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Wait Before Canceling Your Flight

Wait Before Canceling Your Flight
Taylor Rains

Was your flight canceled by the coronavirus outbreak? Airlines have made it easy to get a voucher for your canceled flight. But, warn the very frequent fliers on FlyerTalk, by doing that, you could be disqualifying yourself from a cash refund. 

Need more advice or have a question about flight cancellations and refunds? Head to this forum thread.

Vouchers Limit Your Options

If your flight has been disrupted, it may seem easier to cancel the flight yourself, accept a voucher and hope that travel picks back up before it expires in one year. But, vouchers limit your options. Once you accept one, you are disqualified from getting a cash refund.

Why opt for cash instead of a refund? With the future of airline operations in question, cash in hand now is more valuable for most fliers than a voucher for travel at an undeterminable point in the future. 

Related: I Already Got a Flight Voucher. Is It Too Late to Ask for a Cash Refund?

The Law Is on Your Side

On Friday, April 3, the United States Department of Transportation made it clear, in a public enforcement notice that–when an airline cancels a passenger’s flight–the airline must give the passenger a cash refund, not a flight voucher, if they request it. The EU, just a few days prior, reiterated its policy via EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean:
“Airlines must refund canceled flight tickets. They can of course also offer a voucher but — and this is very important — only if the customer agrees to accept this.”
Furthermore, the Points Guy is reporting that airlines “have been told to contact customers who have been given vouchers for canceled flights to let them know they have an option for a refund.” However, as of this publication date, we haven’t heard much evidence of this happening to customers (if you’ve been contacted, please let us know!).

How to Get Cash for Your Canceled Flight

To avoid getting stuck with a voucher, the very frequent fliers in the FlyerTalk forum advise that you wait it out. One said,

“Don’t cancel, let the airline cancel the flights, then you can demand a refund. With the current coronavirus crisis, most flights will be canceled or incur significant schedule changes that qualify for a full refund.”

Another explained how the waiting game has worked out for them:

“This is exactly what I am doing, waiting out the airlines. When this began I had 8 non-refundable tickets across American Airlines, United Airlines, Swiss International, Turkish Airlines, KLM, and EasyJet. At the beginning, none of the airlines would give a refund, only vouchers. Now a couple of weeks later I have recovered about $3000 as airlines cancel flights and adjust their schedules.”

What If My Flight Isn’t Canceled?

The one con of waiting out the airlines is if the carrier does not end up canceling the flight. At this point, if you do not wish to fly, your options are to rebook travel for a later date or take the voucher. In some cases, your credit card company may be able to help you out and reimburse your flight, but it is not guaranteed.

View Comments (22)


  1. OZFLYER86

    March 24, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    refunds ?

    & where precisely is the cash going to come from ?

    There is no bottomless pit of money.

    Airlines should & can only give vouchers, otherwise they have no chance of surviving.

  2. amanuensis


    March 25, 2020 at 11:11 am

    But the fact that an airline might not survive is exactly why one should NOT take a voucher, if getting cash instead is an option. In bankruptcy, the judge might allow the reorganized company to not honor any vouchers issued by the old company.

  3. airoli


    March 25, 2020 at 11:49 am

    Well… what would actually be interesting to know is how to get a refund once the airline has cancelled flights.

    In my case, I have several tickets for travel in April for which the airline (UA, AC and LX) have cancelled the flights already. But they do nothing but offer a credit.

    So please do say – how do I get my refund?

  4. JAGorham

    March 25, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Where is the cash coming from?

    Might I suggest getting it the way they spent it — reissue some of the stock they bought back. They’ll take a bath for it, but it will provide cash.

  5. bamin

    March 25, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    Copa cancelled my flight but refused the refund (They say it was because the government ordered closure) I have opened a dispute with AMEX.

  6. bostontraveler

    March 25, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    On November 18th the European Commission clarified that a refund is due any customer whose flight is canceled.
    Nonetheless, Air France is refusing refunds for flights that they cancelled, insisting on issuing vouchers.
    Clear violation of the EC.

  7. bostontraveler

    March 25, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    And American Express France will not accept disputes against Air France as they are a “partner” of theirs. (I live in France and paid with a French Amex).

  8. OZFLYER86

    March 25, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    why should you get a refund at all ? Airlines didn’t want to stop flying, there is no money for refunds.

  9. alangore


    March 25, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    Do airlines want to avoid paying out an avalanche of cash refunds for flights THEY cancel? Give us a lot longer than one year from purchase to rebook, that’s how. No sympathy and no bailout until they can find it in themselves to give us this little tiny courtesy that, unlike refunds, would cost them nothing.

  10. Shareholder

    March 26, 2020 at 6:04 am

    Even with Refundable tickets, I’m being offered vouchers. Phone lines are impossible to get through. Will recourse be small claims court actions?

  11. Jackie_414

    March 26, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Seems there would not be so much consternation if the airlines had not treated people so poorly and also gutted frequent flyer programs over the past ten years. The flying public doesn’t really care anymore if a US big three airline goes under. We can always fly Southwest domestically and likely hope that they expand service, and we can fly the international majors if we end up going overseas. Even though I am close to 2 million miles on United, I have given up on them after they made it nearly impossible for an international traveler on their own dime to stay at 1K. So, why not spend my business class money on ANA, Cathay, Singapore, EVA, China Air, Lufthansa, Austrian? I cannot think of any reason to keep buying United tix under the circumstances.

  12. czechbob

    March 26, 2020 at 9:20 am


    If you come to my restaurant and order a meal and I
    Do not serve you. Is it OK for me to charge you?
    Surely you are not 86. You must be very young.

  13. Firstboss

    March 26, 2020 at 9:33 am

    The blame is completely misplaced. Air France hasn’t cancelled the flights – the governments prohibited travel across their borders.

    The main character in that story should be worried about his/her place in the global economy under emotional mismanagement with 60% unemployment.

    As for the voucher, the question is whether there will be Air France in existence to use that voucher.

  14. k374

    April 2, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    the problem is that those vouchers are not worth the paper they are printed on, expiration dates, blackout dates etc. the list goes on. The airlines want their cake and eat it too. If they want passengers to accept a voucher they need to sweeten the deal to account for the huge inconvenience and risk the passenger is taking by accepting the voucher in the first place. I would accept a voucher only if it was more generous than my original ticket (valid for any domestic or international flight based on the original ticket), did not have any expiration dates (valid indefinitely like a gift card) and did not have any blackout dates.

  15. ftoader

    April 21, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    I made a reservation on Delta’s web site for JFK to CDG to OTP and back, all are on Air France metal for May 8-17. Now the AF flights were all cancelled and my reservation is not visible on Delta’s web site any longer. But I did not get any voucher or credit or even an email to say anything about it. I can pull up my reservation in Delta site only if I manually enter reservation number and name. And it says there was a change in all my flights. Not sure how long to wait before contacting Delta and asking about my refund.

  16. Brostman

    April 21, 2020 at 8:57 pm

    To all who are waiting on the airlines for refunds on cancelled flights…. Do not wait for the airlines…. call customer service and unequivocally request a refund… when the agent tells you the only option is future flight credit (FFC) or an electronic travel credit (ETC) are the two options…. be very straightforward and tell them that is not true, that DOT issued directive that in event of cancelled or significantly delayed flight (meaning departure or arrival times have changed by more than 6 hours) the airline must provide refund in the form of original payment if the customer so requests….. if they still do not honor your request, politely inform them that your only recourse is to file a complaint with the DOT (easy to do on DOT’s website) and will initiate a chargeback request with you credit card company…. but then you have to follow through on both paths of recourse… in the end you will get your refund

    Also be very careful about reading the updated voluntary cancellation policy for your specific airlines… they are fluid so be sure to always recheck them…. in some cases you have a cut-off of April 30 to cancel flights now for flights between June 1 and Dec 31 of this year if you want to have the choice of FFC or ETC

  17. fotographer

    April 22, 2020 at 3:48 am

    its your money… if airlines do not provide the service.. money back..
    those here that are saying.. no cash but vouchers… grow up

  18. flpab


    April 22, 2020 at 7:23 am

    Virgin Atlantic is still showing my May flight as being on time. Waiting it out.

  19. allenaustralia

    April 23, 2020 at 4:52 am

    If you pay for something and the service/product not delivered you should automatically receive a refund. What is wrong with people saying otherwise.

  20. bluemarble

    April 23, 2020 at 6:15 am

    The problem with all of this is that if the carrier goes bankrupt, the voucher likely has a 0 value.

    True “flag” carriers, like Air France / KLM, or Lufthansa, or British Airways, are likely to be “saved” one way or another, even if the equity of current shareholders is wiped out. The most likely method will be stock issues, subscribed by governments at bargain basement prices, with the government winding up as a majority stakeholder, and then selling off its share in two years when people are flying again.

    So, if your voucher is with one of those, it will probably be useable.

    If your voucher is with a “big 3” American carrier, the question is whether or not they will be considered “too big to fail.” Because fail they will, unless the taxpayers bail them out…

    Bottom line: get cash if you can. But, as several commentators remarked, the cash boxes of the smaller carriers are empty, and the bigger ones may make you sue for it… The name of the game right now is “conserve cash.”

  21. chadbag

    April 23, 2020 at 8:07 am

    Yeah I have a flight on Air France on June 3. Waiting it out as I have no use for a voucher. This was a one-time special event trip. They claim their voucher can also be used on Delta, but except for a trip to Japan I hope we can do at Christmas, we won’t be doing much travel for a while. And I don’t really want to fly Delta to Japan. Flying ANA or JAL or Singapore is much nicer and can be done on a code-share when United or AA (for the first two) have a sale.

  22. FlyNFoole

    April 29, 2020 at 6:06 am

    I have had success contacting airlines in Europe through Facebook Messenger and firmly requesting a refund. They offered to rebook me, then offered a voucher, but I politely requested a full refund while mentioning EU Commission Article 5 (which mandates refunds regardless of the cause). Result: CC credited with full amounts within 7 days. Good luck!

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