5 Airlines That Offer Refundable Plane Tickets

Traveling by air can be very expensive, which is why many people often prioritize lower fares. The cost of an airline ticket tends to be a deciding factor in buying a ticket, along with comfort and convenience. One of those conveniences is the ability to refund your ticket. U.S. airlines that offer refundable and non-refundable tickets include Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, United, and American. Here’s why you should also consider the potential for refunds when choosing an airline.

Key Takeaways

  • Refundable flights are generally more expensive than non-refundable ones.
  • Consider booking a refundable flight if you’re uncertain about your travel plans.
  • Some airlines charge a fee to issue a refund and others have strict cancellation policy terms.
  • Airlines must issue full refunds if you cancel your flight within 24 hours of booking.

Are Plane Tickets Refundable?

By law, plane tickets are fully refundable within the first 24 hours of booking if you book at least seven days in advance. After that, each airline has a different policy for refunding airfare.

Most airlines offer a choice between refundable and non-refundable airline tickets. Refundable tickets tend to be more expensive. That’s because you have the reassurance of knowing that you can get the money returned to you if your travel plans change.

Non-refundable tickets are often cheaper, but they do carry risks. In most cases, you won’t get your money back if you don’t use it, but you may be able to get another flight with the same airline. Another drawback is that a reused non-refundable ticket is non-transferable, which means you can only apply that amount toward a new ticket for yourself—not for another person.

The higher costs of a refundable ticket can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the kind of flight you book—economy, business, or first class. Basic economy tickets are usually completely non-refundable, meaning not only will you not get your money back, you cannot reuse them.

Refund Policies at Major Airlines

Every airline has a different refund policy. That’s why it’s important to know what your options are by asking any airlines you plan to book with or verifying the details website. We’ve got you started by laying out some basics about the airfare refund policies for five major U.S. airlines.

1. Southwest

Some tickets offered by Southwest (LUV) are refundable with no penalties This includes the airline’s Business Select fares and Anytime fares. A 100% refund applies if you cancel your ticket at least 10 minutes before the flight’s scheduled departure time.

Southwest’s Wanna Get Away tickets, which are the cheapest ones available, are non-refundable. But their cost may be applied toward future travel during a certain time.

2. JetBlue

JetBlue (JBLU) does not charge a change or cancellation fee for most of its airline tickets, including Blue, Blue Plus, and Mint fares on all routes. If you want to change your flight, you are responsible for any difference in ticket costs.

The exception is Blue Basic. If you want to cancel or change a Blue Basic ticket, you will likely have to pay a $100 fee for travel in the Caribbean, Central America, or North America and a $200 fee for travel to other regions.

3. Delta Air Lines

Delta (DAL) offers refundable and non-refundable tickets for domestic and international flights. It typically does not charge fees for changing your tickets, except for Basic Economy. Tickets purchased under this category are completely non-refundable and non-changeable.

Delta has some cancellation or change fees to consider with non-refundable tickets. For domestic travel, Delta charges a cancellation or change fee of $0 to $400, depending on the travel route. You will also have to pay the difference in any flight costs.

4. United Airlines

United Airlines (UAL) tickets are generally non-refundable, although some fares do allow for refunds. Refunds and changes are not permitted with Basic Economy tickets. The airline does permit cancellations or changes for any ticket without a penalty if the flight is canceled or changed within 24 hours of booking.

5. American Airlines

American Airlines’ policy is similar to United and Delta in that it offers refundable and non-refundable tickets. Cancellation fees vary, though, based on the type of cabin you choose. These fees vary from no charge to up to $750 based on where you travel.

How Refundable Tickets Work

When you buy your airline ticket, you will likely have an option to book a refundable ticket. These bookings can be fully refunded—or in some cases, partially—if you cancel your flight for any reason.

Whether it’s better to book a refundable or a non-refundable ticket depends on your needs and budget. If you’re traveling for business, you may not need a refundable ticket because your plans may be less likely to change than if you were planning a vacation.

If there’s any doubt that you will travel, you should consider a refundable ticket. The cost of paying extra will be better than paying for a ticket that you don’t use.

There are a few things to keep in mind about refundable flights. Some airlines charge a fee to issue a refund, while others have a strict cancellation policy. In the latter case, you may only have a certain window of time during which you can request a refund.

If you’re a frequent flyer who has racked up a lot of miles, the airline may be willing to overlook its policies and grant a refund. Keep in mind that all flights are, by law, fully refundable within 24 hours of booking.

Other Considerations for Non-Refundable Tickets

There are circumstances when you may be able to obtain a refund for a non-refundable ticket. As mentioned above, airlines are required by law to provide full refunds to all buyers, regardless of ticket type, who cancel within 24 hours of booking tickets that they purchased at least seven days in advance.

  • Canceled or Changed Flights: If you bought a non-refundable ticket that is canceled or changed by an airline, you’re entitled to a refund. If canceled, the airline may attempt to book you on another flight but you may request a refund instead. If changed, you may be entitled to a refund, depending on the airline’s policy for changes and flight refunds.
  • Flight Credits: Check with your airline to see whether it offers credits (aka, vouchers) for non-refundable tickets toward future flights.
  • Travel Agency Bookings: For tickets purchased through an online travel agency, you must deal with the agency rather than the airline for refunds. Plus, some agencies may have charges associated with flight changes or cancellations.
  • Insurance: A Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance benefit can ensure that you’re able to recoup a certain portion of the money you’ve paid for a non-refundable ticket. And it doesn’t matter why you have to cancel the flight.
  • Using Miles: If you use frequent flyer miles to travel, you may be able to get a refund (or change your flight), but a fee may be involved. Check before committing your miles to a flight if getting a refund is a must.

What Are My Rights for a Flight Refund?

You are legally entitled to a full refund within 24 hours of booking if you cancel a flight that you booked at least seven days in advance of departure. You are also entitled to a full refund or a new flight if your flight is cancelled. Depending on the terms of your ticket, such as with a refundable ticket, you may also be entitled to a refund if you cancel for any reason.

When Do Airlines Refund Your Money?

Airlines are required by law to process your information in a timely way. The U.S. Department of Transportation defines this as within seven days if you purchased your ticket with a credit card and within 20 days if you purchased it with a check or with cash.

When Am I Not Entitled to a Refund for Airline Tickets?

You are not legally entitled to a refund if you cancel a ticket that is non-refundable for personal reasons, such as if you arrive late to the airport or if you’re sick. You’re not entitled to a refund if you don’t like the airline’s service, or if you incur extra expenses such as rental car or hotel expenses. Although, many airlines will grant refunds in these scenarios, they are not legally obligated to do so.

The Bottom Line

Whether it makes sense to purchase refundable or non-refundable plane tickets can depend on the circumstances of your travel plans and how concerned you are about potentially losing money if your trip doesn’t pan out. Be sure to check with the airline or your travel agency on cancellation, change, and refund policies for non-refundable tickets before you buy them.

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