When purchasing a flight for a trip you have to take, cheaper non-refundable airfares are the way to go.
But, what happens if you cancel or change your flight due to unforeseen circumstances? Airlines require that you pay a hefty fee, but there are some loopholes and workarounds, says Airfare Watchdog founder George Hobica.
The United States Department of Transportation requires that, as long as you’ve booked a non-refundable ticket seven days ahead of your flight, you’re entitled to hold your reservation and the fare and change or cancel your reservation within 24 hours of booking without paying a cancellation fee (typically $200 on large carriers and up to $450 for international flights).
This means you get a 24-hour window after booking to either change the reservation or cancel it entirely. A change in the reservation could require the passenger to pay the difference in fares, but a change penalty will not apply. This applies to any airline selling tickets in the U.S.
To best take advantage of the 24-hour rule, book directly with the airlines, either online or by phone, instead of third-party Web sites.
Watch out for certain caveats with specific airlines:
American Airlines allows you hold your seat and the fares for 24 hours without paying for it. When considering booking a flight with American, do NOT pay for the fare and choose the 24-hour hold option instead. If you pay, you will be hit with a change/cancellation fee. American also sells fare “add-ons” starting at $68, which allow you to change your flight for free at any time, board first or check in a bag round-trip.
Southwest Airlines goes beyond the DOT regulation and allows you to change or cancel a reservation any time before flight time and get a credit for the full amount of your fare, which can be applied to future travel within a year of the original reservation. You’ll still have to pay the applicable fare increase.
Alaska Airlines now lets you change or cancel your flight for free within 60 days of departure.
Allegiant Airlines, notorious for nickel-and-diming its customers, is a bit more specific. Its rules state that you may cancel as long as your scheduled flight is at least 168 hours (seven days) away at time of booking.
Beware: the 24-hour rule is a little hazy when it comes to frequent flyer tickets. Most airlines oblige, but US Airways clearly states that the rule doesn’t apply to its mileage tickets.
Other Ways to Get a Refund:
Most of the traveling public is unaware of Rule 260 in airline contracts of carriage about “involuntary refunds,” which states that if the airline refuses to carry you for any reason, or if your flight is delayed more than a specific amount of time (like 121 minutes on American Airlines), or if your flight is canceled, you can apply for a full refund – even on a non-refundable ticket. For example, here is the rule for Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines.
So, if you buy a fare you no longer can use and the DOT 24-hour rule doesn’t apply, you can avoid the change/cancel fee if your flight is canceled or severely delayed. It may not be worth your time to even show up to the airport, but you do need to check in for the flight for the rule to apply.
The Schedule Change Loophole:
You can get a refund if there’s a significant schedule change before your departure (for instance, a 9 a.m. departure is pushed to 6 a.m. the next day), or your new flight requires a much longer layover or overnight stay from a nonstop to a connecting flight. For example, here is American Airlines’ policy.
The airline may not notify you of a qualifying schedule change, so if you’ve purchased a non-refundable fare that you would like to refund, be sure the check the flight schedule to see if it has changed in any way. If it has, call the airline and request a refund, explaining that the schedule no longer works for you. Obviously, a change of just a few minutes won’t qualify for a refund.
And There’s Always Dying
In the past, if you had a verifiable illness or accident, with something as irrefutable as an emergency room admission, an airline would take pity on you and change or cancel your reservation without penalty. This doesn’t usually pan out these days, as too many people faked medical emergencies. So, now airlines will only issue a refund if you or a traveling companion on the same reservation dies — and only on presentation of the death certificate.
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With nyc pretty much closed done and Coronavirus as a threat. Why can’t i get a refund or voucher. It’s not our fault. I booked 5 non refundable tickets on February 26. It’s not fair to not refund to everyone. This isn’t our fault or decision wouldn’t be a good vacation if subways monuments are closed.
There is a very effective way to get a refund for a non-refundable ticket, but some criteria applies. One, you must have used a credit card to pay for the airfare. Two, the airline must have cancelled the flight (even for reasons outside of their control such as the coronavirus pandemic). Three, you cannot have accepted an itinerary change or credit for future travel. And lastly, you must write a letter to your credit card issuer disputing the charge pursuant to United States Code Title 15, Chapter 41, Subchapter I, Part D, Section 1666(a). Please note, legally, your billing rights are only protected if you send your credit card issuer a written letter within 60 days from the statement date that first showed the charge (so if you paid for your ticket a little more than 60 days from the departure date, you aren’t legally protected under this law). Some banks do the dispute process online or over the phone, but you must write them a letter to be legally protected and force the bank to start an investigation. The actual law that entitles you to a refund when an airline cancels a flight is USC Title 15, Chapter 41 Subchapter I Part D Section 1666(b)(3), which basically says if the merchant failed to provide the agreed upon service, it’s considered a billing error that the credit card issuer must correct. In your case, the agreed upon service is flights departing from a specific location, to a specific location, and on a specific day. That’s the agreed upon service, so if the merchant doesn’t hold up their end of the purchase, you’re entitled to get your money back. This law overrules any of the airline’s own policies, but make sure you don’t accept an itinerary change or credit for future travel because they’ll use that as evidence to say you accepted a new service agreement and deny the claim. I hope this information has been helpful for you.
So if I paid for my TAP Portugal ticket on February 11, 2020 for a May 19, 2020 flight from Phoenix AZ to Naples, Italy and the flight was cancelled on March 27, on May 16, 2020 is it too late to do a credit card dispute?
TAP Portugal has changed their refund policy in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Please find it below.
Rescheduling is even easier and we have even extended the eligibility, so if your first flight was until September 30, 2020, and as long as the ticket is issued until May 15, you can do a free change and benefit from an additional discount of 25EUR/USD or 100EUR/USD to use on the fare difference.
There is also the alternative of opting for a refund through a voucher, where we are offering an additional 20% to the amount of the voucher and we have also extended the validity to 2 years, this is valid for journeys that have their first flight until June 30, 2020.
However, since they cancelled the flight, they are required to issue you a refund. There should be no reason to do a credit card dispute. Contact TAP Customer SupportTAP Customer Support if you have yet to receive the refund.
Hi I want to know how I can get a refund on my airline tickets. My cruise that I booked awhile ago was canceled and I don’t want to fly anywhere so I don’t want credit to fly in a year. This COVID 19 is crazy. Please help thanks.
Hi Joyce, Many airlines are issuing travel credit rather than refunds. I would ask to see if your credit could get pushed to 2022 or when you are ready to fly again.
Your style is so unique in comparison to other folks I’ve read stuff from.
Thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark this
I can’t do Disney trips anymore, all because of Disney becoming a world power.
Can i cancel with other lines for using later
I have a flight booked for me and my daughter to Nashville. Purchased on May 2. Flying May 25. My brother got rushed to hospital as a rapid response and is not do well at all. Airline won’t credit me a ticket. I don’t want to take my daughter away at this time.
My situation is this when I bought our tickets the price was one price. I recently checked and the price had dropped a lot I called Alaska and requested the price change to which they agreed I was exspecting the change to be put back in my card, but no they gave me a certicate for a future flight which expires 11/19 we only fly once a year to Vegas. They said the ticket was non-refundable I am not asking for a ticket reund I am asking for the price difference to be put back on my card. It looks like a use ti or loose it stiuation. Can you help?
The links to the rules and policy examples no longer work.
Hey I need help on the matter of cancelling the non refundable ticket . I booked through a third party named explore trip . Its international trip and am unbale to travel due to visa issues. The ticket is costing 2000$ for 2 people and they are willing to give back 750$. So it looks like a fraud as if its non refundable they shouldnt give me any money but they are giving some! I called the airline which is united, they say theycant help as it was booked through third party!What should I do?
I just want to change days on my outbound flight. For 4 people it will cost over $800!! Non refundable ticket at $150 then plane cost differential
Carnival changed our cruise ports so we cancelled. They’re giving us 800 dollars towards airfare charges. I was thinking of changing our non-refundable tickets to refundable tickets by changing the flights (for 800 fee). Then I cancel the new flight and get a full refund. Will this work?
I got a full refund for a Vegas trip in December hassle free. I think it just depends on who you talk to and how you talk to them. I was surprised myself.
Which airline was it and how did you request the refund? I am trying with American Airlines.
Had to cancel round trip to Curacao on Air Canada due to the Corona virus. Have been on hold almost an hour, also submitted a request to cancel.
What are my chances of getting a dull refund?:
How can we get a Refund on a flight with Delta within America. We live in Canada and we were NOT allowed to cross the border. Because of the COVID-19. Have purchased travel protection insurance and they are putting us through so many hoops. Need proof of why we could not fly, Proof it was cancelled etc. Fill our a form with all sorts of questions, and proof from the airline that it was cancelled. Which then goes to a board for discussion. Not heard back….
Sorry to hear that your travel plans have been cancelled due to border restrictions and that you are stuck in a travel insurance circus! If you have not heard back regarding your insurance claim, wait until Delta cancels the flight to receive a refund. If you cancel before the Delta cancels the flight, they will give you credit only. Delta’s Coronavirus CenterDelta’s Coronavirus Center outlines all of their flight policies and they update frequently.
What about getting a refund for 6 weeks unused car hire? Expedia confirmed on telephone before I took the car for 2 weeks that they would refund the 6 weeks unused rental once I sent them the invoice after returning car. But they are now saying they can’t as the rental firm is not passing on refund. What can I do? Thanks.
Unfortunately, without written confirmation of your refund request, Expedia does not need to honor their spoken word. Try calling the car company to see if you would be able to get a refund from them directly.
A pox on Delta.
They are very until and unless on change fees. Clearly they believe this is more profitable than customer service.
Oops. That should read unhelpful and unforgiving. Damn you, autocorrect!
Need help!!! Booked with CheapOAir for a trip to Bali in April. Total cost was $2K. They were willing to give a refund my card $850, that’s less than half of what I paid, but said they will charge my card $500 for the penalties. Therefore, out of $2k, I only get $300 back. What a RIP OFF. This booking was/is for April. I’m only 8 days into that reservation. What can I do to get at least 3/4th of what I paid? We had to cancel our flight because of the latest threat to the US from Iran. Please advise.
I got booked 3 tickets with Delta Airlines through their authorised agent Thomas cook India and got it cancelled within 24 hours under RiskFree cancellation policy but Delta Airlines refunded the cost s as after deducting EUR 60o for 3tickets whichis unfair. Matter was taken with Delta Airlines for100% refund but they refused. Now what to do?
If the airlines refuse to.work.with the consumer. especially during rhe recent pandemic contact the government agencies that have jurisdiction over the airlines. In the U.S. it will be the DoT and file a formal complaint.
I had to file a formal complaint against AA because of a cruise cancellation a shelter in place order plus other situations. AA refuses to fully refund our tickets. They are changing the flight pattern and the rules.for cancellation at the.blink of an eye and expecting travelers to be in the know without any notice of changes.
My next step now that a formal complaint and more to come have been filed is taking AA to court.
American Airlines’ policy does NOT require them to compensate/refund or do anything for significant flight changes: In October of last year, I booked 2 R/T tickets on American from Oakland CA to Costa Rica for travel in February of this year. About 10 days prior to the trip I logged into my AA rewards account to look up something totally unrelated and discovered that I had a change alert related to my CR trip. Turns out AA SIGNIFICANTLY changed our flights and had us on a SIX HOUR layover in PHX – each way! On top of that, I received ZERO notification of this change and had I not happened to login, I wouldn’t have known until we went to check in 24-hours before and that would have been too late to do anything. Several phone calls & emails later, AA did NOTHING to compensate or even apologize. For the record; I have been an AA member for years, have been notified of flight changes several times prior via email – including for a flight I booked after the CR trip and flew before the CR trip – and have never had an issue with it. This was outrageous on every level – especially AA’s flat refusal to do anything about it. Also for the record, when I asked why I didn’t receive any notice of the significant change, the response was “the record shows an agent “tried to reach you by phone but couldn’t” . ???????? This was a 10-day international flight and a +5 hour layover change would have meant canceled reservations and completely screwing up our vacation. AA didn’t/doesn’t care and their policy no longer requires them to compensate in any way.
Help,Help,Help. please. Sept.2019 by phone I booked a European cruise with Princess for my son, daughter-in-law and 9 y.o. grand-daughter. Paid deposit Australian $1183. Later I booked our flights Brisbane-London return with Princess to fly Singapore A/L AU$5046 and was asked to pay immediately. My d-in-law booked our Eurostar rail London-Paris and paid AU$325. She also booked our Air France flight Paris-Athens and paid AU$1097. Total outlay (now loss) AU$7651. Our flight Bris.-London scheduled for 9 May 2020. Our cruise Athens-London scheduled for 16 May 2020. We took out our travel insurance two weeks ago and were told we would not be covered for cancellation re COVID-19 but this week the younger ones became worried about COVID-19 because I have a chronic lung problem and the 9 y.o. may be at risk. Phoned Princess to cancel and told we lose our deposit and all the air fare. This morning we found that our Eurostar and Air France money is non-refundable. The cruise deposit we accept is now within the 80 days (REALLY!!) before sailing bracket and we forfeit it. However, with so much time to using the other three travel tickets there is no excuse for no refund. What sort of a world are we living in now? Can anyone give me the name of an international body that advises on or acts for this kind of loss? Thank you.
Corona Virus whoa……My wife and her 90 year old father who has had triple bypass and has a current heart valve issue and I have non-refundable tickets to travel from the east coast to the west coast via LAX airport. We received a advisory text from our Governor’s office warning people that due to the corona virus not to travel if we have underlying medical issues…Especially the elderly. I’ve had heart surgery and am still on heart pills. My wife and I also have a sinus infection so we are coughing, hacking and sneezing. I can only imagine how other passengers would feel about corona if we sit next to them. Anyway, Priceline agreed to submit a request to cancel our tickets but only for the flight to LAX. But they won’t cancel our return trip since we’re not scheduled to fly through LAX on the way back. I’m wandering if there’s any legal rights we may have in order to not pay the fees.
Had to cancel a cruise due to the coronavirus. Will airlines
Be accommodating and cancel tickets without charging fees?
We had to cancell our flights for April 2020, because of the Coronavirus. An ASAP agents charge us $300.00 per person plus $117.00, difference for the ticket per person. ASAP agent told us that our tickets are non refundable. They gave us until before October 7, 2020. According to Delta Airlines, they’re waving the cancellation fees for flights March to April 2020. Is there anyway we can get a refund for 4 people ( $300.00 each ) ?
Expedia will not refund my money for 4 tickets to NYC. I am disgusted with this company! It is not my fault that we cannot travel because of COVID-19. They said we have to travel to our original points-are you kidding me! I want a refund! I will never use Expedia again! They are holding my money –and this is the worse business around!
I am very sorry to hear that Expedia will not refund your money. In these tumultuous times, Airline’s cancel/change policies have been changing rapidly and third party sites like Expedia may not be keeping up or have change policies of their own. Most airlines are not giving refunds unless the flight is cancelled on their end. My recommendation would be to reach out directly to your airline company if your flights are still scheduled for an airline credit. Most of the airlines have extended their flight credit redemption windows so customers can still redeem credit in the next year or so. Good luck!
I booked a flight through Expedia on American Airlines for July 3rd to Gatwick Airport for a cruise. The cruise line has cancelled the cruise and there is no reason for me to go. I bought flight insurance. And along with this my husband and I are in our mid 70s. Is there anyway I can get a refund? As we are both on fixed Incomes $1250 is a lot of money to lose.
I am sorry to hear you aren’t setting sail in July- hopefully that will change sooner than later! Flight insurance has a couple levels to it with varying amounts of flexibility. The best coverage is “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage that allows you to cancel your non-refundable ticket for any reason outside of the outline policy agreement. But do keep in mind that the reimbursement amount could only be 50% or 75% of the money you lose. Read the policy closely to understand what amount you can get back. In case you did not elect Cancel for Any Reason coverage, two common flight insurance policies are outlined below as well.
My last tip: try calling American Airlines directly rather than Expedia. Good luck!
Trip cancellation and interruption insurance covers specific problems that prevent you from going on a trip—or that interrupt a trip after you’ve left. Here are some problems typically covered:
Medical problems. This can include serious injury, sickness, hospitalization or death to you or a travel companion. It can also be used to for money you lose if you have to return home if there’s a family member who is not traveling with you but in need of immediate care, a business partner whose illness requires you to return home, or a host at one of your travel destinations who’s ill. Generally, the illness or injury needs to be disabling to the point that it would interfere with your trip. You may need a record of a doctor’s exam and the doctor’s certification that you can’t travel. If that isn’t possible, your policy might allow for an examination within 72 hours of your cancellation or interruption.
Transportation and accommodation. This applies when an airline, cruise line, common carrier or tour operator has problems such as financial default, mechanical or equipment failure, or a workers’ strike that causes your trip to be canceled or interrupted.
I purchased a non-refundable ticket via Justfly.com in February, to attend a religious convention in August. Due to Coronavirus the convention organizer cancelled. Justfly.com says my ticket is not eligible for a refund. Though my cancellation is not of my doing, Delta will charge me $200 for a cancellation. Do you know of any options (loopholes) I can use to get a refund?
I am sorry to hear that your convention was cancelled. As of right now, Delta has waived its change fee for domestic and international flights until September 30,2020. If your ticket is eligible, they will issue a credit for future travel. If you are seeking a refund, it is best to wait until the day before to see if Delta cancels the flight which will result in them issuing a refund.
For our 35th Anniversary this Oct/Nov, I have three flights within Europe (Porto-Prague/Lufthansa, Prague-Vienna/Austrian Air, Budapest-Paris/AirFrance). Our flight to/from Europe was canceled and we got a full refund. So we have three flights we cant use and a 7-day river cruise to boot. Our thought is to scrap the trip until next year. Suggestions on how to get airline refund(s)?? thanks
If these flights were booked through Cook Travel, please email email@example.com and we can’t help you with this.
Hello, I would like to know if a non-refundable flight ticket I can get my money back. Situation was I called an agency to get my sister’s ticket for supposedly better price and later I found cheaper price. They said; one this was an special offer you cannot cancel and get refund.
I literally call at 9:30pm and 10minutes later when i want to cancel they said I cannot.
I really think they just fraudulent got my money and even though I though everything was fine.
I am sorry to hear that this agency gave you so much trouble! By law, you have a 24-hour risk-free cancellation window to cancel any airline ticket and get 100% of your money back. I would call their customer support!
I am an 81 year old woman that has a ticket to Mpls, St. Paul,on Sun Country for July 31. But, do to the rise in covid cases now, I am thinking of cancelling my flight for a later date when covid is less widespread. Will I be able to do that without having to pay a fine? will my ticket be good for a later date?
I understand your reasoning behind changing your flight! Nearly all airlines have eliminated ticket change fees due to Covid-19 and have extended credit redemption dates to 2021. I have included the travel change policy from Sun Country below.
We understand that flexible travel options are important for our guests with concerns about COVID-19. At this time, we are waiving change fees for qualifying itineraries for travel through June 30th, modified online at suncountry.com using MyTrips.
We are also happy to accommodate any guests who would still prefer to speak directly with an agent. You can call our reservations team at 651-905-2737 daily from 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. Central Time.
Guests looking to cancel their flight can do so online using MyTrips and receive a flight credit to use toward future travel. Flight credits expire one year from the date the original itinerary was booked and can be used towards travel beyond the date of expiration. To redeem flight credits, the confirmation number of the original booking will act as a credit code when booking on suncountry.com
We have 5 booked seats to Lisbon July 31, then Faro to Barcelona, coming home via Dublin & back to JFK. We cannot fly now as US passports are prohibited to enter these countries. I want a refund not a credit as I don’t know if we will do the trip at all next year. Surely we are entitled to a refund if we cannot enter the countries!? Any advice?
I am so sorry to hear that you will not be able to travel. As of right now, there is no official statement from the Dept. of Transportation confirming that airlines must refund for flights that are no longer available due to border control. However, flights are being cancelled due to the very same reason in which case you are entitled to a refund at that point. My advice would be to wait until 72 hours of the flight to see if the airline cancels and processes the refund then.
I have a major dilemma. I am a retired US Postal Worker with an officer position in the Postal Union. In January 2020 , I was selected to attend the annual Postal Conference, August 2020 in Hawaii. I was told to pay for my ticket and I would be reimbursed after the Conference. I purchased two United Airlines tickets. In May 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, the Conference was cancelled. This was beyond my control. I immediately contacted United Airlines and was told I WAS NOT eligible for a refund as I was voluntarily cancelling my non-refundable ticket. The ticket was cancelled as the conference was cancelled due to COVID. I have no other reason to go to Hawaii. I know that all those attendees’ tickets were denied refunds. But, the United officials are giving me a very hard time. I do want and need my refund. Do I need to seek legal representation in this matter? During this pandemic, I know many airlines and hotels reservations are being inadvertently cancelled. Your assistance with this matter is greatly needed and appreciated. Thank you
I am sorry to hear you are in such a bind! Assuming the ticket was non-refundable and you did not purchase cancel-for-any-reason travel insurance (which would only give you a portion of your ticket price back), unfortunately, United does not need to issue a refund unless they cancel the flight but if you cancelled previously, they aren’t obligated to do so. As the conference requested you to purchase the ticket for reimbursement, I believe you are still entitled to that reimbursement. Good luck!
American Airlines has added another connection and a totally different flight for my trip to Maui that I want to cancel. They won’t refund because they say the time difference is minor. But I would never buy a ticket that has two connections and two legs are totally new flights. Do I have a case for a refund here?
According to the last public statement made by the Department of Transportation, the airline does have the right to define what they consider to be an unprecedented change in itinerary. Please read more about it herehere.
In Dec. 2019 I purchased 2 no-refundable airline tickets through the Hopper App to fly Air Canada from NJ to Canada in Aug 2020 (for a cruise that was canceled). Due to the travel ban (I am a US citizen) we can not get into Canada. The flight is not canceled I guess because Canadians can still fly in. I also have noticed a schedule change that I was never notified about. We were suppose to fly in non-stop departing at 9am and they changed to a stopping flight departing at 5pm (8 hour difference) same thing with the return flight. I am currently on hold with the airline to see if I can get a refund but I am not hopeful. Any advice on what to do?
Hi Stacey, an eight hour difference is usually considered significant enough that you have grounds for a refund. I hope you got it!
Hi all, I purchased a ticket to travel from Trinidad to Miami in Sept 2020. Cheapoair was offering flights out of Trinidad and the boarders were closed since March 2020. This is false advertising. Now I want back my refund for the ticket purchased and they saying there is no refund. There is a more serious case of Covid 19, .They still want me to travel,,, cause they do not want to refund me my monies. Now they are saying I have until sept 2021 before the ticket expired. What if I cannot travel…Does this mean I LOST MY TICKET FARE. So what if the pandemic is until 2027.
I spoke to one Franklyn of Cheapoair he said its against the company rules and policy to give back refunds.
Any advice on what to do next?
I am so sorry to hear that you are experiencing such difficulties with your ticket. Unforutnately, Cheaponair does not need to follow the refund rules as a third party ticket issuer. I would ask to see if they would offer a travel credit to be used in the future as many companies are offering this including our own.
United has changed their policy on ticket canecellations and took Electronic Travel Certificates away. They had an exception policy, but now are refusing to issues the ETCs.
United keeps changing the rules.