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Unlock Insider Secrets: Secure Your 2023 Flight how to get a Refund! Don’t Wait for Cancellations. Take Control Now. 100% Success! Learn More
If an airline cancels your flight, they must give you a cash refund—not a voucher—according to US law. However, what should you do if they don’t cancel your ticket and you are unable or unwilling to travel? Your options are shown below.
The first side to budge loses. You are entitled to compensation in cash if an airline cancels your journey.
You are entitled to a travel voucher if you cancel your ticket (and the flight is still scheduled to depart). Many airlines are currently waiving change fees, but in regular circumstances (or if the waiver does not apply to you), they will subtract any change fees, which may be substantial, from the value of the voucher.
Tips for how to get a Refund
Wait as long as you can before canceling.
No matter how long in advance you cancelled, it won’t matter if the airline decides to fly your planned flight. Whether you cancelled your ticket two days or two months prior to your departure, you would receive the same travel voucher.
Airlines are canceling flights in these Weird Times as little as 48 hours before takeoff. Only current ticket holders are entitled to a refund when they do this.
Therefore, even if you have emotionally disassociated yourself from a trip, it is still advised to wait as long as you can before canceling in the hopes that the airline will do so first and you would receive cash instead of a voucher.
Keep in mind that your schedule may change.
In accordance with federal law, you are entitled to a cash refund in the event that the airline cancels your flight or makes a “significant schedule change.”
The specific guidelines vary by carrier, but generally speaking, you should be pleased if an airline shortens your flight by 2+ hours or converts it to a connecting flight. You’ve won your game of chicken, so go get your money back.
If you’re hoping to get your money back, keep an eye out for changes in the schedule of your flight so you can take advantage of them when they occur. Sometimes airlines will play dirty and fail to notify you of the change.
What if the destination has travel limitations?
Consider that you have a two-week trip planned to a location where all visitors are required to enter self-quarantine for 14 days.
It is illogical to expect you to go on a trip where all you see is the inside of a hotel room. It’s ridiculous, and if Scott’s Cheap Flights operated an airline, you’d be 100% eligible for a refund.
However, the airline is not legally required to give you a refund. In fact, if you purchased a basic economy ticket, which does not allow refunds or free changes, legally they are not even required to give you a voucher or allow you to change dates for free. However, even on basic economy tickets, the majority of airlines are currently providing a voucher or waiving date change fees.
You might be wondering why aircraft continue to fly to locations where Americans are not permitted. A small number of passengers who are exempt from the ban, such as dual citizens, family members of EU citizens, students, and passengers in transit (connecting in the EU en route elsewhere), are probably being carried by these aircraft.
What if the airline later cancels the flight after I’ve already used a voucher? Do you offer refunds?
There have been a few instances, according to travelers, where customers were able to convert their travel credits into cash refunds when the airline later cancelled the flight. But refusals happen more frequently.
It never hurts to try, so if you do, go into it with reasonable expectations. Call the airline, be polite, and ask if they’ll do you any favors now that the flight has been canceled. Don’t be hesitant to mention it if you have a particularly compelling reason—being let go from your job, for example.
Note that you can only follow this recommendation if you’ve accepted a voucher. Many airlines will attempt to automatically grant you a travel credit after canceling your flight. Instead, give them a call and politely demand the reimbursement you are due.
How long do vouchers remain valid?
The validity of the credits or vouchers has a time limit that varies by airline. On their websites, most airlines are very detailed. For instance, at the time of writing, credits with Delta will be valid through September 2022; those with United will be valid for 24 months from the date of the original ticket issue; and those with American will be valid for travel that begins after December 31st of this year.
However, future extensions of these dates are conceivable.
What if the price has changed when I rebook? Do I need to plan a trip to the same destination?
A voucher typically only covers the amount you initially paid for the same route. The same departure airport and fare class must be used to book a flight to the same destination as your original ticket. If the new ticket costs more, you will need to pay the difference in fare; if it costs less, you probably won’t get any money back.
However, there are some exceptions. JetBlue, for instance, offers refunds in the form of Travel Bank Credits, which can be used to rebook the same flight, switch to a different flight, or divide the credit between a number of trips.
Always read the small print to determine the precise rules that apply to your fare.