You CAN Get A Refund Even If You Already Accepted A Voucher For A Cancelled Flight

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary, does this apply to tickets bought through an online OTA? I bought some Air France tickets on Travelocity. Travelocity notified me that the flights were cancelled and I will be getting an “Airline credit”. I have not received the credit yet, but I assume it is an e-voucher from Air France. Separately, I bought a ticket from Air France directly and was able to select refund on their website when they cancelled it.

  2. Yes, a friend told DL which issued him a voucher by default that he wanted a refund instead. Had to invoke DOT ruling when talked to a supervisor but like magic, supervisor immediately issued refund.

    The problems not getting any helps are for those flights not touching US soil. EU261 has become a joke because the governments of EU members are asking EU to suspend the consumer protection regulations. Short of dispute with credit card issuers, those of us who have intra-EU flights canceled are totally out of luck because the vouchers are completely worthless for most US-based travelers, not to mention a major percentage of those flights are truly One-Off travel plans that likely would not be repeated in the future.

    If you know of any mechanisms that would help the above situation, you would be doing a great service to your readers.

  3. Thanks for highlighting this, Gary. It’s definitely important for readers to know their rights.

    I indeed mentioned the instance you describe above briefly at the end of my post, but could’ve made it clearer: “When an airline cancels your flight, they may end up proactively giving you a voucher for the value of your ticket. But armed with your rights, you know that you can get a refund, regardless of what the airline says.”

    Nonetheless, appreciate the callout and clarification!

  4. One issue with this is that, I was told by AA Vacations (and I assume that AA would have the same rule) that initiating a chargeback will result in them blacklisting that card. It may not matter for some and it may matter for others. Not sure if they actually do this (or if it’s even documented policy), but they are certainly capable of doing this.

    Cheers.

  5. What about when one used Chase Ultimate Reward points? How can get a refund of my points back?

  6. Hey Gary,
    How about an Avios booking when they were only allowing vouchers instead of redepositing the Avios? I am fighting with them currently to even get the voucher as they are trying to deny it. I did the workaround and received my Avios back for one flight, however the other one is still in limbo. Twitter team told me to pound salt so I have filed a formal complaint on BA.com.

  7. what if its done via say Chase Ultimate Rewards Points?

    My situation, flight to LIS from DFW early July. Outbound is cancelled. Inbound has yet to cancel. Its on Air France metal with confirmation both with Delta and AirFrance paid for by UR points. Outbound cancelled and got email from Air France for credit/refund. Can I cancel the whole thing? Both Delta and Air France Covid page states nothing about refund. Only voucher. Would you wait longer to see if the return is cancelled too?

  8. I had three avios reward flights in Europe for this summer. I cancelled them last week, and was immediately refunded all the avios (but not the cash payments for each flight, though that wasn’t much). So it must be who you talk to!

  9. DL cancelled my AUS-AMS F R/T flights over six weeks ago. I still have not received a credit on my DL AmEX card. Hey Delta . . . What’s with that. I paid when I made the reservation and y’all collected the revenue then. Now it’s time to pay up!

  10. Have been waiting 20+ days for promised UNITED “refund” to return to card post cancellation. Will take another billing cycle when its sent over to my card. And, yes mentioned DOT regs to get refund option. (My AA refund went thru in 8 days. Nice that AA has online site to check progress. Only method w UA is to call & hold while agent calls refunds – painfully slow and doesn’t yield valid update).

  11. Thanks for bringing up this important point, Gary. Indeed I mentioned it briefly in my post, but should’ve expanded upon it: “When an airline cancels your flight, they may end up proactively giving you a voucher for the value of your ticket. But armed with your rights, you know that you can get a refund, regardless of what the airline says.”

  12. What if only 1 leg of a RT was cancelled? Do you call Delta and ask for refund for the whole trip? Is that possible? Or do you have to wait for the return to cancel too before callling?

  13. I purchased 2 tickets to the Cook Islands (direct from LAX) on Air New Zealand in January. I waited until they canceled my May 2 flight in April. I was offered credit on another flight for 12 months but submitted an online request for a full refund. Is ANZ governed by our DOT rules? I’m concerned about getting a refund. Suggestions? Thank you.

  14. Brodie,

    I was able to get Avios back after accepting a voucher but it was late March. Not sure if it has changed since then.

  15. Gary Leff
    I cancelled my 5/28/20 flight and was refused refund by Aer Lingus. I requested voucher on 4/22 but have not received it. So I can request refund(again) from Aer Lingus? Should I wait till 5/29/20 to do so ?

  16. delta cancelled our flight to Key West in the middle of March told we would get a refund but still waiting called DD line told need to wait longer???

  17. I have flights to New Orleans in July for a conference that was just cancelled. United hasn’t cancelled the flights yet but they did renumber one of them from 626 to 696, the latter leaving only two minutes later. Is that just cosmetic or is that considered a “cancellation”. Interestingly, I received no notification of the flight number change but if I log into United it shows the flight with the new number.

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