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How to Get a Cash Refund, Even If You Already Accepted a Voucher (In Most Cases)

As airlines navigate the unfamiliar territory of mass flight cancellations during the pandemic, they’ve relied heavily on vouchers. But, as we’ve recommended, it’s better to let the airline cancel your flight first, then request (or demand) a cash refund via email or phone. But what if you’ve already accepted (or were automatically credited) a flight voucher because hold times made it virtually impossible to connect to a human being?

Related: Wait Before Canceling Your Flight


If the Airline Has Canceled Your Flight, You Can Get a Refund

While airlines have been pushing for vouchers, governing bodies have stepped in to make it clear that passengers are entitled to cash refunds when airlines cancel their flights, even if they’ve already accepted a voucher.
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.”

In the public enforcement notice, the DOT has specifically told airlines to contact customers who have been given vouchers for canceled flights to let them know that they have the option for a refund in order to avoid penalty.

How Do I Get My Voucher?

If the airline canceled your flight and you were given a voucher, reach out to the airline and tell them that you would like a cash refund instead of a voucher. However, even though the Department of Transportation has been clear in its position, several people have reported encountering less than helpful agents.

The best way to ensure that they comply is to use the term “original form of payment” in your request. E.g. “American has canceled my flight, and I’d like to have the ticket refunded to the original form of payment.”

They should comply within 7 days. If they do not, you have a few options:

  • hang up and call again. Not all agents are as helpful as others. Before escalating the issue, it’s a good idea to reach out again. If that does not work…
  • Tweet the airline to bring attention to the issue
  • initiate a chargeback with your credit card issuer
  • File a complaint with the Department of Transportation (and let the airline know that you are doing so)

And, if you have reached out to request cash instead of a voucher from a US airline, please let us know the outcome in the comments section.

If You Have Canceled Your Flight, Getting a Refund is More Difficult

If you didn’t wait for the airline to cancel your flight, canceled yourself and then accepted a voucher, you’ve locked yourself out of the cash refund option. In most cases.

However, now that the DOT has publicly ordered airlines to give out cash refunds for flights that they’ve canceled, you may have more standing to argue for cash instead.

A Few Slim Chances for a Quick Cash Refund

We have heard anecdotal evidence of some who called the airline shortly after receiving their vouchers and were able to negotiate a cash refund instead.

If you’ve passed the “shortly after” mark, it can’t hurt to request a refund in writing, via email. It should say something to the effect of “I couldn’t get through to/didn’t want to bother the call center handling emergency changes/the website made it difficult to get a cash refund so I accepted the voucher. However, if possible, I would like to request a cash refund instead.”

They may say “no,” but requesting now on the heels of recent news may be your best chance of getting a reversal.

If you’ve agreed to a voucher but haven’t received one yet, (these are complicated, busy times for airlines), some have reported success with requesting a cash refund in writing and receiving it that way.

The Long Game

Most of the vouchers given by the airlines are valid for one year. At the end of that year, provided that that particular airline is still operating/operating under the same name, you can request a cash refund from most airlines.



VaguelyAsian April 28, 2020

@pabloblanco most likely, yes. if yu purchased on one itinerary, chat with their reps to see if they will refund

Pabloblanco April 8, 2020

I canceled my flight to Moscow and got a voucher, the return flight from Moscow was canceled. Am I eligible for a refund?

DoctorWill April 8, 2020

While many of us would like to see the airlines face some new requirements in exchange for a bailout, it seems they are trying to get out from under the requirements they already face...specifically, the requirement to give a refund. If you want one, it's probably best to request it sooner rather than later, just in case the US government caves on this. https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/07/829091394/airlines-want-to-cancel-rule-requiring-them-to-refund-fares-for-canceled-flights I might feel more sorry for them if the Big 4 in the US hadn't spent nearly $40B on stock buybacks in the last five years.

vector April 7, 2020

A few days ago, Delta cancelled my LGA DEN flight that was scheduled for later this week. Used a citicard for the transaction. Went to citicard website today and disputed the charge and got an almost instant email stating "Dispute has been resolved" "you'll see the credit in the next two business days". One down, five to go!

askmrlee April 7, 2020

Delta canceled my domestic flight this past weekend auto rebooking to a flight 7 hours later. Online I proceeded to NOT check-in for the new flight but found their Refund and Cancel form which is hidden but available during the rebooking process. Below is the link presented during the rebooking process I used this to request a refund clearly stating that Delta canceled my original flight and I wanted a cash refund. https://www.delta.com/contactus/iropForm