Did you buy a nonrefundable ticket and now have to cancel your flight? Not sure if you can or how to get a refund on a nonrefundable ticket?
Most airlines have a strict no refund policy on nonrefundable tickets.
But there are times when you can get your money back.
In March I did a mileage run to Beijing. While at the San Diego airport I got a text alert.
My flight was delayed for four hours.
I’d have more time at the Qantas First Lounge, American Airlines Flagship Lounge, or the Qantas Business Class Lounge.
Or I could go the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge because of the Citi Executive card.
Four hours wining and dining before a long flight wouldn’t have been too hard.
But I would miss having dinner with a friend in Beijing. And I was looking forward to seeing her.
The mileage run wasn’t crucial because I still had 9 months to requalify for American Airlines Executive Platinum status.
When I got the text notifying me of the delay I knew I could cancel and get a refund of my non-refundable flight.
Because the delay was longer than two hours. You can request a refund for delays longer than two hours.
Flight delays greater than two hours aren’t the only way to get your money back. Here are all the ways you can get a refund on a nonrefundable ticket.
Pro-tip: The refund process is easier if you book directly with the airlines. Either online, calling the reservation center, or at the airport.
It can take more effort when you book through a travel agency or use points. Read: Why you shouldn’t book your ticket using ThankYou points.
How to Get a Refund on a Nonrefundable Airline Ticket
1. Book on Airlines With Flexible Policies
If I had booked on Southwest, Alaska, and Allegiant, I could have easily gotten a refund.
You can cancel a Southwest flight within 10 minutes before departure. When you cancel your ticket, you get a travel credit for the cost of the flight. You have one year to use the travel credit.
If you cancel or change your Alaska Airlines flight you can get a full refund less a $125 cancellation fee. Alaska waives the fee for MVP Gold and MVP75K members
Allegiant lets you change your ticket up to one hour before your flight if you bought Trip Flex insurance.
But my nonrefundable ticket was on American Airlines and I used points. Points booked through the Citi ThankYou travel agency.
At 6 am on a Saturday, the Citi ThankYou travel agency was closed. So you should think twice before you book a ticket using points.
2. 24-Hour Policy
You can get a full refund on your airline ticket if you purchased it within 24 hours.
This Department of Justice (DOT) rule applies to all airlines selling tickets in the US, including international airlines.
Some airlines like American Airlines, have a slightly different policy.
American allows you to hold a ticket for 24 hours without payment. If you buy your ticket and cancel in 24 hours, you will be charged a change/cancellation fee.
Pro-tip: The 24-hour rule doesn’t apply to tickets made within seven days of travel.
3. Flight Delays
Flight delays are another way you can get your money back on an airline ticket.
If you’re flying on Delta, you can get a refund for delays greater than 90 minutes.
For flight delays longer than two hours American Airlines will refund the value of your ticket and fees such as baggage and/or seat assignment.
On United Airlines, you can get a refund for flight delays of two hours or more.
Pro-tip: If you’ve used part of your ticket, you’ll get a refund on the unused portion.
4. Schedule Change
If there’s been a schedule change in your flight, you can get a complete refund.
You used to be able to cancel if your flight if the change was only a few minutes but rules have tightened up.
American Airlines requires a schedule change of 61 minutes or more to get a full refund.
You can get a refund for schedule changes of 30 minutes or more on United.
Pro-tip: This is one reason why you should set flight alerts for your flight.
5. Canceled Flight
If the airline cancels your flight you’re entitled to a refund on your nonrefundable ticket.
Fees paid for bags, seat upgrades, and or seat assignments are also eligible for a refund.
Pro-tip: Most airlines will rebook you on another flight. You can choose not to fly and get a refund.
At the airport and your flight was canceled? Here’s the secret travel hack on how to another flight.
6. Jury Duty
Got a summons for jury duty? You could get your money back.
United allows you to get a refund if you get assigned to jury duty. You have to send in a copy of your jury duty summons.
If you or a family member suffers an illness that restricts you from traveling, you can get a refund on your United Airlines tickets.
You’ll have to submit a doctor’s letter stating that travel wasn’t recommended.
The other airlines don’t have an illness refund policy. But that shouldn’t stop you from politely asking for a refund due to the circumstances.
Being a member of their frequent flyer program, especially if you have elite status can help.
If your situation is newsworthy or headline-making, that could help your case. But you shouldn’t cause a scene or be disruptive.
Pro-tip: Reaching out on social media can make a difference.
8. Military Orders
You can get a refund on nonrefundable tickets if your military orders change.
Family members and/or traveling companions of military members might be able to get their tickets refunded. Be sure to ask nicely.
You’re entitled to a full refund if you die.
Yeah, that last part is funny. Like you’re really going to try to get a refund from beyond.
Your family can go after the refund for you. 🙂
Pro-tip: Some airlines like American Airlines will refund nonrefundable tickets if your travel companion dies.
When you buy a nonrefundable ticket you can’t get your money back if you have to cancel. But there are some circumstances where you can get a refund on a nonrefundable ticket.
You can get a full refund on your ticket if you cancel within 24 hours, there’s a schedule change or flight delay of at least 61 minutes, get summoned for jury duty, receive military orders, get sick, or die.
These circumstances apply to cancellations vs. changes. Changing your ticket is a different process and usually involves paying a fare difference if the cost of your ticket has gone up.
You can also get a refund on baggage fees, pet fees, priority access, and preferred seats.
So did I cancel my Beijing ticket because of the four-hour flight delay? No, because I booked my ticket through the Citi Thank You portal (considered a travel agency).
I wasn’t 100% confident they’d issue me a refund vs a travel credit. That’s why you shouldn’t book your ticket using ThankYou points. So I stuck it out and flew the flight.
When was the last time you got a refund on a nonrefundable ticket?
Pin this to your travel or travel tips board:
Related Travel Secrets Posts
- Best Websites to Find Cheap Flights
- Secret Travel Hack: What to do If Your Flight is Canceled
- How to Get Into Every Airport Lounge
- Do You Know What Happens If You Skip a Connecting Flight?
- Where to Take a Shower at the Las Vegas Airport
- 18 Airlines That Give You a Free Hotel
- How to Get Free Airport Lounge Access With Your Credit Card
Comment, share this post, tweet, or give me a +1.
Get the best credit card signup bonuses.
Got a question? Or want help, suggestions, travel tips, learn how to travel for free, find out about travel deals, and maximize your miles and points? Use the subscription box below to sign-up and get post updates by email.
Read our blog via RSS feed.