I recently had to cancel a flight from Atlanta to Tampa (actually three flights) at the very last minute, but rather than accept the commonly held notion that if you cancel a flight you’ll lose all of your money, I decided to dig into the situation to see if there was anything that could be done. We’ve probably all been in this position at some point in our lifetimes (or will deal with it in the future), so I want to detail my experience with having to cancel my flight.

The Unavoidable Emergency
My three year old son took ill at the last minute and there was no way around it. I had to cancel flights for him, myself, and my husband. And, as a matter of fact, I didn’t even have time to cancel the flight; we just didn’t get on the plane.

Our flight was supposed to leave at 12:30pm on Monday, and I didn’t have a chance to contact the airline until almost 3:00pm that day.

I told them what happened, hoping there was something that could be done. I almost had a bit of desperation in my voice (I have no idea whether this helped or not, but it certainly didn’t hurt).

After all of the explaining, I asked them what my options were. Of course I was prepared for the worst. “I’m sorry, but due to our cancellation policy….” But, in something that almost threw me into shock, I found out that I actually had some options.

The Options
In a nutshell, I was told that I had two different options. One, I could board any flight that same day (to the same destination) without any additional charges whatsoever. With my son’s illness, this didn’t really seem like it would be possible, so I asked about option number two.

The second one turned out to be that, for a fee of $75 per fare, I could simply choose to book a future flight with the same airlines. The difference between the fare that I originally paid and the $75 fee would be issued to me in the form of a credit, good for future travel up to one year. This made a world of a difference in helping me significantly save on flight airfare for my next family trip.

In the end, even though the $75 was steep, considering that when I picked up the phone I thought I was going to be out the entire $347 that I paid for each of the three fares, I was pretty happy.

My friend, who had a similar issue arise after I told her my story, was actually able to get free flight travel vouchers from the airline. She did even better than me!

My Final Thought
The moral of the story is this: don’t take anything for granted. Sometimes, even when you’re up against policies that seem like they’re set in stone, you can still get someone to help you. And also, it never, never hurts to ask. The only thing they can tell you is “no.” I ended up saving myself hundreds of dollars just by calling and asking questions. I’m sure the policies vary from airline to airline, but as I said, it never hurts to ask.

Have you had any luck trying to get your money back after cancelling a flight? Please share with us in the comments section below!

(photo credit: marinaavila)


Corina December 5, 2010 at 9:19 pm

What a great story, and definitely something to remember for the future if I ever get into that situation.

Jnifer December 25, 2010 at 1:43 am

What a excellent story, as well as definitely some thing to remember for future years if I find yourself getting into which situation.

الرياض September 17, 2011 at 10:03 am

What a excellent story, as well as definitely some thing to remember for future years if I find yourself getting into which situation.

Anita March 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I had to cancel a flight recently and I went through Expedia, then I had to call them a bunch of times to change things around, finally cancelling the trip altogether. They gave me a full refund. I’m not sure that this is their regular policy but they work like a travel agency and they want your business, so they are working for you when they talk to the airlines.

I also tried using Cheap-0-air recently and got most of my money back. It was a bit more complicated. A fee was involved and I had to pay it before I could get my refund. I found this a bit strange. I will finally go on this trip that has been rescheduled several times now and the best price is on Orbitz, so I’m thinking about this. Expedia has some reward points and they’ve been good to me, will I call that good value and stick with them or will I be a cheapskate? I’m not sure yet.

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