Can I get a refund on a flight?

Penny’s daughter has mistakenly booked flights for the whole family that include checked baggage, so she wants to know if there’s a way to get a refund on the excess airfare fees. In today’s Travel SOS, Leon shares some tips that may help.

Q. Penny
Myself, my husband and my four children are going to Uluru in September. Last week, my daughter got notice of cheap airfares. Even though she was tired and a bit out of it, she booked airfares for all of us with Jetstar, including baggage allowance for all! My daughter realised today that, because we are only staying for three days, we only need carry-on luggage. I contacted Jetstar this week and was informed that she cannot change the booking nor could she cancel it as it is non-refundable. The extra cost for baggage is $300. Is there any way around this?

A. Unless you purchased a flexible ticket which, in the case of Jetstar, is called a Max Bundle fare, you’re most likely on the hook for the original fare cost.

As you’ve already contacted Jetstar and had no luck, there may be limited options for a refund available to you. Also, being a budget airline, Jetstar has a pretty limited window for refunds. I think you must contact them by the end of the day you made the purchase.

So, I may not be able to help you in this instance, but here are some tips for future reference.

When you book a ticket, you should be aware that the cheapest tickets are usually non-refundable. But if you check your airline’s terms and conditions, there may still be grounds for getting a refund even on discounted tickets.

Either way, calling your airline as soon as possible is the best way to go. Ask for customer service and if you’re ever not happy with the service you’ve received, you have the right to ask to speak with someone else. Remember, the calls are being recorded ‘for quality purposes’, so use it to your advantage. If you manage to speak to someone else, you never know; you may get a different result – but I’m not promising anything!

woman talking to airline customer service

If you get onto customer service quickly enough, you should be able to get a refund, or at least change your flight details or remove excess baggage fees from your airfare.

When speaking to customer service, make sure you are clear about the difference between asking for a refund and a change of details. You have a better chance of having a flight changed than refunded, and if you mention the word ‘refund’ first, you may put your operator off side and they won’t be of much help to you. Make friends with your customer service operator and you’ll have a better chance of getting them to help you.

Sometimes, if you’re nice or you have a strong enough argument, you may get a travel voucher or access to an airport lounge instead of receiving a refund.

If you’ve booked a flight through a travel agent, get them to throw their weight around. Airlines will often be more amenable to a travel agent’s requests, because the agent has more buying power and airlines can’t afford to put them off side.

The only time an airline will issue a refund on a non-refundable ticket is if there are terror threats at the departure point or destination, extreme weather conditions, travel advisory warnings or a death in your family. But some airlines have a strict no refund policy and won’t give you a refund even under extreme circumstances.

Another place you could check is your credit card provider or insurance company, as either or both may well provide cover for refunds or loss of funds due to flights being changed or cancelled.

If you feel you have legal grounds or a strong argument for a refund and you receive no assistance from your airline, you should take your case to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. But you should first read your airline’s full booking terms and conditions.

And in future, weigh up the value of purchasing a flexi-fare ticket. Sometimes they can be double the cost of a discount fare, but they do give you the flexibility of a refund or ability to change flight details without financial penalty.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help, but hopefully there are a few tips to help you in future.

Related articles:
More baggage for your buck
Never lose your luggage again
Don’t fall into this flight booking trap

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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