Fluctuating airfare prices are the bane of the cost-conscious traveler’s existence. Anticipating the right time to purchase airfare is like going to the dentist; there are only two possible scenarios: bad and worse. Yapta (Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant) is a service that aims to take a bit of the sting out of buying a plane ticket by informing people who have purchased an airline ticket when a fare drop is significant enough to qualify for a refund. Yapta has actually been around for a few years, but it was a somewhat cumbersome tool during its early stages. I never used the earlier versions, but I’ve been tinkering with it for a little while now and have found it to be a very useful tool.
Most people can’t be bothered to check prices every day after they have bought a ticket, but Yapta will do it for you. Simply enter the flight numbers, dates, and price of your ticket and Yapta will notify you when a refund is available. Different airlines offer refunds at different price levels and Yapta takes all of this into consideration.
From the graphic above, you can see which airlines offer refunds and what the corresponding price drop is for each airline. If you’ve purchased a $300 coach ticket on one of the major airlines, it isn’t likely your fare will drop enough to earn a refund. However, if you have purchased a ticket for $1,000 or more to get to Europe or Asia, a $150 price movement may be commonplace. This tool becomes especially useful for people who regularly book flights on Alaska Airlines and JetBlue, where no change fees are applied.
Below is my itinerary for my holiday travel plans in December. As you can see, the fare I paid ($265.90) is significantly below the current rate ($709.90). In addition, since Delta requires a $150 price drop, the fare would need to fall below $115.90 in order for me to get a refund. Obviously, I won’t be getting a refund on this fare.
There are several things to take into consideration when chasing a refund:
- In order to get a refund, all of the airlines shown above require that the ticket be purchased directly from the airline. Orbitz, Travelocity, or Priceline purchases don’t appear to qualify, however, Yapta explains that if you booked through a third-party, you can work through them to get a refund.
- Most of the airlines issue some kind of voucher or credit. As explained on Yapta, “Travel vouchers typically don’t retain any residual value. For example, if you have an $80 voucher and only use $50 of it, you will lose the remaining $30.”
- There are also nuances of the specific airlines that may influence your decision to claim a refund. Depending on the airline, your ticket may be cancelled and rebooked. By doing this, you may get booked under a different fare class, which could impact such benefits as upgrade eligibility, upgrade priority, mileage earnings for the flight, etc. If you have questions about potential changes to your fare class, ask the reservation agent before making the change. (If fare classes confuse you, stay tuned for a post in the near future to unravel the mystery.)
Yapta also has a fare watch function to help you track fares before you purchase. However, this type of service is pretty commonplace. I will mention, however, that Yapta’s search function is powered by Kayak, which I consider to be a pretty good search engine for travel originating in the U.S. Having a good search engine underpinning the concept provides a pretty reasonable assurance that if a refund becomes available, you are likely to find out about it.
Overall, the benefit of Yapta will depend a lot on the frequency with which you fly, where you plan to go, and the carrier(s) you choose. Even for the casual traveler, it makes sense to enter your flight details into the search engine, set the alert, and wait for a notice to come. The worst case scenario is you’ve lost a few minutes of your time. The best case is that you may save a tidy sum you can use on future travels. If only someone could make a trip to the dentist so rewarding.
Do you know of similar refund tracking tools? If so, please speak up in the Comments section. Thanks!
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