Can You Get A Refund If Your Flight Is Cancelled?

Filed Under: Advice

Airlines are going great lengths to try and deny people cash refunds for cancelled flights. They’re doing quite a good job with it, because most consumers seem to believe they aren’t entitled to cash refunds, which simply isn’t true.

Let’s take a look at what you need to know about this, and what you can do if an airline is trying to deny you a cash refund.

Why airlines are trying to deny cash refunds

Airlines are (understandably) in a really tough spot at the moment. They’re facing unprecedented government restrictions and reductions in demand, and there are questions around whether most airlines would be able to survive without government aid.

Therefore when airlines cancel flights, most airlines are doing what they can to convince people to accept a voucher with the airline, rather than getting a cash refund. They essentially want consumers to give them an interest free loan, given their huge liquidity issues.

On the one hand I can’t blame them for trying, though on the other hand they’re downright violating government restrictions and lying to consumers, and plenty of consumers are also in a tough financial spot as a result of this global pandemic.

The US DOT requires airlines to offer refunds for cancelations

While government restrictions will vary by country, let us talk specifically about the US, since there are hundreds of different policies out there, and I don’t want to create confusion. Policies are sometimes different in other countries.

The US Department of Transportation requires airlines to give passengers the option of a refund in the event a flight is cancelled. Here’s a quote directly from the DOT website:

What happens when my flight is cancelled?

  • If your flight is cancelled, most airlines will rebook you for free on their next flight to your destination as long as the flight has available seats.
  • If your flight is cancelled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.
  • If the airline offers you a voucher for future travel instead of a refund, you should ask the airline about any restrictions that may apply, such as blackout and expiration dates, advanced booking requirements, and limits on number of seats.

As you can see, this is pretty cut and dry. If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a refund for any unused portion of the trip. That’s a real refund (to your original form of payment), and not an airline voucher.

The DOT makes no distinction here based on whether or not an airline is at fault for the cancelation — it doesn’t matter if it’s due to weather, a mechanical issue, a schedule change, or a government regulation.

What do airline contracts of carriage say?

The DOT regulations reign supreme, but what do airline contracts of carriage say? Well, they mostly spell out very similar policies.

American’s contract of carriage on refunds

American’s policy makes it pretty clear that a refund should be allowed:

“We will refund a non-refundable ticket (or the value of the unused segment of your trip) to the original form of payment if we cancel your flight.”

Delta’s contract of carriage on refunds

Delta’s policy makes it pretty clear that a refund should be allowed:

“If there is a flight cancellation, diversion, delay of greater than 90 minutes, or that will cause a passenger to miss connections, Delta will (at passenger’s request) cancel the remaining ticket and refund the unused portion of the ticket and unused ancillary fees in the original form of payment in accordance with Rule 22.”

Southwest’s contract of carriage on refunds

Southwest’s policy makes it pretty clear that a refund should be allowed:

“Delays or Involuntary Cancellations. If a Passenger’s scheduled transportation is canceled, terminated, or delayed before the Passenger has reached his/her final destination as a result of a flight cancellation, Carrier-caused missed connection, flight delay, or omission of a scheduled stop, Carrier will either transport the Passenger at no additional charge on another of Carrier’s flights, refund the fare for the unused transportation in accordance with the form of payment utilized for the Ticket, or provide a credit for such amount toward the purchase of future travel.”

United’s contract of carriage on refunds

United seemingly tries to wiggle out of this by being vague with their force majeure event clause, but that’s not supported by the DOT:

“Force Majeure Event – In the event of a Force Majeure Event, UA without notice, may cancel, terminate, divert, postpone, or delay any flight, right of carriage or reservations (whether or not confirmed) and determine if any departure or landing should be made, without any liability on the part of UA. UA may re-accommodate Passengers on another available UA flight or on another carrier or combination of carriers, or via ground transportation, or may refund any unused portions of the Ticket in the form of a travel certificate.”

What recourse do you have if airlines refuse refunds?

If you want a cash refund but an airline refuses to offer you one, what recourse do you have? Other than citing the clear DOT regulations, you have two routes you can take.

Dispute the charge on your credit card

Simply put, airlines are violating federal laws by refusing a refund if your flight is cancelled, and for the most part they’re also violating their own contracts of carriage.

If you’ve tried every method for getting a refund but are denied, a credit card dispute might be the next logical step. I hate to even recommend that, because airlines are overwhelmed enough, but that’s kind of the only option.

File a complaint with the DOT

This is unlikely to get you an immediate resolution, but if you are being denied a refund even though you’re legally entitled to one, I recommend filing a complaint with the US Department of Transportation.

These count against the airlines, and long term airlines might face fines for violating DOT regulations.

Tip: be careful not to accept a voucher

Here’s one important mistake you don’t want to make. Airlines are doing everything they can to encourage people to accept vouchers rather than cash refunds. Be careful not to accept this, because once you do, you’re agreeing to that.

If you’re not happy with what you’re being offered, don’t accept it.

Some airlines are even getting crafty in this sense:

  • Frontier Airlines is offering people a $50 voucher if they cancel their flight by March 23 and accept a future flight credit
  • My guess is that they’re about to load huge route cancelations, and they want people to agree to this before doing so
  • Once people agree to accept a voucher, they don’t have to refund those passengers in cash when their flights are eventually cancelled

But in some cases this could be worthwhile, depending on your travel patterns. For example, anecdotally American is offering a 20% bonus when you select a travel voucher rather than a cash refund for your flight.

Don’t agree to anything until you know the rules and what you’re getting yourself into.

What about if your flight’s schedule is changed?

While the US government states that airlines have to refund you if your flight is cancelled, note that the same provision doesn’t apply in the event of a schedule change.

That’s to say that if the airline keeps the same flight number and just moves the flight by several hours, you’re not legally entitled to a refund — at this point it would come down to the airline contract of carriage.

Everything about this section is specific to situations where your flight is outright cancelled.

Don’t be mad at frontline airline employees

This is really important. Airline employees are in an awful situation right now — they’re probably scared about their job security, they’re overworked, and I imagine they’re dealing with a lot of frustrated passengers.

No matter what, be kind to airline employees. They’re not the ones making these policies, so while you can be firm and make your point, please don’t let out frustration on frontline airline employees.

Bottom line

At least in the US, when an airline cancels your flight you’re entitled to a cash refund on account of DOT regulations. Airlines seem to be doing everything in their power not to honor this. Make sure you know your rights, and act accordingly.

See this post for tips on how to cancel flights during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you’ve tried to get a refund from an airline in the past few days, what has your experience been like?

Comments
  1. Thanks Ben. Does the DOT regulation applies to non US airlines flying to the US? I am just thinking of your previous post about Emirates and Eithad. I have several flights to the US booked with them (some paid some redemption) that are clearly now cancelled. They are only offering vouchers for future travel. Can I cite DOT regulations to them to request a full refund?

  2. Singapore airlines is only offering non transferable credits from the original departure point good for one year. Not good enough.

  3. @ London_Dubai_NewYork — This applies to all flights to, from and within the US, so it would apply to foreign carriers flying to the US as well.

  4. The question no one is talking about (and I would think would be even more applicable to blog readers) would be when an award reservation is cancelled. Doing a chargeback isn’t an option, because the airline has the upper hand – if you want your miles back, you have to pay them a fee. As far as I know, Aeroplan is the only program waiving cancellation fees on award tickets. Does anyone know of any other programs offering this?

  5. @ KB — Flying to & from the US the same DOT regulations would apply. As far as other routes go, I believe the UK still participates in the EC261 scheme, even post-Brexit. In that case you’d also be entitled to a refund for a cancellation. Someone correct me if I’m wrong?

  6. Another reason not to accept a Gift Voucher is that if an airline goes broke your gift vouchers value will be ZERO!

  7. @Ben — I’m dealing with the following situation. KLM is not operating my SFO-AMS flight on my date of travel. However, they are continuing to show that flight as active on my itinerary rather than acknowledge it as cancelled.

    This is booked as a DL codeshare on KLM metal going, AF metal returning. I am entitled to a refund for cancelled flights … but I’m in the Catch-22 of the airlines refusing to acknowledge my flights are actually cancelled.

    Any ideas?

  8. Any insight into flights paid for with Amex points? My flights haven’t been cancelled as of yet, but the event to which I was traveling is cancelled. Can I go through Amex travel to get my points back, or do I have to accept a voucher for future travel on AA? Has anyone else dealt with this yet?

  9. @Ben. Great insight thanks.

    I have also gone ahead and disputed charges with my credit card provider.

  10. This pandemic has just clearly highlighted how much of a Ponzi scheme airlines are.

    How many other industries are there that take 100% payment upfront for a commoditised product to be delivered (many months) into the future? And as soon as cash flow dries up from bookings even further into the future, they plead poverty and cease refunds.

    To rub the consumer’s face in it even more, they then attach strict limits on the use and validity of the vouchers they issue in lieu of a cash refund, of your own cash they are holding (and have already spent)!

  11. I can see credit cards denying claims and rejecting complaints if the airline offers you a voucher rather than a refund, on the grounds that you were offered equivalent value.

    The CC route would only be if the airline offered nothing or else went out of business.

  12. AA canceled my three international trips between 8 April and 5 May. All fares were non refundable. I requested, and received full refunds to my AA Barclaycard for over $13,000 within three days of cancellation. This was all accomplished with one phone call with no wait time. On the same call, I rebooked three trips for the fall, with no fees added.

    People will continue to levy hate and discontent at AA here and elsewhere but I have consistently been treated well by them since I came over following the US Air merger five years ago.

  13. +1 Tim. Yes, it would be good to learn more about points refunds and partner awards.

    Irrespective of the law, to me there is a caveat emptor element of making purchases with LCC’s that, well, maybe weren’t going to give you your money back in any case, versus being denied refunds on actual refundable tickets. For example, I had a long-haul Norwegian Air flight cancelled, and come on I’m never going to see that money. But I knew the condition of that airline going in. On the other hand, I have an actual refundable LH ticket where they are effectively blocking me from getting a refund – in that case the refund was an express part of the deal.

  14. Delta is redepositing award miles w.out ($150) redeposit penalty fee for flights through April 2020.

  15. Processing refunds is not as cut and dry as most people think. There is much more back-end work that goes into processing a credit card refund than there is going into issuing a credit for a future flight. Airlines in the US are not trying to be cheap and annoy you. They are not set up for this many refund requests, and are trying to help as many folks as they can.

    This is a Force Majuere event. The US DOT will understand that if you try to complain. Please get a credit and ask for a refund later.

  16. @Sam – imagine if your local child care closed down, but said you still had to pay tuition because they had to pay their employees since it’s force majuere. You’re in the minority here. The airlines know how to do a refund quickly and easily. They are just choosing not to.

  17. Thanks for this – our flight for next month has been cancelled and the airline is not offering a cash refund. We then disputed it with our credit card. Will let you know if we got our cash back.

  18. this is why the airlines are hated! Because they really don’t care about the customers. What if the airlines bankrupt while you have a voucher with them? MY guess is that it is the very last to be paid in case of selling the assets once the airline goes bankrupt right? So if you worry about the money, it seems wiser to get a refund? Also, airlines says we’d still have to pay the fare difference, so what incentives do we have to keep our money as a voucher with them?

  19. As mentioned earlier, airlines are not actually cancelling individual reservations. Many reservations still show “confirmed”. The airlines do not have to refund if it is the customer who cancels hence the “cancel / voucher” button on reservations. The trick is to WAIT until you see your reservation shows “cancelled”. Then insist on a refund. Do not hit that “cancel / Voucher” button as it would be you that is requesting the cancellation and not the airline.

  20. @davistev – I think this is understood, and that we are all talking about reservations that the airlines are cancelling on their own

  21. Sam posts that same comment on multiple sites. Maybe he works for the airlines or is part of that stupid trade group that seems to enjoy screwing customers.

  22. @Sam – Airlines cancel flights and issue refunds regularly. This is not unique to COVID-19. I could not have been first in line for refunds on three PNRs last week but they nonetheless appeared on my credit card within three days of the request. The promise was seven days. I would never accept a voucher or credit in lieu of a refund – way too many conditions apply and any notes that were in the file as to promises that were made would surely disappear if and when you decided later to pursue a refund. Furthermore, these refunds aren’t exactly chump change for small businesses like mine that traditionally have cash flow issues not to mention families who are now suffering and could use the funds for other pressing expenses. The airlines need to honor these refunds and do it quickly. No excuses.

  23. @Tom – If it was even approaching equivalent value I might agree with you, but most airlines are offering fairly restricted vouchers for future travel that are not remotely cash equivalents. For example I had two upcoming RTs with Air Canada on routes that they have now suspended – one this week and one at the end of the April. After the flights showed as cancelled, I called AC and managed to get through to an agent to request a refund and was told they were only offering vouchers for 24 months. The vouchers could not be combined and if I purchased a flight that cost more I had to pay the difference, but if I used it on a flight that cost less I lose the balance. In what world is that equivalent value? While not as great as cash, had they offered me essentially a gift card for the value I probably would have taken it.

    Now the interesting part. I immediately disputed the charges (both were fortunately made in late February so within the dispute window – not sure what one does if they made the booking six months ago) with my credit card and the credits were PERMANENTLY granted almost immediately. I’ve disputed other charges occasionally over the years and usually a credit is given pending investigation and then there is some back and forth to provide documentation and details. This was virtually instant – I’m not sure if this was specific to AC or my bank is handling all airline claims this way at the moment, but I’m speculating that they are seeing a lot of these claims and are getting wise to the fact that airlines are blatantly violating DOT regulations.

  24. Being right will be of little solace if everyone requests refunds and, as a result, the airline has to enter bankruptcy. Then you will be just one more creditor in line to pick over the airline’s financial bones…and with no voucher for future travel in your pocket.

  25. It’s time to create a report card of sorts so we can reference the way airlines treated us when this becomes a distant memory. Some airlines tactics are just about as low as you can get while others are operating at a much higher level.

    As I only travel on Alaska domestically, they have been fantastic. Allowing to change or cancel flights at no charge (unless fare difference) on Saver fares that are typically exempt from such changes. Those refunds go to a “wallet” for use later, which is fine by me (assuming they stay in business) since typically that money would be 100% gone anyway.

    Main cabin and F fares are refundable to original form of payment.

    Airline initiated schedule changes (cancellations and actual changes) result in full refund to original payment if desired.

    The best part, they are allowing customers to do this all online and there is NO RUN AROUND.

  26. I sent United a customer comment regarding my fairly dirty Polaris seat from a couple of weeks ago. They responded kindly as they they have before, but for the first time since ever, they offered miles rather than an electronic travel certificate. The miles are less valuable (compared to what they usually compensated as a dollar amount), though the travel certificates expire. Interesting.

  27. We requested a refund on my wife’s AA flight to Dublin next week. (My ticket was paid for as part of a business trip, which was already canceled by the travel agent.) I was shocked when I got a refund. While we hope to reschedule, we assumed that it was worth it just to see if we could get a full refund just in case my trip was never rescheduled. Very surprised to say the least. The refund took about a week.

  28. Hi Lucky,

    Thanks for the post. Great info. Was gonna fly UA SEA-DEN-CZM and return in early April. Got an email for schedule change and UA is no longer flying into CZM until May at the earliest. They have dropped my DEN-CZM and return leg, but my SEA-DEN and return still intact. I’ve called and requested a refund and denied. Two questions……..

    1-With dropping the legs in and out of CZM, is that a flight cancellation? Agent wanted to route me through CUN and I said no to that and voucher.

    2-What happens day of flight? Do I call to cancel? What if I don’t show up for SEA-DEN flight? Do I lose a right at both refund or voucher?

    I am planning on filing both a DOT complaint and a charge back, but uncertain when I should do that. Now or after my flight date. We fly April 3, so doubt any of these two routes would have resolution by then. Thanks for some insight!

  29. @Brandon – You are correct. When everything is going well, any airline will work but when things go sideways, the manner in which they treat customers is the true measure of that airline.

  30. @ Ben, what’s the policy for Canada? I had a flight to Asia via SEA on Emirates and my flight for the SEA-DXB sector is cancelled. Would I be entitled for a refund as per the US DoT policy or the Canadian policy?

  31. Sam – are you for real? After over 40 years in the industry, I’m not in the slightest aware of a refund taking more “back end work” than the issuance of a credit note. Could you explain how you justify your comment in more detail?
    Of course airlines are trying to be “cheap” by holding onto the passengers’ cash just to help to keep them afloat in these times of crisis. I don’t blame them for that, but please don’t insult us!

  32. @tim… I had to cancel a total of 7 frequent flyer tickets through qantas. Everything was refunded with zero penalty and all taxes refunded

  33. Lucky…I live on Kauai part time. I had flights booked on Alaska Airlines, OAK to Lihue on April 30th with a return on June 3rd. I went to cancel my flight on the Alaska Air website and was greeted with this message of their cancellation policy which at first appeared generous and fair.
    However, when I moved forward with the cancellation, I was met with the reality of the restrictions that the no cancellation fee came with.
    When I booked my flight months ago, I used my annual companion fare for the tickets for myself and my wife. The total for the two tickets was $483.00. Great fare..thank you companion fare.
    Basically, I would be refunded the $483.00 which would be placed in my “wallet”, a online place in my Alaska Air account, for use in the future for purchasing tickets on Alaska Air. Then the following restrictions became clear:
    1) the funds placed in my wallet had to be used for a purchase of a new ticket by July 20, 2020.
    2) Accepting the above was contingent of me agreeing to give up my companion fare.

    The problem is my next companion fare is issued in September. Therefore, if I wanted to book the exact same tickets by July 20,2020, I would have to pay two full fares, not being able to use a companion fare. So basically Alaska Air is setting this up to make more $$$$$$$.
    I really hate the airlines. They get a bail out and I as a small business owner is offered a loan.

  34. I’m curious if any of you have advice on this one? In August 2019, we booked 6 tickets to New Zealand on United, leaving April 25, 2020 and returning May 9, 2020. United canceled the outbound flight last Monday but not the return flight (yet). We’ve tentatively settled on a new travel date of either November 28th to December 12th 2020, or shifting the trip to March/April of 2021. But… the United web site won’t give us the option to change tickets online… the only option we have is to “cancel” and receive a flight voucher. However, according to their cancellation policy, new travel would have to commence one year after our original booking which was August 5th 2019. None of us can travel to New Zealand in August 2020 and it’s winter there to boot. Since United canceled our outbound flight and is likely to cancel our original return flight, shouldn’t we be entitled to an actual refund? If not a refund, then shouldn’t they extend their policy to a year from when the original travel was supposed to commence (and not when we actually bought the ticket?) I know given things in the world right now this isn’t a major concern, but we’re talking a large chunk of change. Even the tour group in New Zealand is refunding our money given the current situation. And Air New Zealand canceled and refunded our in-country flights with no problem. United doesn’t even want you calling them unless your flight is within 72 hours. Which in our original case, would be April 22 or so. It appears that since they canceled the outbound, we should be entitled to a full refund as per DOT? Thanks in advance,

  35. Hawaiian airlines refund policy says we have to pay a service fee to get a refund. Does that still apply with a cancellation?

  36. Have a flight on Delta to Mexico on 4/5 that still hasn’t been canceled by the airline. I feel like we’re playing chicken on who’s going to cancel first.

  37. La Compagnie has cancelled all of their May flights between EWR and NCE. They tried to steer me to accept a non-transferable credit voucher good for 12 months. I responded by invoking EC 261 to ask for a full refund. Let’s wait and see. I hope I do not need to resort to going to Chase to dispute the charge for services not provided.

  38. @AF Kay I too booked with La Compagnie for April. Initially their email only offered a rebooking or a voucher, but I responded opting for a full refund. They haven’t responded but I finally got through this morning and they said OK to the refund. Let’s hope it comes in soon.

  39. @Ben you talked about Turkish canceling almost all flights yesterday. I have 3 round trip business class bookings on TK in the cancellation window – calling was a nightmare but they refunded the first with a full refund without attempting to fob me off with vouchers or a rebooking, then the call dropped. I think TK are trying to do right by their customers.

  40. I have a flight to Dublin,Ireland (from wash DC) end of May this year on Aer lingus. I bought a non refundable ticket. Aer lingus first emailed that one could rebook with no change fee(would need to pay difference)but the rebooking date extended only till mid February 2021. With current uncertainty I did not want to rebook but thought of cancelling. Very soon I got another email that a voucher is being offered . My question is Aer lingus cancels the flight in May ,can I get full refund on my non refundable ticket(since the airlines has cancelled it)?

  41. I have a return domestic flight (not happening) within Argentina with Aerolineas Argentinas in 10 days time. I paid for it with my Citibank US Debit card. Whose rules apply re cash refund; Argentina or US ?

  42. There is actually no DOT regulation that requires refunds (except the 24 hours rule). The page linked to is informational, based on guidance. Ultimately, the DOT will have to issue new guidance based on this situation.

    Those denied a refund should file a DOT consumer complaint.

  43. Hi, we bought business tickets through Vayama Miami- London for April 9 returning Paris -Miami April 25 and they are not answering emails or calls. Any help it’s appreciated.

  44. We had plans as a family of 7, including 4 young children to fly to Panama for spring break. Obviously that’s not happening. I was fine taking the credit, as we were determined to.make this trip happen
    later this year – it’s on my FIL bucket list and we want to do this while he’s still in reasonable health.

    Meanwhile, my normally picture of health spouse had an unexpected serious hospital stay (heart related). We have a Dr note. I had insurance on all the tickets. We decided might be better to postpone after all. I called up Chubb, and they said that they’d only cover a refund for my spouse’s ticket – even though its clear we are family flying together. I’ll have to eat the remaining fares. Is something wrong with this picture? Am I completely without recourse here?

  45. Booked AA/BA international flights via hop2. After flights cancelled they confirmed I could have a refund minus their $200 “service” fee. I resisted amd just stood firm, it was halved to $100. Still resisted, and now I am getting the refund with no charge. So even the travels agents are hoping to retain some revenue. Stick to your rights and get a refund and rebook what suits.

    However. I would have been happy to rebook if the airline would deal with me directly (not in insisting on TA) and not be charging inflated prices for later this year to Europe. They are getting people on vouchers knowing the same trips could easily be costing more and so the public will have to pay the difference. Some flights CLT to MAD I checked for later this year were well over $2000 in economy, when i paid $850 for my original flights.

    It could have all been a lot easier if the airlines had been fair and just let us swap flights easily, even with a little incentive perhaps. I would have happily let them keep my revenue instead of taking a refund .

  46. I had booked a flight from Atlanta to Germany and Saturday my flight was charged i was told to wait 72 hours before calling. But when my flight was charged taking me 4 hours out the way. It took about 43 minutes to get someone on the phone and I was told my flight was non refundable and I could get a voucher that would last to February. I told them I want my money back because I do not know if I would have money to travel at that time. He went on and on then he told me because my flight was charged on there behalf could get my full refund back. He transferred me over to the refund department . The person I spoke with told me my refund will go back in my account in 7 days what a blessing so yes you can get your money back but they will try not to give it back to you.

  47. I’m booked on Fiji Air for a round trip flight on April 10th from LAX to Fiji for a cruise that has been cancelled. In fact all international flights in April have been cancelled. No guarantees this small cruise line will still be in business after COVID, so I requested a refund. They are only offering credit. Would this be an appropriate circumstance to request a credit card charge back?

  48. I booked a roundtrip ticket from San Francisco to São Paulo in May. Unfortunately I booked through a third party broker instead of directly through the airline. I contacted the company to cancel, and they said that my ticket had a no cancelation clause, so if they cancel my ticket they won’t give me any kind of refund. They said that May is a long time away, and that things can change before then. The friend that I was planning to visit in Brazil said that they’re under quarantine until June, plus the State Department issued the travel advisory to any place outside the US. What can I do to get my money back?

  49. Some airlines do not offer a refund but rebooking. also has cancellation charges, I hope in a situation like this airline will consider a special cancellation policy.

  50. As was noted above, American Airlines refunded me the full amount for my canceled Boston – Seville flight scheduled to leave tomorrow. They also put back the miles I used for Pittsburgh to Boston flight with no penalty. All accomplished with one phone call and almost zero wait time.

    I’m now trying to get tefunds on my Seville – Marrakech flight on Air Europa(booked through a third party OTA) and my Marrakech – Seville flight on Iberia who still has the flight listed as active even though Morocco has shut down all flights in and out of the country.

    Any suggestions for getting refunds on the foreign flights?

  51. I called CHASE bank directly. In January, I purchased tickets to fly to Gto, Riviera Maya and Guadalajara Mexico. Flying out of Los Angeles, CA. Each flight was about $60 per person. I had NOT added luggage but I did pay $10 to $25 per ticket to assign seat. The flight is Volaris Airline. I tried calling for days! Never got through!!!! At ANY hour! About 4am yesterday, I called CHASE bank to tell them my flight was CANCELLED. After holding 20 minutes because they are very busy, I got through. I was told it could take 12 hours to 1 day to get the $ in my account. In less than 2 hours, ALL my $ was in my account! Thank you CHASE!!!!

  52. Stuart, go through your bank. I called CHASE at 4am yesterday and got my $! I had booked on Volaris Airline for my trip to Mexico. Put it on my debit card. After calling Volaris directly, to NO avail, I thought of going through my bank. It worked! In less than 2 hours, every penny I paid was returned to me!!!! Just tell them your flight was CANCELED. GOOD LUCK!

  53. Thanks Alma, I’ll give it a shot but the one difference between our situations might be that your flights had at least one leg leaving or returning to America which covers you by the DOT. My flights are between Spain and Morocco. Still gonna call though. Worst they can do is say no.

  54. The main thing for me about getting credits for later flight is that, the airline might fold, then you get nothing.

  55. Ben – can you write some about award tickets related to this topic? I had a flight to South Africa booked on April 24th on United miles. I wasn’t flying United, but Air Canada and Ethiopian Airlines. Ethiopian cancelled the main leg of the trip (Toronto to Addis), and I ended up cancelling the entire trip at this point.

    After speaking with United they said that I could pay the redeposit fee of $125 or use the miles for another trip until the 1 year anniversary of the trip. At that point I would be able to get the miles back (and taxes which weren’t much) sometime in November. I understand what the airlines are going through, but to not offer to waive the redeposit fee is really silly. There are also concerns if United has to restructure because of this and what happens to those outstanding obligations. I would be interested in reading what folks in the industry think the chances of that happening are.

    Thanks for all the great content.
    Erik

  56. @DW I am having the same issue with Air Canada now. My ticket is worth $1300 and they offered me only a one time voucher. I usually book very cheap flights with AC and this was the first time I booked a very expensive ticket with AC due to special circumstances. Hence, I am almost 100% sure I will not book another $1300 ticket with them. If they had offered a gift card like voucher which can be used multiple times that would be fine but they are cheaping out a lot.

  57. Great article. What about refunding points? There are some good deals on American Airlines, for example, for July and August. If I book them with AA points, and this pandemic continues to restrict travel through the summer, will I get those points back?

  58. American just put my miles back in my account for my flight that was supposed to be today. Not sure if that works the same for points or not but worth asking them. Just be as nice as you can to the person on the phone

  59. Any insight on finnair? I had booked 7 tickets for march 26th and the flight was canceled. The big issue is I’ve been attempting to contact them since March 3rd the day after the tickets were purchased and cant get in touch with anyone

  60. I am pleased to report that La Compagnie has got back to me, via email, that I am entitled to request a full refund. Not a lot of hassle so far; I can understand that they would rather that I opted for a credit voucher. My experience appears to be similar to @AK’s with La Compagnie.

  61. Here’s what most airlines are doing.

    Issuing a credit toward a future travel for FREE, but you have one year from ticket issue date to use it. If you wish to cancel you will pay a fee. If your origin or destination changes, you will also pay a fee.

    The major way airlines are able to do this is because often they are not cancelling the flight or they wait until it is with in the limits to not be obligated to offer such fee cancellation (e.g. 14 days before travel).

  62. The problem with this post is that it is yet another post that identifies the major carriers only. These carriers seem to have stated procedures. Many people have more issues with other carriers which may still be in one of the big alliance groups, but are not the larger carriers in the group. Even getting in touch with the airline can be problematic.

  63. I have a flight With AA from mexico to the US next Tuesday March 31st, that one has already been cancelled but the return flight hasn’t (April 5th) I went to the airport (easier than phone call) they said I can’t get refund, so Im calling tomorrow’s, my question is, am I elegible to full refund if they still haven’t cancelled my return flight?

  64. DOT would disagree that schedule changes aren’t grounds for a refund – they make it quite clear that a significant schedule change allows for a refund (though they don’t necessarily say what constitutes “significant”):

    https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/refunds

    If Lucky’s basis for saying that there are no grounds for a refund on a schedule change is the argument that the change is not the fault of the airline, that should be made abundantly clear, because as this post is written, it’s misleading on this front.

  65. Warning! United says they are waiving change fees BUT that excludes the fees for redeposit of points for award tickets. If one PAYS for a ticket and decides to cancel and rebook later United will (at least they say they will) give the customer a refund and waive all fees. But, if one is traveling on an award ticket and wants to postpone the trip till the pandemic clears up but doesn’t know when that will be (i.e., cancel and re-book later), United says you are SOL and must pay the redeposit fee. For general mileage plus members that is $125! Does that make sense to anyone? Just another example…the CEOs of some of these airlines are simply the reincarnation of the robber barons of the late 19th century.

  66. Why is Lucky suddenly spelling the word ‘canceled’ as “cancelled”? While I don’t mind variations in spelling of the English language based on location, I’d like consistency. And that spelling isn’t consistent with what Lucky has put out before.

  67. @Marco~ both spellings are correct, although with one ‘l’ it is pretty much an Americanism. Spelled with 2 ‘l’s is used in the rest of the world. (Bit like how the US~~and Liberia~ are the only holdouts with metric weights and measures) However ‘cancellation’ has no variation, anywhere.
    Is it worth getting all nitpicky over minor inconsistencies?

  68. DL cancelled flight tomorrow (SAT-ATL) as part of SAT-GSP itinerary and proposed to re-accommodate me with about 3 hour difference in later arrival time. Only a 14 minute wait for call back (around 1230 CT); processed refund with little resistance.

    Lucky – thank you for having contracts of carriage available as backup.

  69. I’m in a bind.. Booked a United ticket through Amex Travel for travel on 3/29. United emailed me saying it is canceled with a link to rebook (don’t need to travel at another time on this route; it was specific). Record on United still shows and gives me options to change/cancel etc. But not showing canceled online. The Flight Status doesn’t go that far out. Any way, Amex says as of 3pm yesterday they have stopped issuing refunds for flights – even for qualifying IRROPS or cancelations. So even if they could see my cancelation at this point (they can’t), they still won’t refund me… Ideas? Dispute?

  70. @Jason, I had this problem with the Chase travel desk yesterday with a UA reservation (which I shared in Lucky’s post regarding UA providing refunds in 12 months): https://onemileatatime.com/united-airlines-refund-one-year/

    Chase travel desk said that they would not deviate from airline policy. I asked if I could call the airline directly; Chase said I could and that the airline could “take control” of the reservation.

    So, I would call UA directly (see post, above, and search for “Amarillo” if you would like to see my details. My wait time with UA directly this morning was only a minute or so. My hold times with Chase yesterday were over an hour each (tried twice).

    Hope it works out quickly for you.

  71. @Amarillo – interesting.. Flight canceled over 6 hours ago per email but still showing as an active trip.. Wonder if they are steering people to ‘voluntarily’ cancel via the click through link to box into a voucher. Or, maybe there is just a lag on the IT side to clear out the reservation. It is no longer bookable so inventory has been zeroed out.

  72. @Jason, I agree with you. In both instances that I encountered (UA booked with UR through Chase and DL booked on DL website, I was given a lot of opportunity to agree with the re-accommodated booking or modify it (and was also given the opportunity to cancel and receive a voucher), but I was not given the opportunity to cancel and receive a refund. In both instances, I had to call and push (politely, but firmly).

  73. I live in the USA. I booked tickets from LAX to CDG through Air France on 4/11. When I log in to my itinerary, this leg of the itinerary is missing. They have not notified me of the cancellation but when I call Air France, they will only provide a voucher. Is it possible to initiate the charge back on this flight as they will nor provide a refund? Would an Air France flight apply to the DOT regulation. Would Chase allow the charge-back to go through? Any thoughts?

    Thank you!

  74. My Delta Airlines flight on 17th March from Dublin IRL to Jacksonville FL fell within Mike Pence’s embargo on UK and Irish citizens travelling to the USA which came into effect at 5am (GMT) on St. Patrick’s Day. I contacted Delta today seeking a refund to be told as the flight went ahead, albeit with only US citizens on board, I am only entitled to a credit note. Subsequently, it appears even this credit may have to be used within 12 months or be lost, although Delta did not mention that. Have I any recourse?

  75. This article incorrectly interprets DOT’s refund policies by stating “the DOT makes no distinction here based on whether or not an airline is at fault for the cancelation.” This is patently false. The DOT does make such a distinction. The provisions that are quoted in this article for cancelled flights and flights with significant delay are discussed by the DOT underneath the topic header “when the airline is at fault” on the DOT webpage. A separate subtopic on the same DOT webpage discusses when the airline is not at fault, noting that “Passengers who purchase non-refundable tickets are generally not entitled to a refund unless the airline makes a promise to provide a refund.” https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/refunds

    We can certainly debate whether a flight cancellation amidst this global pandemic constitutes airline “fault”, but in most circumstances most would regard such an event leading up to cancellation as outside the control of the airline. In which case, a refund for a non-refundable ticket doesn’t seem to be an automated right per the DOT website.

  76. I’m in the same situation for Emirates. My flight on May will be Manila-Amman then London-Manila. My flights going to Amman and London to Dubai were cancelled. They left the last leg which is Dubai to Manila. They do not want to give a full refund but only travel voucher. I’m wondering if we submit the dispute form, what supporting documents should we provide? Apologies but this is the first time I will be doing this if ever. Do we just need to complete the form? Do we need to provide background story? Hope you can share your thoughts

  77. I have been trying to get a refund from AeroMexico for a flight from Miami to Oaxaca on 2 April where one leg was cancelled and the airline suggested a rebooking requiring an overnight lay over in Mexico City. I have called twice, on both occasions hung on for around an hour and then spoken with a representative. They will not refund cash and say that option has been disabled in the system available to call center representatives. The only way to get a cash refund is to send an email to their “complaints” department which I did after the first call. The representative also confirmed the reservation after the first call even though I did not agree to the rescheduled flight. Fortunately their booking system automatically sent an email documenting the confirmation. The second representative tried to convince me to be a “no show” by just not turning up for the flight. Fortunately, I asked lots of questions and the representative finally admitted that any “no show’ booking is forfeited with no compensation. Talk about bad airline behavior! I am now waiting for the Complaints department response but the next step will be to dispute the charge on my credit card if they don’t respond in a reasonable period or will not refund the fare.

  78. Their careful about showing fights as “cancelled”. Delta made an announcement that they suspended all flights to Italy for April, but they are not showing flights as cancelled. I had a $3000 business class ticket for April 4th to Rome. They are also not giving refunds, only vouchers. In fact, they are giving vouchers before you ask for them. I contacted them via feedback a week before my flight asking what “suspended” means vs cancelled. They quickly informed me that they gave me a voucher. Tried to go back and force with a representative, no luck. I filed a complaint with DOT, but haven’t heard from them yet.

    I’d be curious to know from people who tried to dispute the charge with the credit card.

    @Brandon – you are wrong. DOT clearly says that if airline cancels the flight FOR ANY REASON they have to give refunds. Please read the rules. Also, DOT has a publication that deals specifically with Coronavirus cancellations. https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/2020-04/Enforcement%20Notice%20Final%20April%203%202020_0.pdf

  79. US airline–AA Booked thru 3rd party flight to Panama can’t happen. According to DOT, can I get a refund

  80. I was offered free cancellation/credit by United Airlines for the middle of June. I leave from a small airport in IL and go thru Chicago to Portland, OR. If my flight to Chicago is cancelled, but my flight from Chicago to Portland isn’t, am I entitled to a refund? The return flight could also be problematic. Thank you.

  81. April 18th at 2228hrs, 2020.
    I just spoke with Heidi, located in the Philippines, for a flight from Denver to Dublin departing April 21st, returning May 11th with United Airlines.
    I followed the advise given, absolutely refusing any voucher, and insisted that since UA had cancelled my outbound flights, I wanted a full refund.
    Heidi placed me on hold for 3 minutes while she spoke with her supervisor, and then agreed to a full refund back to the original credit card between 14 to 21 days.

  82. Sam’s, reply (23 Mar 20-11:52 AM) is spot on cut and dry from someone with ties to the airline industry. Could be an airline , blog writer for some por airline site or even some type of lobbyist for an airline sponsored group. Could be compensated also!

  83. Ben, I used justfly.com to purchase my tickets and now I am stuck with a $4387.07 bill and I can’t go anywhere. My flight suppose to go from IND to DC and DC to Ethiopia. Ethiopian Airlines cancelled my ticket from DC to Ethiopia but not from IND to DC. I have talked to the travel company and Ethiopian Airlines and no one seems to care. Justfly is telling me I can only get a voucher to travel from now till Jan 31, 2021 which there is no way I can do that because no one gets a vacation at the beginning of the year. The travel company I just found out they are in Korea. Per DOT I should get my money back but no one is listening. I am so exhausted and angry I don’t know what to do. Please advice.

  84. Dispute the charge with your credit card company. I have similar situations with trip.com and Aeromexico for flights from USA and Vueling Airline for an EU flight. After failing to get a refund from any of these providers I have gone to the credit card company who have accepted all 3 disputes.

  85. I had a round-trip ticket for a seven-day trip to Florida in April on AA. In both directions, there was a change of plane with a different flight number. I also paid fees for four optional seat upgrades; fortunately, not a lot of money. About a week before the departure date, American canceled *one* leg of the *return* flight only, and “for my convenience,” rescheduled it an hour or two later. I didn’t want to go to Florida anyway, because under Florida coronavirus guidance, I would have had to stay quarantined the whole time. What’s the point of that? I didn’t want a voucher because I wouldn’t be flying again before the voucher expired.

    I knew federal regulations compelled AA to refund that one leg if I asked them to, because *AA* canceled that leg, and in that situation, I’m legally entitled to a refund if I prefer it to a reschedule. I thought they would also have to refund the second leg of that flight. I didn’t have any idea one way or the other if they had to refund the other two legs of the outgoing flight, since both legs went as scheduled; neutral travel websites don’t discuss that situation. I didn’t call AA. Before the flight, I canceled both parts, all four legs, of the round-trip ticket online and then went here: https://prefunds.aa.com/refunds/ and entered the ticket number. When you do that, American’s website reminds you about your voucher, and when you say, no, I still want a refund, the website immediately offers a 20% value upgrade on the voucher! (So if you really want a voucher, try canceling for a refund first and to get a better offer!) I still declined the voucher and told the website I wanted a refund.

    About two days later, AA refunded the seat fee, only for their canceled leg. And then I heard nothing for a little over two weeks. The AA website showed my refund request was still “pending.” And then AA refunded the entire flight plus one other seat upgrade fee to my credit card. The other two seat upgrade fees aren’t worth fighting over; for one thing, AA’s terms of service for the baggage and seat upgrade fees say you don’t get those refunded if *you* cancel a leg of a flight, and I don’t believe they’re covered by the FAA regulations regarding refunds on flights canceled by an airline–something to keep in mind before spending a lot for baggage or seat upgrades.

    It was a painless process for me, other than the worrying and the delay. Note that if I had canceled all four legs, I could have requested but would not legally have been entitled to a refund. Also important: you *must* cancel before the first flight to have a chance for a refund (or even a voucher) in this situation. If you just don’t show up in time to board, they get to keep all your money.

    Good luck to all.

  86. Sorry, the end of my last post above is confusing. Here’s what I should have said, based on what happened in my case: IF the airline cancels or reschedules with a different flight number even one part of your trip (in my case, one of four legs of a round trip of a non-refundable ticket), you don’t have to accept either the reschedule they offer or a credit voucher. In that case by FAA regulation, you can request and get a refund from the airline instead, though you may lose optional fees you prepaid such as for seats for legs you cancel. But you must cancel your entire trip before the first flight leaves, and then request the refund, or they can keep your money. In the case of American Airlines, you can do it all online (first cancel your trip, then see the link in my post above to request the refund online) without waiting on the phone to talk to customer service.

    On the other hand if the airline doesn’t cancel any part of your trip, and you want to cancel a nonrefundable ticket, you can ask but they don’t have to refund you. Most airlines in that situation are only offering time-limited credit vouchers instead of refunds.

  87. UA emailed me saying my flight has been canceled, and gave me a link to cancel the trip. However I was offered FULL refund if I take the voucher or being deducted $300 cancellation fee for taking cash refund? Can they do that?

  88. @Anthony, NOPE, United Airlines can’t legally deny you a refund, by US DOT policy, with certain exceptions below. But United is reportedly denying refunds illegally. Read this article for more details: https://thepointsguy.com/news/dot-to-airlines-refunds-are-not-optional-for-canceled-flights/

    Note that there are various gotchas. First United must actually have canceled one part of your trip or made a substantial change in departure time. (If you have just changed your mind or the trip is now practical, they can get away with just offering you a voucher.) Or if you accept their voucher offer and then decide later you want a refund, or if you did not cancel the trip United rescheduled you to before it departed, or if you paid a third party such as Expedia rather than United Airlines for your trip–any of these gotchas apply, United can probably legally weasel out of a refund. In that case the best you can do is the credit voucher which will expire.

    But if you are legally entitled to a refund, call United and quote from the DOT enforcement letter mentioned in the article. If they still refuse to refund you and you are entitled to a refund, request a chargeback from your credit card company. You can wait for the inevitable class action lawsuit, but I don’t recommend doing that, because you’re not likely to get most let alone all of your money back in that situation.

  89. My experience with UA this morning. Notified flight for June to Roatan was canceled and UA is no longer providing service to there at least through July. Called and was put through to an agent immediately and was given a full refund back to my card. Email receipt with two minutes and was told refund should show up on my card within seven days. I was all prepared for an argument with UA when I called but couldn’t be happier with the response and service I received.

  90. I have had my flight cancelled by Delta from the UK to Canada (non refundable ticket), travelling through Boston. It was booked online from Traveljunction who says the Airline is offering me £848 back as a refund even though the total cost was £1352.68. Delta are saying that some taxes and fees are non refundable is this true and how do I get the full amount back if Delta are stretching the truth?

  91. I just had a flight from the US to Europe cancelled by Scandinavian Airlines. When I try to apply for a refund, the small print says that I will only get refunded for the outbound flight as they have not cancelled the return portion of the ticket. Wouldn’t cancellation of the outbound flight cancel the whole ticket? This seems perfidious.

  92. Yes, if any portion of your ticket is canceled, switched from Direct to having a stop, or shifted in time significantly, you are entitled to a refund of the entire ticket plus any add ons that you may have purchased such as seats or checked bags.

    If an airline cancels your flight, you’re eligible for a cash refund. Period. That’s not me talking, that’s federal law. This all comes from he US Department of Transportation and includes if they cancel it for things out of their control such as Covid-19

    Schedule changes count
    If an airline significantly changes your flight itinerary, you’re also eligible for a refund.

    Annoyingly, the law doesn’t define exactly what a “significant schedule change” is. Though it varies by airline, in general these would be considered significant:
    • 2+ hour change to your arrival or departure time
    • Nonstop flight changed to a connecting flight
    No excuses
    If an airline cancels/changes your flight, you’re eligible for a refund, even if:
    • They only canceled/changed one flight in your itinerary
    • You had a basic economy ticket
    • It’s on a foreign airline. As long as a flight takes off or lands at a US airport, the airline must follow US law
    • The airline could really use the cash. That doesn’t give them the right to keep your money

  93. Thank you! I called customer service and they did indeed cancel the whole ticket now and informed me that I will get a full refund (though I am not holding my breath it will be anytime soon or this year…). Technically, the ticket was also cancelled less than 14 days before the flight was due to take place which, under EU law, is subject to compensation. But I am sure that doesn’t apply because of Covid though three months later they should surely be able to comply with that rule…

  94. What happens if you mistakenly cancelled your flight first and then the airline ultimately cancelled it themselves anyway – are you still entitled to a refund? It seems unfair that I would not be able to get a refund because I cancelled first due to corona virus (since I didn’t know that I could get a refund if the airline cancelled itself) and the flight never happened anyway.

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