How to get plane ticket refunds

It doesn’t matter how meticulously you’ve planned your holiday, there’s always the chance that unforeseen circumstances mean you may not make your flight.

Luckily for you, Skyscanner has a few tips on how to get a refund on your plane ticket, or at least, have your flight changed with little hassle.

If you had a few extra bob to spare and bought a refundable, or flexible, airfare, then you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a refund or changing your flight. But even if you purchased a non-refundable ticket, you may still have the same opportunities.

The first thing to do is read your airline’s terms and conditions for flight cancellations. If your ticket meets the criteria for changes and refunds, then, lucky you.

If your ticket is non-refundable, you may be able to upgrade it to a flexible fare, then move your flight, which could end up being cheaper than losing your ticket and having to pay for a new one later.

Call your airline as soon as you know that your plans have changed and ask for customer service. Some airlines have a policy where you can cancel flights within 24 hours of booking, while others are less generous, but if you get the right person on the other end of the line, you may still get your money back or flight changed.

Ask for a refund first, and if that doesn’t work, ask for a flight voucher. Whatever you do, do it quickly, as the closer you get to your departure date, the harder it will be to get any recourse.

If your ticket is non-refundable, you’ll most likely get a voucher instead. Most airlines won’t give up money so easily, unless you are a frequent flyer or a member of their loyalty program.

If you booked your ticket through a travel agent, ask them to handle the cancellation or alteration.

While some airlines are more flexible with ticket changes and refunds, others are not. Skyscanner recommends checking out the cheapest flights at the time of booking, but also digging a little deeper and reviewing the airline’s policies before booking.

For example, one airline may have a policy to refund or allow changes without transfer fees if  the threat level in your destination changes, while others will have a strict no refunds policy.

There is one way to have your non-refundable flight refunded, no matter what.

“According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), you are entitled to a refund if your airline cancels your flight – even if it’s non-refundable,” says Skyscanner.

“If bad weather creeps up or a major event occurs, airlines will often either issue a full refund or allow you to change your flight without fees. You might also be entitled to a refund if there’s a schedule change, route change, or a severe delay. If your flight changes, act fast. Many airlines will only give you a few days to claim the refund or voucher for your flight.”

Also, if you ever feel that you have a strong case for a refund, lodge a complaint with the ACCC and see where it gets you. Or contact the industry-funded Airline Customer Advocate.

If you have annual travel insurance, or were smart enough to pick up a policy for your upcoming holiday, then this is where you head next.

Your travel insurance will often cover the cost of your cancellation if:

  • you (or your companion) becomes injured or falls ill
  • a family member becomes ill or dies
  • an unstable political situation develops where you plan to visit
  • extreme weather
  • you must appear in court.

Some insurance companies even offer a “cancel without reason” option for an extra cost, but it may be more expensive than just buying a refundable ticket.

There’s always a case for buying refundable tickets, but it’s rare that you’ll need a refund on your airfare. It’s your call as to which ticket you buy, but with air travel so cheap nowadays, it can often work out as cheap, if not cheaper to lose one airfare and pick up another at a later date.

Have you ever had to cancel a flight? Did you get your money back? Was the airline pleasant to deal with?

Related articles:
What are your rights to a refund?
What are your rights on a plane?
Can I get a refund on a flight?

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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