The first thing to know is that the US Department of Transportation mandates that regardless of airline, all customers have 24 hours from the time of their original booking to cancel their reservation without being charged a cancellation fee if:
- You are flying to or from the US.
- You booked with the airline directly
- You booked seven days ahead of your departure date
After the 24-hour-window, cancellation policies vary by airline. For basic economy, or non-refundable tickets, here are how different they look across airlines:
Most flexible airlines for cancellations
Delta Air Lines Cancellation Policy
- For travel booked through December 31, 2021, while Basic Economy tickets are normally non-changeable, you can adjust your flight without a fee.
- If you cancel your flight, you will receive an e-credit.
- For tickets for travel in 2022, flights remain non-refundable and non-changeable.
- Call Delta Cancellations
- If you cancel a non-refundable ticket, the value of the ticket becomes a travel fund (store credit) that you can use to buy a future flight.
- If you don’t cancel at least 10 minutes before your flight time, you are no longer eligible to receive credit.
- Change and cancel fees are waived on Blue Basic bookings made Aug 25-Oct 31 2021 and prior to Jun 7, 2021.
- Blue Basic fares booked Jun 8-Aug 24 2021 are subject to a change fee of $100 for travel within the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America, or $200 for all other routes.
Least flexible airlines for cancellations
United Airlines Cancellation Policy
If you cancel a Basic Economy ticket after the 24-hour window, you do not pay a cancellation fee, but you also don’t get your money back. Call United Cancellation
American Airlines Cancellations policy
Basic Economy fares bought on or after April 1, 2021, are non-refundable and non-changeable. Call American Airlines Cancellation
Spirit Airlines Cancellations policy
For all ticket types, changes can be made up to an hour before departure.
Naveen Dittakavi, founder and CEO of Next Vacay comments: “Now more than ever, travelers are looking for more flexibility when booking flights. We found there was a staggering 400% increase in searches for cancellable flights and refundable tickets. Here are some things to look out for when canceling your flight. If your travel plans aren’t rock-solid make sure to book a refundable ticket. These tickets are at a higher price point but are a good option if you’re uncertain about your travel plans. Most airlines have their version of a ‘basic economy ticket, which usually doesn’t offer much flexibility in terms of canceling or changing a flight.”
Travel insurance can cover costs if you need to cancel your trip. However, these are usually under very specific circumstances such as illness or injury. Make sure you read the fine print on what’s included on your travel insurance when you buy it.” Call Spirit Cancellation
5 Tips For Dealing With a Trip Cancellation
Understand the covered reasons for canceling a trip.
People who buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation benefits sometimes assume that it’s “cancel for any reason” insurance — they think they can call off a trip for any reason and get their money back. That’s not how trip cancellation benefits work, however. Don’t cancel your trip before finding out if your lost expenses will be covered by your travel insurance!
- Make sure you meet the stated requirements for trip cancellation.: On the morning of your planned departure for Costa Rica, you wake up with chills, nausea, and a fever. You’re feeling so terrible that you decide to cancel the trip. You’ll get your money back — right?
- Do your best to reschedule cancelled flights.: Sometimes, a trip starts off on the wrong foot when bad weather or some other emergency delays your departure. If your flight is canceled, or you’re otherwise delayed, don’t give up on your trip right away! You need to make all reasonable efforts to start, catch up to, or continue your journey.
- Our 24-hour hotline assistance team may be able to help you find an alternate way to get to your destination. Your trip cancellation benefits can even reimburse you for the reasonable cost of the alternate transportation, less available refunds, as well as the cost of any lost prepaid accommodations caused by your delayed arrival (less available refunds).
- Remember that travel insurance can help if your travel companion has to cancel.: What if you’ve planned a week-long cruise with your sister, and she’s the one who gets seriously ill the morning of your departure? The illness of a traveling companion can be a covered reason for trip cancellation (subject to the same requirements, as described in your policy). However, you don’t have to cancel your trip! If your sister stays home, trip cancellation benefits can reimburse you for extra accommodation fees the cruise line might charge (such as a single supplement fee) if you prepaid for a shared cabin.
- Document everything.: To file a trip cancellation claim, you’ll need to submit documentation that shows why your trip was cancelled and the total amount you need to be reimbursed. Save every email and piece of paper related to your trip, including:
- Receipts and itemized bills for all expenses.
- Original of any refunds or expense allowances received from your tour operator, travel agency, travel supplier, resort, property management company or other entity.
- A copy of your resort invoice/vacation rental contract or confirmation.
- Any appropriate documentation that officially explains the cause of your trip cancellation or interruption.
- Any explanation of medical diagnosis along with your original itemized bills, receipts and proof of other insurance payments.
- Original unused tickets, copies of invoices, proof of payments and other documents that substantiate the cost or occurrence of the trip cancellation or interruption.
- Documentation of refunds received.
- A copy of the supplier’s literature that describes penalties.
- A letter from the tour operator or an itemized bill from the travel agent stating the non-refundable amounts of the trip costs.