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What if the price drops after buying my airline ticket?

Virgin Atlantic, Heathrow Airport

Does Virgin honor price drops after buying a ticket? When is the best time to go to Death Valley?  We answer these and other nagging travel questions.

Q: I read that Virgin America will honor price drops after purchase but before travel with a $75 change fee. My flight to Edinburgh, Scotland dropped by $100 but when I called for a credit voucher good for future travel they denied me because I had purchased non-refundable tickets. Anything you can do about this?

A: If you were flying to Scotland, it was on Virgin Atlantic, not Virgin America. Although the two airlines have a business relationship, Virgin Atlantic, like many foreign-based carriers, does not issue refunds on non-refundable fares when there’s a price drop after you buy. By the way, Virgin America upped its fee to $100 effective last July, and United and US Airways recently upped their change fees from $150 to $200 on domestic fares.

Q: We are planning a trip to Death Valley National Park. When is the optimal time of year to visit and what’s the nearest airport?

A: If you’d like to avoid the extreme heat that this area of the country is famous for, experts (i.e., park rangers I spoke to) suggest visiting between mid October and mid March. You’ll also avoid the rainy season that way, and in mid March you might also be treated to a profusion of wild flowers. Although it’s located in California, I’d suggest flying into Las Vegas for the cheapest airfares. It’s about 130 miles from the park’s entrance.

Q: I will be flying on United Airlines from a domestic U.S. airport to an international destination with a connection in Houston.  If my luggage is lost, would domestic or international lost luggage compensation rules apply?

A: Even though you began your trip in the U.S. and connected within the U.S., your trip would be considered an international itinerary. International lost luggage compensation, which is typically lower than domestic compensation, would apply. Domestic compensation tops out at $3300. Compensation for luggage lost on an international flight is capped at 1000 “Special Drawing Rights,” a currency established by the International Monetary Fund, and is governed by the Montreal Convention. One SDR is currently equal to USD $1.50, so your maximum compensation would be $1500. On most airlines, you can buy additional excess baggage valuation (typically up to $5000 of coverage) for a reasonable fee when you check in your bags.

Have a question about travel or airfares? Send your questions to questions@airfarewatchdog.com and we may answer them in this column.

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and founder of the low-airfare listing site Airfarewatchdog.com.