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Sometimes a cancelled flight just happens. Whether it’s due to weather (see what I did there?), logistical problems, or a global Coronavirus pandemic, your flight might get cancelled. As a result, this might leave you stranded without knowing what to do. Well, I’m here to change all that! Keep reading to discover 5 steps to take now when you have a cancelled flight to prevent losing money.
Related: Need trip insurance? Check out World Nomads for the most comprehensive trip insurance out there!
Cancelled Flight? 5 Easy Steps to Take Now
1. Immediately contact the airline
Whether you’re at the airport or still at home, the first thing you need to do when you have a cancelled flight is to immediately contact the airline. Call up customer service or approach a desk agent at the airport to determine next steps. Typically, airlines are good about refunding you for your flight or rebooking a different flight for you. They might also give you a voucher to put towards a future flight. Ask about anything they are able to do to help you out with additional costs you have because of your cancelled flight. This can include any hotel stays away from your home destination while you figure out alternative options and transportation while stuck in your travel destination.
If you end up with a cancelled flight for any reason, including because of Coronavirus, your airline should be able to give you a full refund or rebook you on a different flight. However, note that you won’t be eligible to get extra compensation on top of that.
Another important thing to note is that if your flight hasn’t been cancelled, you’re unlikely to get a refund. However, a lot of airlines have really flexible policies when it comes to things like the Coronavirus pandemic. Check with your specific airline’s policies to see what applies to you (links below).
Finally, to keep call volume down, airlines ask that you call them with questions only within 3 days of your flight.
Related: Got a longhaul flight coming up soon? Make economy comfortable with my top 10 tips for flying internationally!
POPULAR AIRLINES’ CANCELLATION POLICIES
Frontier Airlines: Policies (including changes due to COVID-19)
“I’ve gotten a lot of questions about when to cancel flights you’ve already booked in order to get a refund. Here’s when you should cancel, and when you should wait:
There are three possible outcomes for a cancelled ticket: (#1) refund in cash, (#2) refund in travel credit, or (#3) cash refund MINUS a $125-400 fee.
Cash refund > travel credit > cancellation fee.
Let’s say you’ve got a trip to NYC planned in May that you’re no longer planning to take. When should you cancel it?
Right now, most airlines are only offering travel credit refunds (#2) for domestic travel in March and April. So if you cancelled that May trip today, you’d have to pay the cancellation fee (#3). No bueno.
Instead, you should *wait* to cancel. During the wait, you’re hoping for two possible outcomes.
First, if the airline extends its deadline (likely, I’d guess) and offers travel credit for all May trips. In that scenario, you’d fall into the #2 bucket and retain the full value of your ticket, rather than pay hundreds in fees.
Second, if the airline winds up cancelling your specific flight, then you are automatically due a cash refund (#1). Of course, that cash refund is only given to people who have a ticket, not people who canceled their ticket earlier.
You can cancel a ticket essentially up until the day of travel, so there’s no sense in canceling early and paying a fee. The longer you wait, the greater chance the airline will extend its refund window or cancel your flight altogether.
Only when it gets to within 48 hours of travel would I relent and take the travel credit.
You can sometimes get a sympathetic agent willing to make an exception earlier and waive the fee or give a cash refund, espeically if you have extenuating circumstances. But it’s not common.”
Related: Interested in getting personalized, specific flight deals emailed directly to your inbox that will quickly pay for itself (x10)? Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights! I love the amazing deals I’ve scored both within the U.S. and from the U.S. to Europe with this service, and I know you’ll love it too!
🧵 Scott here. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about when to cancel flights you've already booked in order to get a refund.— Scott’s Cheap Flights (@scottsflights) March 17, 2020
Here’s when you should cancel, and when you should wait:
2. Check with the credit card company you used to book
Many credit cards will offer some form of travel coverage for delayed or cancelled flights if you used the credit card to book. This is why I love my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. Check with the credit card company that you used to book your cancelled flight and see if they have any trip coverage available. Go to their website specifically to find this information. You might be surprised by what you find!
3. Check your rights
Your rights related to if your flight gets delayed or you end up with a cancelled flight vary by country. I recommend going to AirHelp (USA and international) or Flightright (UK/EU) to quickly and easily determine your rights and what compensation you’re entitled to if you have a cancelled flight! According to AirHelp, 87% of flyers don’t know their rights before they fly. Educate yourself and you just might be in for some big dollar refunds!
4. Try to get a voucher to use later
If the airline refuses to give you a refund, in most cases you are at least entitled to getting credit to use toward a future flight with the airline. If the airline is still refusing to refund you or rebook your cancelled flight, first you should file a complaint directly with the airline.
Here’s a nifty tip: You can use the free complaint tool Resolver for your canceled flight for quick access to submitting complaints to different airlines and templates to use for your complaints!
If submitting a complaint to the airline (or threatening to do so on the phone/at the ticket counter) still doesn’t work, you can submit a complaint to your government’s governing department of transportation. For the U.S., you can file an aviation consumer complaint here.
Related: Search the best flights to redeem your voucher for in the future with Kiwi!
5. Remember the sunk cost fallacy
If for any reason it’s unsafe for you to take your flight, you won’t get your money back by choosing to take the flight anyway. The money’s already spent and it’s already gone. If your flight hasn’t been cancelled yet but you have a health reason or other emergency event that will prevent you from flying, first check your airline’s cancellation policy to see eligible reasons for cancelling without penalty. If your reason still isn’t eligible for no-penalty cancellation, just remember to carefully consider whether taking the flight is a good idea.
Remember: the money’s already spent and it’s already gone. Taking your flight won’t bring it back.
Don’t have trip coverage yet and already left? Want to cover your scheduled flight that might get cancelled in the future? Check out travel insurance from World Nomads!
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