Refund on Non-refundable Airfare: The ins and Outs

In common notion, a non-refundable airfare means if you cancel your ticket for any reason or you don’t fly, you won’t be getting back any refund from the airline. Though partially this statement is true, there are hidden facts about non-refundable airline tickets that most travelers are unaware of. The airfare rules vary largely from country to country and airline to airline. However, in general, most airlines give their passengers the liberty to apply the face value of the ticket towards the purchase of a new ticket. In such a case, the airline may charge a cancellation penalty.

In the United States, the U.S. Department of Transportation Regulations states that if a passenger books a non-refundable airfare minimum seven days ahead of flight departure date, the passenger won’t be charged any cancellation or change fee if they make the change or cancel the ticket within 24 hours of booking. Nevertheless, the airline may apply a fare difference (if any) to the newly booked ticket. This rule applies to all the US-based airlines and also to other airlines selling their airfares in the US.

American Airlines Reservations & airfares are however governed by a different set of rules. To make its fare rules more passenger-centric, it allows passengers to hold their seat and the fare for 24 hours without paying a penny for the same. On the other hand, if the passenger books a ticket rather than holding it, American Airlines apply a cancel or change penalty if the passenger makes any change in the journey itinerary.

As told earlier, different airlines have a different set of rules for flight ticket refunds. For example, Southwest Airlines only allows penalty-free change or cancellation within a 24-hour window, but it also allows passengers to change or cancel a flight any time before departure and use the full amount of the fare for their future travel within a year of the original reservation.

Other than the specific set of rules as levied by the airlines, there is one common refund rule that most travelers don’t know. Airlines charge a hefty amount as different taxes, which also causes an increase in airfare. While many of the taxes are non-refundable, there are some taxes that are fully refundable if not used. So, even if your ticket is non-refundable, you can still get back some money from that if you calculate the taxes carefully.

Also, there is a rule for “involuntary refunds”, which states that if the airline denies boarding for any reason, or if there is a delay of more than a specific time period or if the flight is canceled, the passenger gets the privilege to claim a full refund of their airfare, even on a non-refundable ticket.

It goes without saying that most travelers don’t claim their refund because of a lack of information or because they are reluctant to read all the fine prints on the ticket. While it’s a matter of few dollars for the passengers, for airlines it’s a big money-making game.

However, to safeguard the air passengers’ rights, both United States Law and European Union Law has set some rules. So, next time if you miss a flight or cancel your booking, don’t forget to check the fare rules; this will, for sure, help you get your hard-earned money back into your pocket.

Are you too tired of calling endlessly to the respective airline for your flight ticket refund or worried about the lame excuses given by them to your queries? Worry not! Down here we have explained certain tricks played by the airlines to make big money with your unused flight tickets. All the “thank you” customer care calls and smiley greetings that the ticket booking agents give you before booking your flight tickets with a certain airline are actually the traps to catch you as a customer. In reality, it is a mute warning bell saying that you are now trapped in their fake commitments and promises regarding refunds and cancellation policies.

Have you ever seriously read the terms and conditions printed along the star sign mentioned?

No, many of us don’t bother to read through the thin lines of the printed text; however, it may turn too bad for us. This thin printed text actually contains the terms and conditions related to flight ticket refund and cancellation policies. These airlines are way too smart and act cleverly, thereby revealing the information in no use manner for the customers. Even if you ask about the refund and cancellation policies of the official from whom you have purchased the ticket, the answer you would hear from them would be “Happy to help you, our refund and cancellation policies are very easy and simple.”. One would end up thinking as if you just had a word with a robot, the usual safe and insignificant reply.

Well, this is not just enough, the airlines misguide us on the number of other parameters which we are unaware of. It’s the prime duty of the airlines to detail us of all the hidden charges and surcharges on the flight tickets. Some of the usual tricks played by the airlines in order to extract those extra bucks from us are mentioned below. Do take a sneak peek and save yourself from being monetarily harassed.

The Voucher Trick: Airlines tend to be miser when it comes to returning your money. Even if you have a non-refundable flight ticket, there are some situations and clauses wherein the airlines owe you some portion of the money. The airlines trick you here, by providing you a voucher instead of hard cash. This voucher is useful for the usual travelers and is a waste for the seldom ones. These vouchers also have certain deadlines, like the expiration date which is usually a year, number of minimum bookings, avoidance to be clubbed with other offers, and many more. All in all, this voucher is like candy offered to a kid by the airline.

The Baggage Trick: One who is a regular explorer, must have experienced a bizarre situation of being charged for carrying extra luggage whether on a domestic or an international flight. Well, the catch here is who on earth does travel without any luggage except going for an hourly business call? It’s nothing but another unique way of extracting those extra bucks lying in your pocket which are revealed to the airlines while you booked a ticket using them.

The Great Discount: Airlines come up with great discounts every now and then to gain maximum passengers, but have you ever thought about why are the airlines being so dear to you? The plot here is to attract maximum passengers by showing them their superficial savings, but it actually profits the airlines. Primarily it helps the airline to gain a packed flight and secondly the airline pulls up the cost of the flight ticket with its major charges and surcharges. All in all, it’s a two-way benefit scheme for the airline.

To protect air passengers’ rights, many nations in the world have come with their set of laws and regulations. However, the rules for flight ticket refund and compensation on delayed, overbooked, or canceled flights vary from country to country and airline to airline. Always keep these primary pointers in mind when opting for a flight ticket refund. It would be a clever decision to read the policies well before and always call the concerned person of the airline in case of some doubt.

Tips for getting your flight ticket refunded

If you booked a flight, but you won’t be able to make it and you want your money back. The airline says no? Try our step-by-step guide.

1. Call your airline asap: When you know you won’t make your flight, call the airline immediately and ask for customer service. Though many airlines are notorious for being as helpful as a lifejacket during a fire, there are still some airline angels out there who can help you change your ticket or start the process of getting a refund.

First, ask for a refund, then pursue a voucher or flight change. Note that the closer you get to your departure date, the harder it is to get a refund.

Many Australian airlines also have a policy where you can change your flight details within the first 24 hours of booking, free of charge. When you know you won’t be boarding that flight, act fast.

2. Contact your travel agent or booking company: Third-party booking platforms or travel agents can be great for finding the best deals or packaging multiple flights. However, they often have rules that differ from the airlines and you will have to contact them to start the refund or flight change process.

Many times, the travel agent needs to hop on the phone with the airline to get the process going. If you fear that you’ll be needing to go down the ticket for your plane refund route in the future, it is best to book with the airline directly.

3. Consider a flight change instead of a refund: If you’re a frequent flyer, a flight change might be a more realistic option than getting a flight refund.

Many airlines allow flight changes for a fee plus the cost of the price difference between flights. If you change the dates or destination to a cheaper flight, you can often cover the flight change fee or even get a flight voucher for the excess.

Don’t assume that flight change fees are non-negotiable, sometimes they’re waived if you have a strong argument or buddy up to the customer service agent.

Getting a flight refund is when you have the cost of your flight fully or partially refunded. This is a lot harder to obtain if you’ve purchased a non-refundable ticket, as the airline isn’t going to relinquish those precious dollars easily. For non-refundable tickets, you will almost always receive a flight voucher in lieu of cash.

4. Instances when the airline might issue a refund: Some airlines make exceptions to non-refundable flights in cases of extreme travel advisory warnings like terrorism threats, or because of a death in your family. However, many airlines also have a strict, blanket no refunds policy no matter the reason.

There was even a case in the US where Jerry Meekins, a terminally ill veteran, was given no-fly orders from his doctor. When he requested a refund, the airline gave him the cold shoulder and told him no. It was only because of a media uproar that his flight was refunded. His case is sadly an exception to the rule.

You should get a refund no matter the type of ticket you have if your airline cancels your flight. If bad weather creeps up or a major event occurs, airlines will often either issue a full refund or allow you to change your flight without any change fees. You might also be entitled to a refund if there’s a schedule change, route change, or a severe delay. You can’t procrastinate if this happens, many airlines will only give you a few days to claim the refund or voucher for your flight.

Another instance where airlines must refund your plane ticket is if the airline bumps you from a flight. This is not the same as voluntarily being bumped off for flight credits. This only applies when the airline gives you no option other than to miss the flight.

5. Involve your insurance company: Though it’s likely the case that if the airline won’t issue a refund, neither will your insurance company, sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. Both industries don’t exactly hold the gold star in customer accommodation.

Read through your travel insurance provider’s terms for your entitlements to “trip interruptions”. It depends on your circumstances, but if all else fails, you might be able to get a refund or some form of compensation through your travel insurance rather than the airline itself.

6. Get the law on your side: If you have a strong case for getting a refund, or your entitled refund hasn’t been credited, you can contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and lodge a complaint.

You can read their requirements( on when you’re entitled to a refund for a canceled flight. There is also the industry-funded Airline Customer Advocate( This agency handles customers of Jetstar, Qantas, Rex, TigerAir, and Virgin Australia.

7. Should you book a flexible or refundable flight ticket: The answer to this question is personal. Flexible or fully refundable flights can sometimes cost up to double the price of a non-flexible or non-refundable flight.

Unless your travel plans are vague, you are usually better off booking the flight on the dates that you intend to fly without the flexible or refundable option.


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