For years we've been singing the praises of using Google Flights to find cheap airfare. Honestly, you're probably sick of hearing about it, but that's too bad. Beyond the valuable calendar view that guides you to the cheapest days to fly and the handy Google Flights Explore map, one feature stands above the rest.
It's Google Flights price alerts, the platform's built-in system to track changes in airfare prices. No matter where you're going, no matter when, you can instantly monitor almost any flight and get an email when prices go up or down significantly.
That's not just an incredibly powerful push to book a flight you've been eyeing after prices drop – something that's been happening more and more heading into summer. Most importantly, it's the trigger for one of the most valuable travel hacks you can employ today: Rebooking a flight you've already booked … and pocketing the price difference as an airline credit!
That's right. Throw the concern about booking too early only to see prices drop afterward out the window. And it's easy to do thanks to Google Flights Price Alerts.
How it Works & Why It Matters
It's the single biggest silver lining of the pandemic for air travel.
During the worst of COVID-19, major U.S. airlines did away with change fees on almost all their flights, whether you're heading somewhere in the U.S. or far abroad. That flexibility remains in place today, allowing you to change almost any flight without paying fees or simply cancel the flight altogether for a voucher or airline credit. Only some flights that don't depart from or return to North America miss the cut.
Throughout much of the pandemic, that flexibility gave travelers some much-needed confidence to book an otherwise iffy trip. But with travel demand roaring back past pre-pandemic levels now, it's critical for another reason: It's your avenue to save even more if flight prices drop after you've booked – and it's shockingly easy to do it. You won't get cash back, but you can at least get some extra money in the form of a voucher or travel credit to put toward another trip.
Let's say you booked Delta flights this fall to London-Heathrow (LHR) earlier this year for $900 apiece only to see that prices have dropped down to $517. A few years ago, you'd be out of luck.
Today, you can rebook that exact same flight and pocket a Delta eCredit for the price difference of nearly $400 each!
The key here is to keep monitoring your flights even after you've booked them. Trust us: Even though flights may seem expensive right now, lower prices on your flights may be on the horizon.
And Google Flights price alerts give you an ultra-easy way to do it.
How to Set a Google Flights Price Alert
Google Flights is our go-to search engine to find the best deals on flights because it's packed with powerful features to help you find a bargain. One of them is tailor-made for this moment: Google Flights Price Alerts.
Whether you're just starting your search or you've already bought your flight, enter your route and travel dates and bring up the current prices. While you can set price alerts for any date, you can also filter down by departure times, airlines, connections, and more to zero in on one particular flight.
Then, just select the option to track prices, and voilà – you'll get notified whenever there's a significant price change on the flights you're watching. For example, I've continued tracking an upcoming flight to Boston (BOS) just in case the cost comes down.
Just make sure you have a Gmail account and you'll get an email from Google Flights if prices go down – or up.
Plus, you can monitor any flights you're tracking through the Google Flights menu itself and see how they've changed since you started watching.
Once you get an alert that prices have shot down, it's time to spring into action. But really, the process begins long beforehand…
Read our full guide on how Google Flights Price Alerts work!
How to Rebook After Getting a Price Alert
Step 1: Say No to Basic Economy
First things first: You need to buy the right kind of ticket.
Almost every major airline now sells basic economy fares – the lowest, no-frills fares you'll see when searching for flights that come with fewer perks or benefits than other standard economy fares. They're cheaper, but there's one big reason you need to avoid them: With few exceptions, basic economy fares cannot be changed or canceled. Some like Delta basic economy and JetBlue basic economy allow you to cancel after booking and get a flight voucher, but you'll pay for it by forfeiting $99 to $199 of what you initially paid in order to get a voucher.
No matter how you slice it or what airline you're flying, you need to book at least a standard main cabin economy fare or higher. That's the key to coming out ahead once that Google Flights price alert comes through.
Step 2: Set Your Price Alert
We covered this already. You got this.
Step 3: Cancel Your Existing Flight (Or Try to Change It)
When you see that prices for your flights have dropped, it's time to spring into action by doing the scary part: You need to cancel the flight you've already got booked.
So long as you booked at least a main cabin economy fare, you can simply cancel your existing flight, get a voucher or credut for the value of the ticket, and then use that to rebook the same flight.
But depending on which airline you're flying, you might be able to skip canceling your ticket and simply modify your existing fare. Here's how that works:
- Log into your airline account.
- Manage your upcoming trips and pick the flights that just got cheaper.
- Select the option to change your flights.
- Enter the same route, same dates as your current flight and try to rebook it.
- Get a voucher for the price difference!
Some airlines allow you to change and rebook the same flight on the same day online and others may require a phone call … or a message on social media. United, for instance, may charge a $50 “reissue fee” if you try to change to the same, cheaper flight on the same day – and it won't let you do it online at all.
In our experience, Delta makes it the easiest to modify and rebook your existing flight in just a few clicks after prices decrease whether you go to Delta.com and modify your reservation, fire up your smartphone app and start the change, or send Delta a text message. But in some cases, Delta will block you from reselecting your existing flight, which means you need to cancel the flight for a voucher.
Step 4: Rebook the Cheaper Flight
You've got the voucher from your airline, and now it's time to put some of it to use.
Just search through your airline or use Google Flights to find the flight you just canceled. Exact same flights, exact same day, exact same times. Of course, you can shift plans a bit if you want. But if fares for different flights have increased, you'll be on the hook for the price difference.
Most major airlines have made it fairly seamless to apply a trip credit during the normal checkout process so long as you're logged into your frequent flyer account, as Delta does here.
Step 5: Pocket Your New Voucher
From the moment you hit purchase on rebooking your cheaper flights, your airline should automatically cut you a brand new voucher or credit. If you canceled and rebooked a flight that originally cost $750 for just $500 after prices dropped, there's a $250 travel credit on its way to your account to put toward another trip.
But pay close attention to that expiration date! These vouchers are a “use-them-or-lose-them” perk, and airlines can be very strict. Some are more generous, but many carriers' travel credits and vouchers expire just 12 months from the date you purchased your first ticket. And in most cases, you'll need to actually take a new trip and put that credit to use before it expires – not just book before that date.
Southwest is a major exception, as the airline recently made all flight credits good for life. After the latest extension, all Delta eCredits (new and old) will last until at least the end of 2023 – and you can use them for a trip into late 2024!
If you've got a handful of credits, don't worry: Most airlines easily allow you to apply up to four or more toward one transaction. Just keep in mind you can generally only use these travel credits for yourself – not someone else.
We turn to Google Flights daily (hourly, really) because there's no better platform to find the cheapest flight possible. But the ability to rebook flights and save after prices drop has turned their price alerts into the single most powerful feature in travel right now.