As travel rebounds, now may be best time to buy an airline ticket

Jessica Wong

As vaccines continue to roll out across the country, the travel industry is expecting a big comeback in the second half of this year. If you’re looking to get the cheapest airline ticket with the most flexibility for a trip down the road, the best time to buy might be […]

As vaccines continue to roll out across the country, the travel industry is expecting a big comeback in the second half of this year. If you’re looking to get the cheapest airline ticket with the most flexibility for a trip down the road, the best time to buy might be right now. Travelers reentering the market will find a lot of changes in cancellation policies, especially with the airlines, and many of them have shifted substantially in favor of travelers. American, United and Delta all eliminated change fees which used to eat up hundreds of dollars of a ticket’s value. You can now change most tickets without fees, although that will not include basic economy tickets purchased beyond the end of this March. Travel on the new ticket must be completed within one year of the ticket’s original issue date.JetBlue, Boston Logan’s largest air carrier, just this week also announced it is implementing a similar policy: permanently eliminating change fees on tickets, with the exception of its “Blue Basic” fares purchased beyond the end of March. “Blue Basic” is similar to the other airlines’ basic economy. JetBlue says the travel credit must be used within a year. The airline also says same-day changes will still incur a fee.All four of these airlines say travelers will have to pay any difference in price for the new ticket, but will be granted the full value of their old ticket.This means if you want the absolute cheapest price – a basic economy fare – with the most flexibility, you should consider buying a ticket in the next month, before fees kick back in on tickets bought after that end of March deadline. Since change fees are still being waived on basic fares – but only on tickets bought through March – you can always change the ticket later without fees. That’s if you’re planning to travel in the next year and so will be able to use the credit.Southwest says it never charges change fees but again, travelers would be responsible for any difference in price.”A lot of these businesses have been so severely impacted by 2020, they’re looking for a lot of ways to get their guests back in the door,” said travel expert Elizabeth Monahan at Needham-based TripAdvisor. “The travelers who will win really are the ones who take their time to do their homework, do some price comparison and when you see a good deal, don’t wait.”

As vaccines continue to roll out across the country, the travel industry is expecting a big comeback in the second half of this year. If you’re looking to get the cheapest airline ticket with the most flexibility for a trip down the road, the best time to buy might be right now.

Travelers reentering the market will find a lot of changes in cancellation policies, especially with the airlines, and many of them have shifted substantially in favor of travelers.

American, United and Delta all eliminated change fees which used to eat up hundreds of dollars of a ticket’s value. You can now change most tickets without fees, although that will not include basic economy tickets purchased beyond the end of this March.

Travel on the new ticket must be completed within one year of the ticket’s original issue date.

JetBlue, Boston Logan’s largest air carrier, just this week also announced it is implementing a similar policy: permanently eliminating change fees on tickets, with the exception of its “Blue Basic” fares purchased beyond the end of March. “Blue Basic” is similar to the other airlines’ basic economy.

JetBlue says the travel credit must be used within a year.

The airline also says same-day changes will still incur a fee.

All four of these airlines say travelers will have to pay any difference in price for the new ticket, but will be granted the full value of their old ticket.

This means if you want the absolute cheapest price – a basic economy fare – with the most flexibility, you should consider buying a ticket in the next month, before fees kick back in on tickets bought after that end of March deadline. Since change fees are still being waived on basic fares – but only on tickets bought through March – you can always change the ticket later without fees. That’s if you’re planning to travel in the next year and so will be able to use the credit.

Southwest says it never charges change fees but again, travelers would be responsible for any difference in price.

“A lot of these businesses have been so severely impacted by 2020, they’re looking for a lot of ways to get their guests back in the door,” said travel expert Elizabeth Monahan at Needham-based TripAdvisor. “The travelers who will win really are the ones who take their time to do their homework, do some price comparison and when you see a good deal, don’t wait.”

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