PSA: Stop Cancelling Your Non-Refundable Flights Early

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Many readers have asked me if they can get a refund instead of a travel credit for flights that they cancelled due to coronavirus.

There’s never a good reason to cancel a non-refundable flight that you won’t take before the day of the flight.

Even in regular times if you have a non-refundable flight that you know you won’t take, you should wait until the day of the flight to cancel. That way if there is a fee waiver or if the flight is cancelled or heavily delayed you can try to get a refund. There’s no benefit to cancelling early.

While many airlines are now allowing a travel credit if you cancel your flight, there’s still no reason to cancel your flight early. If the airline cancels your flight you have a much better shot at getting a refund then you will if you cancel the flight.

It’s also worth noting that while some airlines require that you cancel your flight before the time of departure, Delta for example has announced that if you don’t take your flight it will automatically turn into a travel credit, even if you don’t cancel it.

If you are having a hard time reaching your airline over the phone, don’t forget that you can also try direct messaging many of them on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, or SMS. But if your airline does cause problems about not cancelling a flight despite trying to call them, I’d recommend documenting the hold time and disputing the charge on your credit card.

Will you be changing your travel plans due to coronavirus?

You can discuss coronavirus and how it’s affecting your life on the dedicated COVID-19 board on DDF here.

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104 Comments On "PSA: Stop Cancelling Your Non-Refundable Flights Early"

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Mark

Dan- do you know what air Canada’s policy is? Their customer service is terrible and I can’t get a straight answer.
Thank you!

Yehuda

Any update on this question? I’m in the same situation.

MCXVIILLDSC

If the Tix for April were purchased in January…
What will the CC help? I thought it’s only 30 days or so

Nate

@Dan, If I have an ElAl booking with Qantas, Qantas will refund the points if I cancel a day earlier, as long as it’s not within 24 hours?

jim

we have booked round trip to Asia using UA miles for travel in August.

Will UA give me miles and taxes back without fee f i call to cancel? wait?

Inna

What about flights that were purchased with points? Will I lose the points now if I cancel or don’t take the flight?

Eoma

Thank you for this. Unfortunately, too late for me. I could have used this information earlier.

Elliot

Dan, very much appreciate this post. Only question is if there’s a fear the airline may go down… what risk are we leaving on the table by not cancelling until the last minute?

ME17

Dan- we bought tickets with UR points- supposed to b for next week- you recommend waiting to cancel? I can’t dispute a cc charge because it was with points. What about a flight with BA Avios? Their usual cancellation policy stands correct? Points will be refunded TIA

Concerned

We just got half of our Boston>France>Israel leg cancelled from AirFrance/Delta. Is that enough of a cancellation to ask for a refund?

Airline

If there’s a chance the airline would go out of business wouldn’t it be better to cancel as soon as possible? My understanding is once they go bankrupt it will be harder to get your money back.

YaakovD

As a side note, airlines are requesting not being contacted regarding flights unless 72 hrs. prior to flight time. They are overwhelmed with calls and it’s another reason not to bother them if you can get the refund / credit in the end anyways.

MoG

Thanks Dan!
TAP canceled our flight and offered to refund in the original form of payment. Part was paid with a voucher/credit but I would like to get it all back now on my cc, not a credit. Any advice how? Will my chase reserve reimburse me for that?

Yonah

We were supposed to go to the In-laws for Pesach (NY->FL). I don’t think that’s happening. Some of the legs were bought with miles. I am probably going to call jetblue today to figure out my options.

The sleeve jew

Jet blue will return points I canceled. And got taxes back in travel bank you could rebook for the fraction of the price and points it worth to canceled if you booked with points

Yochai

Great post! I’m waiting with a few different reservations for cancellations/schedule changes.
How does Delta’s no show credit work with award tickets?

canadian

Thx. Great info as always.

If the airline changes one of your legs to fly 2 hours later is that grounds to ask for a refund or can the airline change any of the flights as long as it is the same day?

Izz

In a bind here.

Have a flight booked for this week Thursday using Miles&More for travel on Air Canada.

Booked the award in Mid September just before my miles in the account expired September 30, 2019.

If I cancel the award, any chance those miles will appear in account with a later expiration date, or will I be gaining nothing by cancelling trip?

Yochai

They will be redeposited with expiration at the end of next quarter

Izz

Thanks so much!

Do you happen to know if that means it will expire in 2 weeks end of March, or in 3 months and 2 weeks end of June?

Thanks!

M

I have an American Airlines from TLV to NYC on April 2nd to April 19th. With a connection in Paris. What should I do if I want to cancel it?

Yochai

Read the post!
Wait for the airline to cancel or reschedule and then request a refund

Kim

Your case should fall into he Covid-19 due to NYC and Paris…I think you should be able to get full refund. I would go online and canceled it and see if I would process full refund automatically or call the airlines but will be a very long waiting time

Mo2

If I cancel an AA reward flight, will my all miles be refunded?

I have a return flight leaving canada on Air Canada. Don’t think I’l have much hope for that

Stuart

I just cancelled an AA flight I purchased with AA miles. They returned the taxes & fees portion, but wanted to charge me $150 to reinstate the miles because one leg of the trip was a ‘web special’ fare. When I told them that the destination (Jamaica) had declared the entire island a disaster area, they waived the $150 fee.

Dave

Dan; Thanks for this post! I thought I was doing the right thing by not cancelling yet. Happy to hear you concur.

AYC

So if I call the airline and say “I have 102 fever and a dry cough, but I’d like to fly anyway”, do you think they would offer a refund?

Smay

Lmao!

emgee

I have an award ticket to Israel on united on Saturday and back on Thursday. When trying to cancel online they are charging me $125 per ticket to redeposit the miles. any way around that?

marvin

Have a flight today to Canada booked true Priceline, want to cancel it but the wait time to talk is over 23hr, what option do I have.

Michael E Alexander

If you stay on hold 5- 10 minutes, someone will come on the line. The 23 hours is not true.
I got thru to priceline 2-3 times already within 10 minutes or less.

Breitman

Is there any reason not to book a flight for pesach (for example) now? Obviously a full refund is much better then a travel credit but otherwise I see no financial ride in doing so on Delta or spirit.

Avi

Dan, thank you for this information! Makes sense!

H Goldstein

What if the airlines cancels the ticket? They only want to refund 40% of the ticket.

Jeff

I had bought a RT to TLV, and ended up cancelling the return (used mileage on return). They said that the ticket will be available for a year, I will just need to pay the $300 change fee plus difference in fair. Any point in paying the $300 fee and changing the ticket now to a flight that will probably get cancelled? Would that make it easier for me to get a refund on the one way which I didn’t use?

Dev

I have one flight this Wednesday from Southwest Airlines. When do you suggest I cancel? Also I have one from JetBlue but with mikes for the following Monday.

Max

Will United Explorer card cover if I cancel? Do CC’s only cover after the cancellation or I can call now before I cancel to request a refund?

moshe

just for your info American also says that if you cant contact them before the flight they will refund you later

Tex

I don’t see the benefit of waiting. Most have their cancellation policies up.
Doesn’t it help them to plan if they know only like 5 people are left on the flight?

DifferentDan

I have r/t tickets EWR-WAW-TLV for Pesach. They changed the outbound to leave a day late from JFK and land after the Seder. I sent them a request to change my flight back to 4/6 even if from JFK. They are offering full refunds. I am still, naively, hoping we can go for Pesach. Should I wait or pull the plug?

I love Dan

I have tickets with one airline for triple the price of what they are now With another. I’m trying to get a refund but there is no way to speak to airline on the phone Right now. Should I wait to dispute it or is the fact that their line is down a good enough argument for dispute?

I love Dan

I booked with the second airline and it’s within 24 hrs now but prices have since gone up and I’m not sure if I should cancel the new tickets in case I don’t get refunded from the first place, or keep both and hope for a refund? I know someone who got through and got a full refund for the same flight, is that good enough for a dispute? (First booking is $800, new booking is $300).

Anon

Dan
It might pay to cancel early if you have a ba avios award flight…
I had a BA avios award flight booked on aa domestic. I waited until the night before the flight (was going for a chasuna to the Northeast and remained undecided until the last day due to the breakout there) before cancelling. I then tried to cancel or change online but the system would not refund my avios as is policy. I tried many numerous times to call them to change my flight but they kept hanging up on me saying they’re not taking calls at the moment. I tried to reach them on Twitter and took screenshots to show them. So far I still haven’t reached them. What do you recommend I do to get back my avios?

Anon

In retrospect I probably should have cancelled earlier..

Worried mother

Dan, my daughter is in seminary and has an open return ticket with el al. She doesn’t want to leave and there is still a small group of girls left in the seminary. Do you think el al would refund 1/2 of the price of the ticket if she ends up having to get on another flight?

JohnB

I was in Barcelona when the orange monster announced the ban to the Schengen zone, March 12th. That day, our cruise was cancelled. I tried for 2 days to contact to KLM/Delta to change our return flights. I finally gave up and purchased new return tickets on AA/BA. I could not wait until March 19. We wanted to be home ASAP. I finally got hold of Delta today. Never had KLM answer any number, at any time. I took the credit because I know we will use it. Every situation is different. One has to weigh all the options. Delta told me they would have changed our return flights for no charge. But, we could not contact KLM or Delta by any phone number, while in Spain. They also didn’t respond to Twitter of Facebook.

bill smith

You booked a cruise and were going to take it on March 12th!!!???

Ari

What do you recommend if I booked el al using the Quantas points?

Ben

I’m supposed to be flying Friday. Bought tix on United thru priceline 2 months ago. What would you do? I heard priceline not refunding etc.

Mosh

I purchased 2 rt tiks united EWR TLV
for week of lag b’omer a few days before the beginning of the cancelations,

Doris

Dan, my son booked 7 tickets RT on Frontier for travel before Pesach to WPB and returning during Chol Hamoed. He tried calling to cancel due to Coronavirus, but was put on hold for a very long time. It says on their site that if you want to make a cancellation that you can have one free change for travel until November but no refund. Should he just wait until just before the travel date to cancel? Is there a chance for a full refund at that time?

Doris

Dan, FYI, my son just saw that Frontier is allowing changes and cancellations with no penalty.

Dee

At the moment, “cancellations with no penalty” does not seem to mean getting a refund, but that you can cancel this itinerary and get a shell credit that you use within 90 days to schedule travel in the next six months.

Richard Sonenklare

Hi Dan. We have business class on Turkish Air from Miami tomAthens April 18-30. Should I cancel or just wait to see if Turkish air cancels so money can be refunded. Thanks,

Dev

Thank you so much for posting this. My flight was supposed to be tomorrow morning 6 a.m. I just got a message that it is canceled so I got fully refunded from Southwest Airlines. Was thinking of canceling it this morning but really happy I took your advice and didn’t.

moshe

If I booked on amex plat a jetblue non refundable ticket.. Should I be waiting to see if it gets cancelled or just call amex?

Jeff

How do you document hold time

Dave

Hi Dan. I booked with Chase points and flight got cancelled. Chase emailed me a cancellation notice but didn’t refund me my points. Call waiting time is forever and you get disconnected ‘while they check’.

simplicity

plz keep us post on what happens with chase, as many have the same situation. TIA

Nikki

No, I will wait until the last possible minute to reschedule/cancel as I still really want to go! My travel isnt until summer though…

Yochai

I waited for my Air France flight to get cancelled, just called in and they claim a new EU regulation from today, allows airlines to give only vouchers for canceled flights! Anyone know about this, or should I HUCA?

Yochai

For this reason, I actually disagree with waiting. As airlines get more desperate for cash, they’ll be giving less refunds

Ben

Hey I have a flight for april 6th jetblue to NYC-MCO and the price went down by $200. Im hoping to still go :). Do I call for the travel credit now and then wait 48 hours before to see if they cancel or do I wait everything out and risk the price going back up?

Pinchas

have 9 tickets booked on Ovago to fly with united from NY – ZRH for April 5 for pesach.

Whats is my best shot?

kelly

I was hoping this would work for me with United. They canceled my flight, but refused to refund and would only issue a refund because the cancellation was a result of government policy and not United decision….

Russel

Just cancelled the Air Serbia flights for Pesach, not issuing refunds, they say. Booked through Justfly, should I bug Justfly or directly to AirSerbia to tell them I want a refund? Justfly also offers flight insurance until the day you fly, maybe take that if government reasons for cancellations??

Ariw

air Canada just changed my flight to MEL to Friday Apr 3 and the way back they canceled and gave me travel credit, anything I can do to get a Full refund?

Amy

If an airline has cancelled a flight, do they have to then refund the money automatically to the original payment method if I do nothing?

At the moment the flight is cancelled but they ask me to request cancellation and they will assess criteria for a refund. I feel that they are trying to trick me into waiving my rights, so I would rather do nothing if the money has to be automatically refunded anyway. Only the outbound flight has been cancelled and not the return, although it was a round trip booking.

r

This! Any updates Dan? how does this work?

Mark

I booked an Alaskan cruise set to sail on NCL at the end of June. My credit card was charged in full in February but I have not as yet paid the cc bill (payment is due on April 10th.) In the event that the cruise is canceled, or, if we will not yet feel safe going on the cruise even if it is sailing, I don’t want to be stuck with a cruise credit rather than a refund since we generally have a very limited window of when we could go each year, and we won’t know if we’d be able to get the same itinerary, or class of cabin, for the credit amount within the rebooking period. And even if there is a refund offered, who knows if the cruise lines will be in the financially solvent position of making all these refunds to tens of thousands customers as the stuff continues to hit the fan?
My question is whether there is any wisdom to trying to dispute the charge with the cc company (it’s an Alaskan Airlines Visa card through Bank of America) based upon the fears and uncertainty of the times, etc. — just to try and be on the safe side? In other words, am I better off trying to have NCL chase me for the money rather than me trying to chase them for a refund, or is there a risk to me trying to be a bit too clever and somehow losing out on everything in the process?

שמואל

I bought a Tlv-Jfk rountrip from ELAL on Feb 21 2020 for travel on April 5 – April 22. Both legs of the trip have been changed already by ELAL to different flights that i have not accepted.
Does this allow me for a refund? or I should still wait till the day of travel?

Josh

Hi Dan thanks for everything you do , I have a spirit flight tonight from Lax to Cleveland which I will not be going on … any ideas ??
Thanks !

Helen

My flights were cancelled for May 27th, August 11th by Delta, but I booked through expedia. I want to visit my mom. No further info or instructions, no way to reach anyone. What to do? And why???

Lorna

I cancelled flight because of covid 19, I’m 76 and at risk. Alaska will not refund or voucher. Any recourse for getting money back

Sheila

I had a flight on Jet Blue and they cancelled it. They sent me an email asking how I want the refund with a link. In the link I entered my name, record locator then it asked how I want my refund – travel credit or the card used to purchase. I chose credit card.
Then the screen went blank and said thank you for your feedback. Almost like a questionnaire.
A day later I got an email from Jet Blue saying my itinerary was cancelled. No other info.

The email was last Thursday April 23. Its now a week later April 30. I have not seen the refund to my card.
Per their policy – they do credit card refunds promptly – is that 10 days? 15? How long do i wait.
I tried calling Jet blue but the hold time is over 25 minutes. I don’t know want to wait too long but dont want to be on hold for hours if the refund will show up tomorrow?

Vera Levy

When is ELAL fly from Vienna to Tel aviv, all of Austria has about 500 covid 19 infected
There is no information , not from Airline, israeli Embassy or israeli News
I am an israeli waiting since March to get home
Please if you can give any information
Thank you

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