Booked an easyJet flight? Check fares before departure as you can get a refund if seats have fallen in price.
I've just flown home from a lovely trip to Kos with an unexpected holiday souvenir; a £64 refund from easyJet. The budget airline stumped up under its little known 'price promise' when I challenged the fact that its previously rising fares were suddenly 20% cheaper just before departure.
Way back in November I booked three return flights from Gatwick to Kos over the Easter break. As we're restricted to school holidays in our family, I try to book early to bag the best fares and having seen prices nudging their way up I went online and booked our flights five months in advance.
All well and good. So why did I discover those one-time spiralling fares had actually come down in price just before departure?
I originally paid £96.99 for each seat on the outward journey and £68.65 on the return leg, but ten days before departure the outbound fares were advertised as £75.66 - over £20 a seat less - while the return leg had gone up in price.
Now I always thought the whole ethos of budget airlines was that the earlier you book, the cheaper the fare. I've occasionally lost out myself on some of those rock bottom rates simply because I haven't booked fast enough and found the price has gone up a few days later.
However easyJet's website wording is actually very clever claiming, 'in general our fares increase as the departure date gets nearer'. So no cast iron guarantee that this is what actually happens.
I rang easyJet's press office who immediately agreed that, 'the earlier you book the cheaper the fare', but went on to explain that the airline carefully monitors demand. So if you get close to departure and the plane's not full, then seat prices may be reducedto shift the tickets.
Ryanair by comparison say its lowest fares are always sold on a 'first come first served' basis. It doesn't offer any form of money back price promise.
easyJet's price promise
I was feeling a bit put out over the price drop until I discovered a useful nugget of information way down on the easyJet website. In a long list of over thirty terms and conditions I found 'Article 26' and the easyJet 'Price Promise'.
This says that if you book a flight through its website and later find the fare's fallen before departure, providing the reduced rate isn't part of a sale, you can claim a credit voucher towards your next flight.
Each leg of the journey is treated separately so the fact that my 'return' leg had since gone up didn't matter; I was still due money back on the outbound fare.
OK so any money back isn't cash in your hand and admittedly you have to jump through a few easyJet hoops to secure your credit voucher, but it can be done.
Claiming a refund
If you spot a lower fare before departure get on the phone quickly as you can only claim your credit voucher by calling the customer service team (0843 104 5000) so forget emails or writing in.
Claims can only be made while the lower flight price is still on sale, so if you don't act promptly you risk fares climbing back up and missing out. Credit vouchers can only be claimed by and issued to the person who made the original booking, but any price refund will cover everyone in the party.
Then there's the call centre charges; these are 5p a minute, (plus network rates), and be warned you can face a lengthy queue. On the day I rang there was a recorded message warning of lengthy delays due to high call volume as a result of bad weather. But as hanging up meant those flight prices could go back up I persevered and ten minutes later got through.
The prices were checked and I was given a reference code to quote against future bookings.
Write this down and hang on to it as although I was promised email confirmation this didn't arrive. On checking back, I was later told it's that all important reference that's key to securing your future discount.
Using your credit voucher
If you're in possession of a credit voucher it's up to you how you spend it and there's no obligation to travel with the same group again to benefit.
Vouchers can only be honoured on bookings made via the call centre, not those booked online, although you will still qualify for the discounted web rate.
And they're not open ended; credit vouchers expire six months from the date of issue, but providing the booking's made within this time you can travel anytime up to one year.