All you need to know about airfare refunds

Airfare refunds are tricky. Here are some passenger rights and government policies that you should be aware of to know if you are entitled to a refund.

airfare refunds
There are plenty of passenger rights and government policies that come into play when it comes to airfare refunds. It is essential that you know everything about them if you want a refund when factors work against you.

In this article

Plans change. And during the holiday season, things might take a turn (for the better!) when you least expect it. But what if you had already booked a flight? In these situations, you would expect a refund for the airline ticket or other related services like baggage or seat fees. So, when can you avail airfare refunds?

You can get a refund of the exact ticket price along with associated fees in the following situations:

Canceled flight

You qualify for a refund if the airline cancels a flight for any reason and you decide not to travel.

Schedule change

You are eligible for a refund you choose not to travel when the airline makes major changes in the schedule or delays a flight for much longer than expected. However, your entitlement will depend on many factors like:

  • Length of the delay,
  • The distance of the flight,
  • Other specific reasons. 

According to the US Department of Transportation, your refund eligibility due to a “significant delay” is processed on a “case-by-case basis”.

Class change

If you are moved to a lower class of service, say from first-class to economy, by the airlines because of an aircraft swap, you can get a refund with the difference in fares.

Optional service fees

You can get a refund of an optional service fee if you paid baggage fees, seat upgrades or Wi-Fi. This is also the case if you couldn’t avail the services due to flight cancellation, delay or schedule change. Even if the officials denied you boarding, you get a refund.

That means you also qualify for a refund if you paid for an optional service and that amenity didn’t work or wasn’t available on the plane. You must notify the airline to claim airfare refunds.

Baggage fees

You get to ask a refund if you had paid a baggage fee and your baggage is declared lost by the airline. Airlines might have different policies when baggage is officially lost. Most airlines will announce the loss five to fourteen days after the flight. This will, however, vary for each airline. 

If your airline does not declare a bag lost after it’s missing for some time, the airline could become subject to enforcement action by the DOT.

Fully refundable ticket

If you have got fully refundable tickets, you can get airfare refunds if you don’t use the purchased ticket. But getting refundable plane tickets are too expensive.

When will you not get a refund?

There are plenty of ways you can prepare for the unexpected. We have a list of airlines with the best cancellation policies. However, you will not get airfare refunds in the following cases:

Non-refundable tickets

Generally, you will not get a refund if you had got a non-refundable ticket unless the airline guarantees to refund during a flight cancelation or a significant schedule change.    

Personal reasons

If you have a non-refundable ticket and couldn’t fly for any personal reason or being late to the airport, you are not entitled to a refund.

Not satisfied with the service

You are not entitled to a refund if you have a bad experience with the airline or flight. 

Incidental expenses

If you had to stay at a hotel or rent a car or eat a meal because your flight was delayed or canceled, you do not qualify for a refund. These miscellaneous expenses don’t count. 

Though airlines are not required to refund non-refundable tickets, they might do it sometimes.  Some airlines may offer a credit or travel voucher that you can use in the future. Some airlines may offer accommodations or other benefits during delays. 

The 24-hour rule

If you purchase tickets at least seven days before a flight’s departure, the airlines have to either:

  • Permit you to cancel the reservation, and you can receive a full refund without a penalty for 24 hours.
  • Allow passengers to place a ticket on hold at the given price without paying for the ticket for 24 hours.

Airlines don’t have to offer both a hold and a refund option. You can always check the airline’s policy before booking.

If an airline accepts a reservation without payment, it must also permit you to cancel the booking without penalty within 24 hours. If an airline needs payment during reservation, you are allowed to cancel the payment and the reservation and receive a full refund within 24 hours.

Airfare refunds

Be prepared to pay for changes to the ticket since airlines are not required to make them free of charge. This includes changes like correcting a misspelled name or changing the travel date. Here’s a tip: Sometimes, paying for a change fee and also the difference between your current ticket price and the new ticket price will be more expensive than getting a refund and then rebooking. Be aware that ticket prices go up and or down real fast.

If you got the ticket from an online travel agency, contact the travel agent directly to get a refund. Do this before reaching out to the airline. The 24-hour refund and reservation requirement for airlines does not apply to tickets booked online. This applies to online travel agencies, travel agents and other third-party agents.

However, these agents can follow similar procedures mentioned above to get the service done for you within seven business days for credit card payments and 20 business days for cash or check.

This page is purely informational. Line does not provide financial, legal or accounting advice. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide financial, legal or accounting advice and should not be relied on for the same. Please consult your own financial, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transactions.

Related Posts