickets at the best prices, even airline tickets for cheap!

Fly out early

Fly out early

The first flight of the morning is usually the cheapest, says Bortz. 

The next-cheapest flight times are during or after lunch or around dinner time. 

Sign up for free alerts from AirfareWatchdog.com

Sign up for free alerts from AirfareWatchdog.com

With this site, you'll get pinged when prices fall and receive some excellent deals. The site uses real people to vet the deals rather than computers, so you're bound to turn up some offerings you wouldn't have found otherwise. 

Says founder George Hobia: "We only send updates when we think we've found a good deal, whereas other sites might update you when a flight drops $2." 

Use FlightFox to search for special fares

Use FlightFox to search for special fares

Much in the way AirfareWatchdog relies on a travel agent to sniff out the best deals,FlightFox uses multiple experts (called "flight hackers") to do the hard work for you. 

It only costs $29 and the fee is fully refundable, according to the site's front page. 

You can even rattle off a list of specific demands that a computer can't check, or travel novices wouldn't include to refine your search, says Money Talks News' Brandon Ballenger. 

Search for deals in the morning

Search for deals in the morning

Early morning is the time you'll see the most deals, says Bortz, although some airlines release discounted tickets throughout the day.  

Take a red-eye

Take a red-eye

These are the absolute cheapest times to fly as they're on limited routes, says Bortz. 

Rack up free airline miles on rewards sites

Rack up free airline miles on rewards sites

e-Rewards gives players tickets they can cash in for miles, while other sites like e-Miles let people cash in free miles for airfare, hotel perks and Amazon.com gift cards, says BI reporter Mandi Woodruff. 

What we are most famous for is getting you airline tickets at the best prices, even airline tickets for cheap!

Search multiple sites

Search multiple sites

Relying on only one site to give you the low-down for low-cost airfare is silly. 

Check the biggest online ticket-sellers—Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz—and don't forget to search the little guys like Kayak, AirfareWatchdog, Yapta and Hipmunk for deals too. 

Book six weeks in advance

Book six weeks in advance

A revealing study from Airlines Reporting Corporation found that the best time to purchase your airfare is about six weeks prior to travel.

The reason: Around this time, prices drop below the average fare.

Know your airport hubs

Know your airport hubs

Every airline has some kind of a deal going for certain cities, says Ask Mr. Credit Card.

"These specials might not always be for the city you are flying to, but you might be able to get a partial discount if you take a layover in that city as part of your round trip." 

Be flexible

Be flexible

Try adding a couple days to your trip before or after peak travel days to lower the fare, suggests the AP. 

Don't overlook small carriers

Don't overlook small carriers

Flickr / JoePhilipson

Travel search engines push smaller carriers to the bottom, but you'd be foolish to overlook them

"Discounters don't have to be your first stop, but they should be an option," says Ask Mr. Credit Card. 

Park and fly

Park and fly

Some airlines have a monopoly on airports, allowing them to charge more, says the AP. 

To counter this, check fares at airports 50, 75 or 100 miles from your destination. The car rental and extra travel time may be worth it. 

Book connecting flights

Book connecting flights

Booking connecting flights could save you as much as $100 round-trip, according to the AP. 

Just make sure you leave enough time to make your connecting flight in case the first flight arrives late. 

Search the actual airline's site

Search the actual airline's site

Southwest Airlines

This is an oft-overlooked tip, but one well worth repeating. 

Airlines can host private sales, reserving the cream of the crop for their very own websites, says Bortz. 

Even without discounts, these fares can be bargain bin-low. 

What we are most famous for is getting you airline tickets at the best prices, even airline tickets for cheap!