travel

How to get your airline ticket refunded, even if you booked a non-refundable fare.

So you’ve booked a flight, but for one reason or another, you won’t be able to make it.

Getting a refund on your flight might be a challenge, but Skyscanner Australia has gathered the best tips on how to get your plane ticket refunded or changed with as little stress as possible.

The fact is, humans don’t have crystal balls to predict when our travel plans are going to change. Sudden illnesses, family concerns, natural disasters, or even just a change of heart can cause us to cancel our flight.

It’s likely that you didn’t purchase a refundable plane ticket in advance because at the time of booking, you were sure that you’d make this flight.

Fear not, with these tips, you can have a better chance of getting a refunded plane ticket even if you booked a non-refundable fare.

Is your ticket refundable or flexible?

When you purchased your flight ticket, you likely had the option to upgrade to a flexible or refundable option. Go into your booking or call the airline to confirm what type of ticket you’re holding. No matter what type of ticket you have, read your airline’s terms and conditions for flight cancellations. Ticket types often have their own criteria for being refunded or changed.

If you’re a budget savvy traveller, you likely booked the cheapest plane tickets that you could find. While cheap tickets are tricky to refund, not all hope is lost.

Call your airline as soon as possible.

When you know you won’t make your flight, call the airline immediately and ask for customer service. Though many airlines are notorious for being as helpful as a lifejacket during a fire, there are still some airline angels out there who can help you change your ticket or start the process of getting a refund.

First ask for a refund, then pursue a voucher or flight change. Note that the closer you get to your departure date, the harder it is to get a refund.

Many Australian airlines also have a policy where you can change your flight details within the first 24 hours of booking, free of charge. When you know you won’t be boarding that flight, act fast.

When to ask for a flight change vs. flight refund.

If you’re a frequent flyer, a flight change might be a more realistic option than getting a flight refund. Many airlines allow flight changes for a fee plus the cost of the price difference between flights. If you change the dates or destination to a cheaper flight, you can often cover the flight change fee or even get a flight voucher for the excess.

Don’t assume that flight change fees are non-negotiable, sometimes they’re waived if you have a strong argument or buddy up to the customer service agent.

Getting a flight refund is when you have the cost of your flight fully or partially refunded. This is a lot harder to obtain if you’ve purchased a non-refundable ticket, as the airline isn’t going to relinquish those precious dollars easily. For non-refundable tickets, you will almost always receive a flight voucher in lieu of cash.

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Contact your travel agent or booking company.

Third party booking platforms or travel agents can be great for finding the best deals or packaging multiple flights. However, they often have rules that differ from the airlines and you will have to contact them to start the refund or flight change process.

Many times, the travel agent needs to hop on the phone with the airline to get the process going. If you fear that you’ll be needing to go down the ticket for your plane refund route in the future, it is best to book with the airline directly.

Instances when your airline might issue a plane refund ticket.

Some airlines make exceptions to non-refundable flights in cases of extreme travel advisory warnings like terrorism threats, or because of a death in your family. However, many airlines also have a strict, blanket no refunds policy no matter the reason.

There was even a case in the US where Jerry Meekins, a terminally ill veteran, was given no-fly orders from his doctor. When he requested a refund, the airline gave him the cold shoulder and told him no. It was only because of a media uproar that his flight was refunded. His case is sadly an exception to the rule.

It’s likely that you didn’t purchase a refundable plane ticket in advance because at the time of booking, you were sure that you’d make this flight. (Image: Getty)

You should get a refund no matter the type of ticket you have if your airline cancels your flight. 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 any change fees. You might also be entitled to a refund if there’s a schedule change, route change, or a severe delay. You can’t procrastinate if this happens, many airlines will only give you a few days to claim the refund or voucher for your flight.

Another instance where airlines must refund your plane ticket is if the airline bumps you from a flight. This is not the same as voluntarily being bumped off for flight credits. This only applies when the airline gives you no option other than to miss the flight.

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Get the law on your side.

If you have a strong case for getting a refund, or your entitled refund hasn’t been credited, you can contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and lodge a complaint. You can read their requirements on when you’re entitled to a refund for a cancelled service. There is also the industry-funded Airline Customer Advocate.

This agency handles customers of Jetstar, Qantas, Rex, TigerAir, and Virgin Australia.

The closer you get to your departure date, the harder it is to get a refund. (Image: Getty)

Involve your insurance company.

Though it’s likely the case that if the airline won’t issue a refund, neither will your insurance company, sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. Both industries don’t exactly hold the gold star in customer accommodation. Read through your travel insurance provider’s terms for your entitlements to “trip interruptions.” It depends on your circumstances, but if all else fails, you might be able to get a refund or some form of compensation through your travel insurance rather than the airline itself.

Should you book a flexible or refundable flight in the future?

The answer to this question is personal. Flexible or fully refundable flights can sometimes cost up to double the price of a non-flexible or non-refundable flight. Unless your travel plans are vague, you are usually better off booking the flight on the dates that you intend to fly without the flexible or refundable option.

If nine times out of ten you take your flights as planned, then you probably save more money than booking refundable tickets, even if your cancelled flight does not get refunded.

Have you ever managed to get a refund on a flight you couldn't make? How did you do it?

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