Travel SOS: can I get a refund on a non-refundable flight?

Penny wants to know if there’s a way to get a refund on a non-refundable 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.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    3rd Jun 2017
    My understanding of some of the cheaper low cost airlines like Jetstar is that whilst a refund is not possible, credits can some times be given so that credit can be applied on a future flight. However I am unsure if these credits then need to be used by booking through the telephone reservation service (rather than online) which then may incur a service fee which could make the credit less financially beneficial.

    I have been checking flights to Cairns from Brisbane for a few months time with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar. I found that whilst a low fare was available (carryon on luggage; no meal etc), an extra $45 each way was payable if the extras were required. This brought the fare up to almost the equivalent of fares on Qantas and Virgin which included checked luggage, carryon luggage and a snack. However the snack on Virgin usually consisted of a museli bar or peanuts. However on a short domestic flight of a few hours, I don't really care about getting a meal. Its the checked baggage that i need to have.

    I try to use Qantas when I can and pay through BPay to avoid the extra booking and service charges. Recently I was booking to go to Melbourne and through I would look at booking with Virgin (cheap deal on offer) and thought I would use POLI to pay. However I found that my financial institution (a large credit union) was not one that was approved for use with POLI. I did not want to incur the booking and service fee for using my Visa debit card. I rang the Virgin call centre and explained the situation. They allowed me to pay for the booking using my Visa debit card and waived the extra service fee on the book
    3rd Jun 2017
    Why do you think it is non refundable and therefore cheap?
    3rd Jun 2017
    I feel for Penny (and her daughter who is probably feeling rather terrible about the mistake) but I've almost been caught with the same issue myself a few times. I find the problem is Jetstar (not sure about other airlines) automatically adds baggage allowance and you need to unselect it if you are only taking carryon. I think this is a bit counter- intuitive and you should have to select it if you want it. After all it asks if you want to add on other features. I'm sure lot's of flyers have been caught out like this.
    4th Jun 2017
    I think it's called "reverse selling" and it's a bit like ordering a burger and the shop adding and charging you for fries unless you specify up front that you don't want fries, just the burger. It's an unethical selling practice and Jetstar have agreed to stop doing it from 1 July 2017 after the ACCC got involved.
    pedro the swift
    3rd Jun 2017
    I had booked a flight with a certain chaste airline and when i found out flights were cancelled due to a cyclone I rang them to get a refund as it was a once only flight. I was told i could only get a credit for a next flight.
    Surely a cyclone and their cancellation (not mine)of a flight should entitle one to refund?
    3rd Jun 2017
    Penny Hope you have a good time at AYERS ROCK.
    4th Jun 2017
    Wrong name - this shows some people's headspace - respectful name is Uluru - traditional owners.

    3rd Jun 2017
    Avoid Jetstar, not worth the hassle
    4th Jun 2017
    You will find that your daughter was caught out by Jetstar preselecting inclusions for you as you book. That is, unless you proactively remove them they are automatically added to the fare. This was a trend started by low cost carriers like Ryanair in Europe who would add luggage, insurance, priority boarding etc and unless you uncheck the box it goes onto the fare. The practice is legaal but unethical and drew the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. In December 2016 Jetstar promised the ACCC that it would end the practice from 1 July 2017 (see ACCC release number 228/16).
    If the conduct is unethical from 1 July then it's unethical now. Demand to speak to someone senior in Jetstar and point this out to them. Failing that try the ACCC or shaming them on social media often brings apologies and refunds.
    4th Jun 2017
    CindyLou Its Ayers Rock Allways has been allways will be. Nothing wrong with my head space deary. I could buy and sell you ten times over intelligence wise.

    Remember its Ayers Rock
    4th Jun 2017
    Also, I note you have mentioned above words to the effect "always has been..."

    Can I respectfully remind you a little bit of history
    1870s white fella Grosse observed Uluru and named it Ayers Rock in honour of Sir Henry Ayers.

    Guess what...Aboriginal people are the traditional owners...always have been, always will be.

    Can't argue that.
    4th Jun 2017
    While we are at it...

    Acknowledgement of Country
    I would like to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples as the traditional custodians of our land - Australia and pay my respect to Elders, past, present and future. It must always be remembered that under the concrete and asphalt, this land is was and always will be traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land.
    4th Jun 2017
    Oops almost forgot Cindylou Ayers Rock I typed it real slow to enable you to read it properly.

    Your welcome.
    4th Jun 2017
    I'm talking about respect.
    I have found that older folk do not wish to move with the times which is a shame. That's what I meant re headspace - not inferring lack of intelligence, rather this attitude I believe shows an individual's attitudes.

    However, it is lovely that you suggested I'm a bit dim witted. Nice. Wouldn't expect much more.
    4th Jun 2017
    Also, FYI a modern definition of headspace, used often in professional roles:-

    "a person's state of mind or mindset"

    Your very welcome for this education :)
    4th Jun 2017
    In 1993, a dual naming policy was adopted that allowed official names that consist of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name. On 15 December 1993, it was renamed "Ayers Rock / Uluru" and became the first official dual-named feature in the Northern Territory. The order of the dual names was officially reversed to "Uluru / Ayers Rock" on 6 November 2002 following a request from the Regional Tourism Association in Alice Springs.[4]
    4th Jun 2017
    This topic / discussion was about a person enquiring about refunds etc in relation to a flight booking - luggage.

    It's a real shame that some folk choose to take this discussion off topic, using this discussion as an opportunity to make caustic comments that do not contribute to the actually topic of booking flights, luggage and refunds.

    Unfortunately I can't add much to this actual discussion as I have fortunately not had to make changes etc. to flight bookings.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles