To be clear, I’m not suggesting you’ll get a full refund for your Alaska Airlines flight, but the airline does have some pretty generous policies when it comes to canceling a flight and getting a credit for a future trip.
Typically, you change your mind, try to change a flight, and then the airline offers you a voucher for the original purchase minus a change fee, perhaps $150 or $200. They keep going up. But Alaska Airlines offers a few rules that will let you keep the entire value of that ticket to use for another trip with NO change fee.
UPDATE: Sadly, changes in mid-2018 mean that fees of up to $125 now apply for travelers with no status or with the lowest tier MVP status. Changes remain free for MVP Gold and 75K members. Of course, anyone can still get the funds deposited to My Wallet (less the change fee), and this may be useful in some cases. See my guide to doubling the value of an Alaska Airlines companion fare by turning Chase Ultimate Rewards points into a future flight credit.
Any passenger who cancels his or her ticket at least 60 days before departure can get the full value returned to their account (Alaska callas this “My Wallet”) for future use. It’s pretty convenient since you don’t have to remember old reservation numbers or other details. And it really is any passenger. The standard fee is $0. The award fee is $0. The elite fee is $0. No one has to pay a cancellation fee if it’s at least 60 days before departure, which makes a lot of sense because the airline still has two months to sell the ticket to someone else. (The cheapest discount fares tend to start disappearing around 3-6 weeks before departure.)
If you’re an MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K member — meaning you fly at least 40K miles a year on Alaska Airlines or 50K miles on Alaska and its partners — then you get an even better deal. You can cancel your ticket right up until the departure time.
I know lots of people who book speculative tickets as soon as they think they might take a trip. There’s almost no downside as long as you can front the money. Either fares go up and you look smart, or fares go down so you just cancel and rebook. It makes sense for Alaska, too. These are its most frequent customers. It knows its going to get your money eventually, if not for this trip then maybe the next one. So as long as you’re a happy customer willing to essentially pre-pay for your travel, then they’ll be more flexible when it comes to choosing the actual flights you spend it on.
Some people ask if they can cancel tickets they booked for a family member. For example, if I were MVP Gold and my wife was not, could I cancel tickets I booked for both of us using my account and get a full credit for both? The answer is NO. Alaska will give you a full credit for your own flight, but your companion’s fare will still be subject to the cancellation fee. Your best bet here if flying with a companion is to cancel before the 60-day window closes.