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Refundable vs. Non-Refundable Airfares

Question asked by pluto77 on May 20, 2014
Latest reply on May 29, 2014 by iahflyr

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.