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Whether you’re an occasional traveler, or travel frequently for work, there’s always the chance your flight might get canceled. This is a rarity though, only 1.59% of domestic air trips were canceled by the airlines. The reasons for the cancellation could vary from weather and mechanical problems to an inability to take the trip.
Whatever the reasoning, there is a way to get your money back.
Before you Book
You’ve decided on a designation and planned out an itinerary, what can you do now to prevent any money loss in case of a cancellation?
The best advice for starters is to book directly with the airline company itself instead of through a travel agency or third party booking company. This way you don’t have to deal with 2 sets of technical rules.
For example, the flight is canceled, the airline gives you a credit for the amount, but the travel agency charges a service fee. (One booking company charged $150 just to change a flight date). Here’s a frugal tip – book online and not over the phone with an agent (they charge for this personal service).
Another good protection against losing money on trip cancellations is to buy a trip protection plan to cover the cost against illness or any other emergency that prevents you from going on the trip.
One more defense method would be to buy the trip with your Credit Card that has travel benefits included such as the Amazon Rewards Card (which you can use to earn cash-back for the trip in the first place).
Before your Trip Date
Now you’ve booked your flight, and time approaches to go on the trip but something came up and you’ve got to change plans.
Some airlines allow you to cancel the flight anytime before the flight for a credit for a later flight within a year without charge. The only thing is that you’ll need to pay the difference for any increase in the airfare price.
Other airlines have a certain window of time before a flight date to cancel, be sure to research your airline’s policies on this because they vary widely between airlines. For example, Allegiant Air allows up to a week before the flight to change it without punishment while Alaska Airlines only permits 2 months before a flight.
If at any time the airline changes your itinerary, they usually book a different flight and inform you in an email or phone call of the change of the flight number and time.
If the alternative is suitable then there’s nothing else you need to do, otherwise get online and find other solutions, and present one or more to the airline. Many agents would rather respond to a specific suggestion than start looking at all alternatives themselves.
A last tidbit of information is that you can cancel your flight within 24 hours of booking it without any consequences according to the Department of Transportation. I know this isn’t much of a window, but it does help with buyer’s remorse.
Day of the Trip
The day has arrived, you’ve made it to the airport on time, checked in and discover your trip is canceled by the airline themselves.
It’s a standard practice across all airlines that if they canceled the flight to refund the full amount as either a credit, cash, or back to your credit card.
Many airlines will try their best to get you to your designation, such as getting a seat on another upcoming flight, a seat on another airline, or even on another day (with a hotel and meal voucher in some cases).
Did you know that there’s a hidden rule among most airlines that if you arrive within 2 hours of your missed flight, you’ll most likely get a seat on the next flight (on standby) with no charge? It’s called “the flat tire rule”.
Now if you’ve missed your connecting flight, even from a competitor airline, they’ll work hard to ensure you can get to your designation. But if the connecting flight was canceled and there’s no alternative to continue, many airlines will fly you back to your originating airport for free.
If you don’t want to risk waiting for an available standby seat, there’s an option on some airlines called “same day confirmation seats” which are seats offered for later flights. American Airlines sells these for $75 and there are some rules:
- These seats must be on the same day to the same designation.
- This flight must make the same amount of stops as original tickets
- These seats must be on American Airlines or affiliates
One final option for not losing your money for a trip cancellation without travel insurance (or your reason is not covered), is to just go ahead and pay the fee to change your dates. $150 is a small loss compared to several hundred dollars in flight tickets and you still get to take your trip at a lat
After your Trip
Now, on the wild chance that there was no way to inform the airline of a flight change, no way to get to the airport at all during the travel day. There is still a bit of hope for a cancellation compensation.
Most trip cancellation insurance policies cover:
- Injury or illness of traveler, family member or business partner.
- Natural disasters
- Terrorism or ordered evacuations
- Death or hospitalization of designation host
- Home or business damage, vandalized, robbed.
- Jury duty
- Required to work, got fired, or transferred
- Traffic accident prior to trip
- Separation or Divorce
- And a few more (check your policy)
So, you see many reasons are covered by your insurance, but you’ll need to provide proof to the travel insurance agent to get reimbursed.
If you’re well prepared and use the tips mentioned above, there’s very little chance that you can’t get your money back for a cancelled trip. Go ahead, plan a trip, relax and enjoy yourself.