The Cost of Cancelling and When to Buy Refundable Airline Tickets
If you need to cancel airline ticket, do you get your money back? And when is it better to buy a refundable airline ticket?
A friend needed to book multiple flights for possible work plans and was trying to figure out the best strategy to minimize cost.
For most tickets, you’re probably going to pay a hefty fee to cancel your ticket and whether you get the remaining amount back or just credit towards a future flight depends on the airline. If you bought a refundable ticket, then you should be able to get all your money back with little or no fees but for non-refundable tickets the following fees apply:
- American Airlines does not refund your ticket price except when the passenger dies or when cancellation is due to military orders. To change your ticket is typically $200 for domestic tickets.
- Delta Airlines does not offer refunds and charges a $200 change fee for domestic flights
- Frontier Airlines charges $99 to refund or modify Economy reservations.
- JetBlue change fee varies based on timing and ticket price. 60 days or more before the flight changes and cancellations are $70. Within 60 days, the fee will range from $70-$135 based on ticket price.
- Southwest Airlines has no change fees, you can apply 100% of the price on all fares to future flights; only Business Select and Anytime fares qualify for refunds.
- Spirit Airlines change or cancellation fees start at $110 per customer, per booking.
- Sun Country charges $100 to change a domestic ticket, if you cancel your ticket you can keep the flight credit for up to a year sans the $100 change fee.
- United Airlines does not offer refunds (except in the event of death or jury duty) and charges $200 to change domestic flights.
- Virgin America charges $100-$150 to change or cancel reservations based on the region.
Note: Most airlines allow free cancellation of any ticket within 24 hours of purchasing, though it varies if the ticket is purchased within 7 days of the flight.
When To Buy a Refundable Airline Ticket?
It will vary by each trip and airline, but refundable airline tickets typically run at least $200-$250 more than the lowest fare each way. More than the $99-$200 cancellation fees charged. Refundable airline tickets will also tend to come with more benefits — free checked bags, more miles earned, etc.
So when is it worth booking a refundable airline ticket?
Only if there is a real chance that your dates or plans will need to change. For non-business travel, this almost never happens. Issues can always come up last minute, but they tend to be rare. So I use this approach for deciding when it might be worth it.
- For trips with a moderate but real chance your ticket will need to be changed, book refundable only when the price is close to the cost of a cheap ticket + cancellation fees.
- For trips with a high likelihood of change or cancellation, refundable is likely the best choice since you’re probably going to forfeit $200+ for changes and it would be better to recoup the entire cost of the ticket.
What formula do you use when deciding whether to book refundable tickets or not?
Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!