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Can I Cancel a Flight and Get a Refund?

Things happen. And besides being so excited about that vacation or work trip, you may have no option but to cancel your flight, which leaves you wondering if you can get a refund if you do.

If you have to cancel a flight, it is important that you know what you are entitled to, and what to expect. Here is a simple and comprehensive guide to help you understand your options.

Image: A photo of a white aeroplane flying through a cloudy sky, surrounded by blue and white clouds, highlighting its sleek design.

Understanding Airline Policies

First things first, note that different airlines have different rules and policies regarding cancellations and refunds, so you need to first check your airline's specific terms and conditions.

Here’s what you might find;

24-Hour Cancellation Rule

As the name suggests, this policy allows you to cancel your flight booking within 24 hours of purchase and receive a full refund. The rule applies to flights booked directly with the airline at least seven days before departure.

It may be subjected to the following conditions;

  • The flight must have been booked at least seven days before the scheduled departure date.
  • The rule is only applicable in genuine situations or changes in plans, not last-minute cancellations.
  • It is also applicable to all classes of tickets, whether refundable or non-refundable.
  • You can cancel through the airline's website or contact their customer service.
  • Penalties or fees may apply after the 24-hour cancellation window.

This policy provides a grace period for travellers to review their travel plans and make changes without financial repercussions.

Non-Refundable Tickets

While non-refundable tickets are cheaper than refundable ones, they come with stricter cancellation policies.

Here’s what you need to know;

Cancellation fees - If you cancel a non-refundable ticket, you may not get your money back. Instead, airlines often issue a travel credit or voucher for future use. However, this comes with a cancellation fee, which varies depending on the airline and route.

Credit usage - The travel credit issued can be used for future flights with the same airline within a specified period, usually one year from the original booking date.

Exceptions - There may be exceptions offered in some airlines, such as in case of medical emergencies, death in the family, or significant changes to the flight schedule by the airline.

Always read the terms and conditions carefully when purchasing non-refundable tickets to understand what options you have in case of a cancellation.

Refundable Tickets

Refundable tickets offer the most flexibility and peace of mind but come at a higher price. They are ideal for travellers with uncertain plans or those who prefer the security of being able to change their travel dates.

Here are some things to keep in mind;

Full refunds - With refundable tickets, you can cancel your flight at any time before departure and receive a full refund without any penalties.

Change fees - Some airlines might charge a small fee for changes to your itinerary. However, these fees are generally lower than those for non-refundable tickets.

Booking process - When booking a refundable ticket, ensure it is clearly marked as such. Sometimes, airlines offer a mix of refundable and non-refundable options, so always double-check your ticket.

Image: A close-up photo of a person’s hand holding a boarding pass and passport at an airport, ready for travel.

Steps to Cancel Your Flight

Different airlines may follow slightly different procedures for cancellation. However, here are the general steps;

Review your ticket - Check your ticket type (refundable or non-refundable) and the airline's cancellation policy.

Visit the airline’s website - Most airlines allow online cancellations through their website or mobile app.

Contact customer service - If you need assistance, call the airline's customer service. Be prepared with your booking reference number.

Follow-up - After cancellation, ensure you receive a confirmation email or message. Keep this for your records.

Possible Fees and Penalties

Cancelling a flight, especially with non-refundable tickets may include fees or penalties such as;

  • Fees to process your cancellation.
  • Fare differences if you rebook and if the new ticket is more expensive.
  • Additional fees may apply for services like seat selection or baggage.


Special circumstances that may be eligible for exceptions to standard cancellation policies include;

Medical emergencies - Some airlines offer refunds or waived fees for cancellations due to medical emergencies.

Weather-related issues - If your flight is cancelled due to bad weather, you might be entitled to a refund or free rebooking.

Government travel advisories - Travel restrictions or advisories may qualify you for a refund or fee waiver.

Image: A photo of a display board at an airport showing flight delays and cancellations, showcasing the challenges travellers face in cases of disruptions.

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting a Refund

  • Book refundable tickets for maximum flexibility
  • Buy travel insurance that can cover cancellations due to unforeseen circumstances
  • Check airline policies before booking, and familiarise yourself with the airline's cancellation and refund policies.
  • If you need to cancel, act quickly and do so as soon as possible to maximise your chances of getting a refund or travel credit.
  • Keep all relevant documentation, such as medical certificates or government advisories, to support your refund request.
  • When dealing with airline customer service, be polite but firm as this can often yield better results.
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