How Do I Cancel My Flight?

A sudden change of plans can easily become a cause of stress if you’ve already booked plane tickets. The sooner it is to your departure, you may feel as if you have no option other than to forfeit your pricey tickets. Fortunately, most airlines make it easy to cancel a flight without penalty.

No two airlines are exactly the same but you should be able to cancel your flight by contacting a reservations representative. You can find the airline’s contact information online or you may even be able to cancel your flight on the airlines' website.

Try checking your flight details by inputting your booking reference number and then proceed through the online cancelation page. If you cancel by phone, you will also need to provide your booking reference number and some proof of identification.

If the airline is able to issue a refund, you may also have to provide your card information to verify the transaction. It’s best to cancel ahead of time, so try to contact the airline within 48 hours of departure.

                                Image by Justin Waits via Flickr

Can I cancel a flight and get a refund?

Every airline has its own refund policy but it’s standard practice to offer refunds for cancellations. Airlines know that plans may change at the last minute so they allow passengers to adjust or cancel their flights if needed. However, be sure to read the airline’s terms and conditions about cancellations.

Most airlines require you to cancel and request a refund within 24 hours of departure. If you fail to do so, you likely will not be able to claim a refund. Additionally, refunds may not apply to promotional deals so be careful when booking impulsive vacations.

Furthermore, some airlines may charge a processing fee worth a small percentage of the total cost of the ticket. They will deduct this from your refund as a surcharge for canceling in the case that they cannot fill the seat at the last minute.

Can I cancel my own flight?

If someone else has booked a flight for you using their card information but in your name, you can cancel or edit the itinerary as long as you have the booking reference number and the name of the passenger. You may have to provide some proof of identity, though.

Additionally, you can cancel or edit your itinerary online using the airline’s web portal. Log into the website by inputting your booking reference number or ticket number and then proceed to the ‘flight details’ page. From there, you should be able to cancel or edit your booking.

Airlines understand that family members often book flights under their spouse’s, children’s, or parent's names so they make it easier to cancel those flights in case there are sudden changes to plans. For refund purposes, though, you may need the purchasing card details to finalize the transaction.

What are the rules for canceling a flight?

Each airline has its own set of rules for cancellations but there are a few industry standard practices. According to the US Department of Transportation, airlines must allow customers to hold a reservation without payment for up to 24 hours before departure.

Additionally, they must allow you to cancel without penalty up to 24 hours before your flight. This gives ample time to change your plans without losing the cost of your ticket. However, these rules have been bent in the past during unprecedented times.

At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, many airlines canceled flights without refunding the cost of the tickets. Had they done so, the airlines would have gone bankrupt so special allowances were given to prevent the industry from going under.

That being said, though, many airlines offered free ticket vouchers to make up for the sudden cancellations and loss of money to their passengers.

Are all flights refundable?

Not all flights are refundable! It’s a common misconception that you can book and cancel any flight and still get a refund. If anything, most flights come with some form of cancellation caveat. If you know ahead of time that you might not make your flight, you should specifically seek out a refundable ticket.

Most basic economy class tickets are nonrefundable. Additionally, you may struggle to get a refund if you purchase through a third-party booking site such as Tripadvisor or Kayak. Also book directly through the airline to guarantee you are buying a refundable ticket.

Even if your ticket isn’t refundable, though, most airlines allow passengers to transfer or edit their tickets for later use. You might not get your money back but you could hold on to the ticket for a vacation later in the year.

Be warned, though, these terms and conditions are often time-limited so be careful that you don’t lose out on your ticket.

Do I get charged for canceling a flight?

Most major airlines charge a small processing fee for canceling a flight. For example, Lufthansa charges a 10% fee for cancellations, which they deduct from your total refund. This helps cover the cost of a lost seat if they cannot fill it before departure.

Other airlines may charge a flat processing fee. United Airlines, for example, charges passengers a $125 cancellation fee if you cancel with less than 60 days before departure. If you cancel ahead of that deadline, they’ll only charge $75.

You can find all of these details in your airline terms and conditions, which should be available either online or in the confirmation email you receive after booking your flight.

For more information, you can also contact the airline and speak to a reservations representative. They can help clarify the cancellation fees and begin processing your request for a cancellation or refund.

How much does it cost to change or cancel a flight?

Most major airlines will not charge to change your flight details as long as the new ticket price falls within the price you originally paid for your ticket. If your new ticket is more expensive than the original, the airline will charge you the additional cost.

Cancellations, on the other hand, may cost you some money. Most airlines charge some form of a processing fee to cover the loss of the ticket. This may be a percentage from 5-10% or a flat rate from $50 to $150.

You will have to contact your airline to determine these rates or read the terms and conditions of your ticket. You can find these online or in the confirmation email you received at the time you booked your flight.  

What happens when you cancel a nonrefundable airline ticket?

Despite their name, nonrefundable airline tickets may be refunded but only under very specific situations. The first and easiest way to get a refund on a non-refundable ticket is if the airline cancels your flight. In this situation, you have no say in the matter and the airline should return your money.

Airlines may also issue a full refund on a nonrefundable airline ticket if you cancel within 24 hours of departure due to a death in the family. If you can prove that a family member has passed, causing you to miss your flight, many airlines—such as American Airlines—will issue a grievance refund.

Otherwise, you likely won’t get a cash refund for your flight. Instead, the airline may issue a flight voucher, which you can use to purchase a new flight ticket of the same cash value at a later date. The airline may also allow you to alter your itinerary to a more suitable time or date in the near future.

Flight vouchers usually expire after a year, though, so if you plan to make good on a voucher, be sure to do so within one year of your original flight. The voucher will only cover the cost of your original ticket so if you plan to buy a more expensive seat, you will have to cover the additional charge.

Can I cancel an international flight and get a refund?

Whether you can cancel an international flight and get a refund all depends on the type of ticket you purchased and the airline’s terms and conditions. If you purchased a fully refundable ticket, you should be able to cancel within 24 hours without any additional cost. If not, you may lose some money.

Some tickets are partially refundable or semi-flexible, meaning that you can cancel as long as you meet a certain set of criteria. Often these criteria are time-restricted and require some proof or evidence for why you need to cancel.

Other tickets only promise a percentage refund so, even if you cancel ahead of time, you may only receive a small amount of the total cost. Always be sure to read the terms and conditions of your flight before booking to ensure that you don’t lose money at the last minute due to a sudden change of plans.

Are airlines allowed to change your flight?

Fully refundable tickets are generally more expensive because they include cancellation insurance. That being said, though, the added cost of insurance is always less than the cost of losing your entire booking fee.

Can I get a refund if the airline changed my flight?

Under nearly any circumstance, you are entitled to a refund if the airline changes or cancels your flight. By changing your itinerary, the airline breaches the contract between passenger and service provider, meaning they must compensate you for the inconvenience.

The airline may offer you an additional flight voucher to be used at a later date or a full refund worth the price of your ticket. If the airline postpones your flight to a later day and you are stuck in a foreign city, the airline may also provide you with accommodation until that time.

The only time airlines have canceled on-mass without reimbursing their passengers was at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak when air travel came to a complete halt. Refunding every ticket at once would have bankrupted the airlines so they were granted special permissions to ground flights at no added cost.

What are my rights if an airline changed my flight?

If the airline changes or cancels your flight, it’s their responsibility to offer some form of compensation. Typically, airlines will do everything in their power to avoid having to process a refund so don’t be surprised if you’re offered a seat on a later flight, a flight with a partner airline, or a flight voucher.

Most airlines will try to first book you on the next available flight so that you get to your destination within the same timeframe. If this is impossible, they may reach out to a partner airline and book you through one of their flights. If that is still not possible, the airline may put you up in a hotel until the next flight is available.

Airlines do not guarantee their schedules so don’t worry if your flight is delayed or canceled. As long as you have a booking, the airline will do its best to get you where you’re going. Airlines often overbook their flights with the expectation that some passengers will cancel. You may have to take a seat on another flight.

Are refundable airline tickets worth the extra cost?

Compared to standard nonrefundable economy tickets, fully refundable airline tickets might seem pricey. No matter what you think, they are worth the added cost. In the event that you can’t make your flight, you’ll have the assurance that you can get a complete refund at the last minute.

When you compare the price of an international flight to the price of added cancellation insurance, it’s much more affordable to pay for a guaranteed refund than it is to lose the cost of a flight.

Even if the airline awards you a flight voucher, you may not be able to use it within its set time limit or you may have to pay extra for a more expensive seat. Avoid these situations by paying the added $200 for a refundable airline ticket and save yourself the unwanted stress.

Written by: Click2refund