Early on in the pandemic I told you to wait to cancel your travel plans. Two months ago I suggested that future plans shouldn’t cancelled right away because if the travel provider cancels on you then you’ll be entitled to a refund, while if you cancel plans when a flight is still operating all you can get is a voucher.
That’s basic, good advice and it holds especially as airlines continue to make changes to their schedule. United still flouts DOT rules but for the most part if your flight cancels you are entitled to a refund, if you cancel you get a voucher.
If the airline cancels they still prefer that you take a voucher and some airlines will offer you a voucher for a greater amount than the refund that is due to you in order to get you to choose that option.
Zach Griff has been doing a nice job lately quickly identifying and highlighting changes that airlines are making to their policies over at The Points Guy (for instance this, this, this and this). However when he answers “Can you get a refund after you accepted a voucher?” I think he misses an important nuance.
- Everything he says is correct, including airlines cancelling flights at the last minute, re-emphasizing the importance of waiting to cancel until close to departure in case your flights cancel and you’re positioned for a refund not merely a voucher.
- But while it’s normally the case that once you select a voucher for a flight you had booked you cannot get a refund later there is absolutely a scenario where you can get a refund for a flight even after you’ve chosen a voucher. And it’s important because a lot of people got swindled into taking vouchers, and it’s not too late for them.
If an airline got you to take a voucher rather than a refund for a flight they cancelled by not offering the refund, telling you a refund wasn’t available, or making it difficult to get a refund then you can change from a voucher to a refund.
The Department of Transportation is clear on this and has given airlines specific direction that if they want to avoid fines for their refund misdeeds, they need to let customers make this switch. In fact they’re supposed to proactively reach out to customers to offer them this, though I haven’t heard of an instance where this happened.
Specifically DOT directed that airlines avoid fines to the extent that “the carrier contacts, in a timely manner, the passengers provided vouchers for flights that the carrier cancelled or significantly delayed to notify those passengers that they have the option of a refund.”
If you accepted a voucher for a cancelled flight because that’s what your airline told you was available, contact them and ask for a refund. When they deny your request, complain to the Department of Transportation and consider a credit card chargeback.