How to get a refund on your plane ticket

Skyscanner Australia has a few tips on how to get a refund on your plane ticket.

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?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    16th Jun 2018
    I missed my plane in February last year - a Virgin flight from Melbourne to Brisbane where my Dad had just had a heart attack. I was 5 minutes late to the check-in counter although I had been in the queue for 35 minutes. The hold up was because one of the check-in staff was flirting and joking and hugging and kissing her boyfriend (I hope) while sitting at her station in full view of the fuming passengers waiting to be served. I was furious when told that I had missed my flight (It was not due to take of for another 25 minutes!!) by a matter of 3 to 5 minutes. I went to the supervisor on duty who couldn't have cared less. The best they could offer me was to repeatedly reassure me that the woman would be spoken to, and to offer me a seat on the next flight in an hour's time as long as I paid an extra $120 cash for the priviledge ! I had no choice but to do it. I wrote to the airline and to the Ombudsman asking for a refund of the $120 fee but got nowhere. Virgin didn't even reply. The Ombudsman sent a standard letter that told me nothing and reassured me that they would investigate the matter within three years if I didn't hear back from the airline. Whatever happened to customer service and the concept of people doing their actual job?
    16th Jun 2018
    The Ombudsman (I think you mean the Airline Customer Advocate?) said "...they would investigate the matter WITHIN THREE YEARS if I didn't hear back from the airline" are you serious about the timeline?

    Please note it says on their website "..The ACA will forward your complaint to the right person within the relevant airline and ensure you receive a response within a reasonable time (usually within 20 working days).". Website link:

    Suggest you escalate it with them / the ACCC?
    16th Jun 2018
    One of the great tragedies is that Ombudsmen of all persuasion are now working for big business whilst continuing to be paid by the public. There is something very wrong in our system of government when this is let go year after year.
    I had a similar issue with Optus and the Ombudsman was actually an Industry Group and did everything to get me to go away. Delaying was the name of the game and in the end Optus was not even forced to pay compensation set down in law. They're all the same.
    The ACCC? You'll get a reply but NO ACTION. Same as ASIC.

    The system is broken.
    17th Jun 2018
    It was explained to me that there were so many complaints that it would take 3 years to get to the top of the list before anything could be done about it. The same situation exists with complaints to the relevant Ombudsman about Electricity companies - My complaint about AGL was number 9173 in the queue! A reply within 20 working days?? The complaint wouldn't have even been sorted into someone's IN tray in 20 days. What use is an Ombudsman by whatever name, if all they do is send a letter to the "right" person when the customer has already done that? You have to prove that you have already contacted the Company in question before the Ombudsman (Ombudsperson?) will accept your complaint.
    I have only ever made 2 complaints like this and a submission to the Banking Royal Commission about Reverse mortgages and the Commonwealth Bank (the way they promote their reverse mortgage product "Seniors' Equity Release Loan" as having NO repayments until the Estate is settled and then immediately start taking interest repayments out of the Principle of the loan which means you are paying compound interest right from the start). Very dishonest and is taking advantage of elderly people who don't feel up to fighting the Big Banks!

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