Travel plans change, and there can be any number of reasons why you may want to get a refund from the airline for your ticket. Some circumstances warrant a refund, while others may disqualify you. Let’s explore these and what to do if you’re entitled to a refund, and the airline refuses.

Am I Entitled to a Refund?

If you’re looking at your ticket, check the fine print. It should say if you purchased a refundable or non-refundable fare. If you had a refundable ticket, you should be in the clear, regardless of the situation surrounding your cancellation. If your ticket was non-refundable, there are some circumstances that could still qualify you for a refund.

  • If the airline cancels your flight, you can request a refund for your flight. It is your choice if you want to rebook or not, and the airline is required to refund you.
  • If the airline delays your flight significantly, you can request a refund. US law is loose with what qualifies as a significant delay, while EU law has clear stipulations under EC 261.
  • If the airline bumps you to a lower class, they need to pay you the difference in fares.

There are other circumstances where you could get a partial refund. For example, if you paid for in-flight wifi but the service was unavailable, they should refund you. If they lose your baggage, the airline should refund you for any baggage fees and reimburse you for your possessions.

Unfortunately, there are circumstances that do not qualify for a refund, including non-refundable fares, personal issues, and bad service experiences. It is up to the airline’s discretion if they want to offer a refund in any of these cases. They can, but they are not required to.

Depending on where you’re traveling, you may or may not qualify to have incidental expenses reimbursed. There are no protections under US law, but Brazilian ANAC 400, the Montreal Convention, and EC 261 includes provisions that protect you against unanticipated costs.

What If I’m Denied a Refund?

Just because an airline is required to offer a refund doesn’t mean that they always will. You have a few steps that you can take if you are entitled to a refund.

  1. Contact the airline’s customer service. The more documentation you can provide, the better. It will help make your case. Be clear in your request for a refund. Some will try to push a travel voucher, but you are entitled to getting cashback if you want it.
  2. If they refuse, ask the airline to provide documentation about why the claim was denied. If you believe it was unfairly denied, appeal the claim and ask to have your issue escalated.
  3. File a claim against the airline if they continue to refuse your refund. If you’re in the US, you can file a claim directly with the Department of Transportation, while other countries have different avenues.
  4. Keep calling. It can be frustrating but keep following up with the airline. Contact their customer service on all channels – phone, email, and social media. Often, the more persistent you are, the more likely you will get refunded.

Air Passenger Rights

Air Passenger rights are protected while traveling in Europe under EC 261. If your flight is delayed or canceled, you are not just entitled to a refund of your original fare. You can also claim additional compensation depending on your flight length. There are similar regulations in place that help protect international travel, including the Montreal Convention and Brazilian ANAC 400.

Unfortunately, if you’re traveling in the United States, these laws don’t apply. You have less recourse if the airline unfairly denies your refund.