Airlines are being forced to cancel flights, operating on leaner schedules due to lower demand from travelers. But if your flight is canceled by the airline, what are your rights to a refund? Chief National Consumer Correspondent Jeff Rossen digs into the policies to find out.
The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a notice to airlines in May after receiving more than 25,000 complaints from March to April of 2020. (Usually, the department receives about 1,500 consumer complaints in that time.) Many of the complaints were about airlines refusing to refund tickets after canceled flights. The federal agency says customers are entitled to a monetary refund in those instances.
Seth Kaplan, an airline and transportation analyst and host of the podcast “Airlines Confidential” says they owe you your money back but it also depends on the airline and their policies. If you’ve purchased your airline ticket through a third-party website, they’re also supposed to issue you a full refund.
What should you do if the airline or a website is pushing back on giving you a refund? Here’s some steps to take from Jeff.
- Read the fine print on the receipt so you’re aware of their policy.
- Call the customer service number to request a refund, citing their policy.
- Remind the customer service agent that “the Department of Transportation says you owe me money back.”
- File a complaint with the U.S. DOT on their Aviation Consumer Protection Page or click here for the form. The agency is examining these cases, enforcing the rules and putting money back in your pockets.
Below are policies and travel alerts for some of the carriers in the United States.
If your flight is affected by a schedule change or cancellation, the airlines will move you to the next available flight. If your new flight schedule was changed by more than one hour and it doesn’t work for you, you have some options: Move to a different flight, cancel your trip and receive a credit for future travel, or cancel your trip and receive a refund.
The refund will not be honored if you voluntarily canceled your trip and received a future travel credit before the flight cancellation.
Alaska will waive change and cancellation fees for tickets purchased up to June 30, 2020.
For tickets purchased on/before Feb. 26: If your original travel dates were from March-December, you have one year from that original travel date to use your ticket.
For tickets purchased from Feb. 27 to June 30: If your original travel dates were from February-May of 2021, you have one year from that original travel date to use your ticket.
If there has been a flight cancellation or if your flight is rescheduled to another day, you have a few options: Take the rescheduled flight, reserve an Allegiant flight on different dates for no difference in fare and no change fee, or cancel the remainder of your ticket for a refund of all segments not flown.
You can change or cancel your trip with no added fees. You may cancel your reservation and receive a full credit in the form of an Allegiant voucher for future travel, which is good for two years from the date of the initial reservation.
If American cancels a flight for any reason, a customer can receive a full refund back to their original form of payment.
American is waiving change fees for customers who booked travel through Sept. 30, 2020. If your ticket is expiring between March 1 and Sept. 30, 2020, you need to complete travel by Dec. 31, 2021.
For new tickets booked between now and June 30, we’re expanding our offer to waive change fees for future travel. This offer includes AAdvantage® award tickets but excludes Basic Economy tickets. Customers must pay any fare difference, if applicable, and fare rules may apply depending on the ticket.
If Delta cancel or significantly delay a flight (delays or schedule changes greater than 90 minutes), the airline will first attempt to rebook you on an alternate flight. If Delta cannot find an alternate flight and cancels the reservation for you, or if you choose to cancel the alternative itinerary, you have a couple of options: You’ll received an eCredit for the value of the ticket for future travel through Sept. 30, 2022 or you can request a refund.
If you cancel or change your flight because of the coronavirus, the value of the ticket(s) will become an eCredit to use toward a future Delta flight. If there is a difference in price, the fare difference will apply.
If it’s a delay considered to be within Frontier's control (i.e. caused by aircraft issue) Frontier will place you on the next available flight at no additional charge. If your flight is canceled, Frontier will provide, upon request, a full refund of any unused portion of your ticket.
If you’re changing or canceling your trip because of the coronavirus, here are their policies:
Bookings made between March 10 to April 15 will be permitted a one-time change to travel plans without a fee. For changed flights, travel must be completed by Sept. 12, 2021. Under this cancellation, the customer retains the value of the ticket to be applied toward the purchase of a future ticket to be booked within 90 days of cancellation for travel available through Frontier’s selling schedule.
Bookings made prior to March 10 with original travel dates between March 10, 2020 and April 30, 2020 will be permitted a one-time change to travel plans without a fee. For changed flights, travel must be completed by September 12, 2021. Under this cancellation, the customer retains the value of the ticket to be applied toward the purchase of a future ticket to be booked within 90 days of cancellation for travel available through Frontier’s selling schedule.
Hawaiian Airlines will take one the following actions: They will transport you, subject to availability and without stopover, to your destination at no additional cost on another flight, arrange for you to travel on another carrier, or they will refund your money.
Tickets purchased between March 1 and June 30 have no change fees for any changes made within two (2) years of the original ticket purchase date. A fare difference may apply.
Tickets purchased before March 1 with travel dates between March 1 and Sept. 30, 2020 have no change fees for rebooked travel that begins on or before May 31, 2022. A fare difference may apply.
If your flight is canceled by JetBlue the following options are available: Travel on the next available JetBlue flight at no additional charge, receive a credit that’s valid for 24 months from the date of issuance, or receive a refund if your flight cannot be rebooked within 2 hours.
Additionally, flights canceled within 4 hours of scheduled departure are eligible for compensation.
If your flight is changed by JetBlue, the following options are available based on the extent of the change:
Changed by 60 minutes or less: Additional voluntary changes you want to make will be subject to fees and any increases in airfare.
Changed between 61 and 119 minutes: You may travel on another JetBlue flight on the same day, the day prior, or the day after your original flight at no additional charge or receive a credit valid for 24 months.
Changed by 2 hours or more or changed from nonstop to a connecting flight: You may travel on another JetBlue flight within 7 days before or after your original flight at no additional charge, you many cancel and receive a credit valid for 24 months, or receive a refund.
JetBlue is waiving change and cancel fees for customers with existing bookings made before June 30. For voluntary cancelations, funds will be issued as a JetBlue Travel Bank Credit, valid for 24 months from the date of issuance.
Canceled flights: Customers may rebook on a new flight or request a refund.
If you decide not to travel, as long as you cancel your flight at least 10 minutes before its scheduled departure, the funds used to pay for a nonrefundable ticket are normally valid for one year from the date of purchase to use on future travel.
Southwest is extending the expiration date of some travel funds:
Customers’ funds that have expired or will expire between March 1 to Sept. 7 will now expire Sept. 7, 2022. Any travel funds created because you cancel a flight between those dates will also expire Sept. 7, 2022.
While these unused travel funds will be available until Sept. 7, 2022, once the funds are used to make a purchase, the expiration date of the travel funds will then follow our normal ticketing rules and will expire 12 months from the date of purchase.
If your flight has been canceled, Spirit will send a reservation credit for the full value of your reservation but if you’d like a refund, you must reach out to the airline. Spirit will notify you of any changes to a scheduled flight. You have the option to accept the schedule change or decline to request a reservation credit online or contact the airline for a refund.
Travel alerts: Spirit is waiving change and cancellation fees for customers who book travel by Tuesday, June 30, 2020. If you cancel your flight, you will receive a full purchase price reservation credit instantly.
If a flight is canceled, you may be eligible to request a travel credit for a ticket that would otherwise be nonrefundable or have restrictions on refunds. In these situations, you must submit a refund request to the airline.
If your flight is significantly delayed, and you would rather postpone your travel, United will waive any change penalties. You may also receive a travel credit for the unused portion of your trip if you choose not to travel. If your trip involves a connection and you have made it to the connecting city, you may ask to return to your origin and receive a travel credit if there are no other suitable alternatives. The amount and type of credit will depend on the fare and what portion of the ticket has been used.
If you were scheduled to travel before June 30, you’re eligible for a travel credit that allows you to apply the full value of your ticket to any new flight booked within 24 months.