Every experienced traveler has run into this situation at least once: after booking airline tickets, something changes that puts the entire trip in question. From a terrorist incident at a destination, to a work emergency at home, travelers are forced to make critical decisions about their trip in very short order. What happens to those airline tickets when they don't want to fly?
Any traveler who has tried to get a refund on airline tickets from their carrier can testify how difficult the process is.
Most of the lowest-fare tickets come with the highest number of restrictions, including clauses that make it nearly impossible to get a cash refund. Frustrated flyers are often left with two choices: either lose their money entirely, or accept a credit for their airfare, minus a large cancellation fee.
Although this is a common nightmare among travelers, those who have been through this process know that there are exceptions to every rule. By understanding your rights as a passenger, it is possible to get a respectable refund on an airline ticket. Here are three ways travelers may be able to get an airline ticket refund when the situation demands trip cancellation.
The 24-Hour Rule: Cancel Your Airline Ticket, Get a Refund
When the Department of Transportation revisited ticketing rules for carriers operating in the United States, two critical changes were made to the benefit of travelers. The first change is the 24-hour reservation requirement, forcing airlines and travel agencies to honor all airfare prices when booked 24 hours from the first airfare search. The other is the right to cancel a flight within 24 hours of booking.
Under DOT rules, travelers are allowed to cancel their airline tickets within 24 hours of booking, as long as they booked their flights at least seven days before their departure date. While this rule applies to all airfare carriers operating in the United States, how fliers request their refunds can vary.
Some carriers allow travelers to manage and cancel the booking online, while others require the passenger to call the airline directly. Be sure to check with the carrier before making a final decision on cancellation.
Travel Insurance: Trip Cancellation and Cancel for Any Reason benefits
For the situations that fall outside of the traditional rules, travel insurance may be able to help. Most travel insurance policies offer basic trip cancellation benefits when purchased before boarding a flight, allowing travelers make their airfare a refundable airline ticket in the result of a qualified event.If an immediate family member were to pass away, or the traveler gets into an car accident on the way to the airport, trip cancellation benefits could reimburse traveler for the price of their ticket.
If a traveler is concerned about a situation that falls outside of regular trip cancellation benefits, then it may be time to consider purchasing Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance. As a early purchase benefit (usually within 21 days of purchasing an airplane ticket), Cancel for Any Reason allows travelers to have ultimate control of canceling their travel plans. Those travelers who are concerned about their trips due to extenuating circumstances, including work situations and veterinary emergencies, can receive a refund for any reason they decide to not take a trip.
However, a cancel for any reason benefit does not cover the entire price of a ticket. In many cases, requesting a refund under cancel for any reason only returns around 70 percent of a ticket price.
Extenuating Circumstances: Taken on a Case-By-Case Basis
Under the worst circumstances, airlines have been known to consider cancellations on a case-by-case basis. In extreme situations, ranging from a serious injury of a passenger to the outbreak of the Zika Virus, some air carriers will consider the case for a refund.
Travelers who plan on going to the airline with this type of request need to be prepared with documentation that backs up their claims. For example: if the original ticketed traveler has passed on, then the airline may require a death certificate to consider refundable airline tickets.
If a passenger is asking for a refund based on illness or injury, fliers should prepare to present the airline with a letter from the attending physician noting when the situation took place, and how the situation prevented the original traveler from going on their flight. For all other situations, airlines will often announce their policies
While airlines will consider bending ticket policies for some extraordinary circumstances, there are many situations that airlines will not consider. For example, work situations and veterinary emergencies often don't count for airline reconsideration. Those who are concerned about their personal situations and do not wish to look into their travel insurance options may want to consider purchasing a full-fare ticket, which are often fully refundable airline tickets.
Though the process can be difficult, receiving refundable airline tickets is possible. By understanding the situations that affect travelers and their rights under law, travelers can still recover some of their ticket price when other plans force them to cancel their next flight.