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Cancellation Policies of Major US Airlines & Online Travel Agencies

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Cancellation Policies of Major US Airlines & Online Travel Agencies

Million Mile SecretsCancellation Policies of Major US Airlines & Online Travel AgenciesMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Miles and points enthusiasts are usually meticulous in planning their travels, but sometimes life gets in the way and we have to change our plans or cancel altogether.

Or other times folks might jump on a low or mistake fare and realize afterwards that it doesn’t work for their schedule.

If you need to change your plans, airlines and online travel agencies (OTAs) like Orbitz, Expedia, and Priceline all have different cancellation policies.  And with airlines, fare rules can be rather complicated.   So here’s a rundown of what to expect when you cancel a ticket!

Cancellation Policies Of Major US Airlines And Online Travel Agencies
Changing or Cancelling a Ticket? Do You Know Your Airline’s Policy?

Airline Cancellation Policies

Jump to:  Alaska Airlines  |  American Airlines  |  Delta  |  Southwest  |  United Airlines  |  Expedia  |  Orbitz  |  Priceline

Generally speaking, airlines may refund you for a cancelled ticket, depending on the fare paid.  Most low fares, regardless of the class of service, are completely non-refundable.

And policies vary on award tickets, too.  Very few award tickets are completely refundable (you’ll get all of your miles or points back with no fee), while other airlines charge penalties to return miles to your account.

1.   Alaska Airlines

Link:   Alaska Airlines Refunds

Link:   Alaska Airlines Award Ticket Refunds

a)   Paid Tickets

If you cancel a paid ticket within 24 hours of booking, you’ll get a full refund.  There are no fees.

After 24 hours, a fully-refundable ticket can be refunded to your original form of payment.  For non-refundable tickets, you’ll get a credit that can be used towards a new ticket (you’re responsible for any difference in fare).  But you’ll pay a change fee if you cancel less than 60 days prior to departure.  The fee paid depends on class of service and elite status (if any) of the passenger.

Passengers with MVP Gold elite status or higher won’t pay a change fee.

Cancellation Policies Of Major US Airlines And Online Travel Agencies
Alaska Doesn’t Have Change or Cancel Fees Until 60 Days Prior to Departure
b)   Award Tickets

Alaska will let you cancel an award ticket and redeposit the miles back to your account.  If you cancel more than 60 days prior to departure, there is no fee.  Within 60 days, you’ll pay $125 to get your miles back, unless you’re MVP Gold elite or better.

You can’t get a refund on the $15 telephone booking fee, or $25 partner award fee.  And if you’ve booked an award ticket through Money & Miles, it’s treated like a discounted paid ticket.  So the policies of the purchased fare apply.

2.   American Airlines

Link:   American Airlines Refunds

Link:   American Airlines Award Ticket Refunds

a)   Paid Tickets

You can hold a reservation on American Airlines for up to 24 hours and get a full refund if you change your mind.  But after 24 hours, you’ll lose all or part of your ticket depending on the fare paid.

Non-refundable tickets are just that – you generally can’t get a refund unless there are extenuating circumstances, like illness or death of a family member or traveling companion.  In that case, you’ll have to provide documentation of the illness or death.

If you’ve bought a refundable (expensive) ticket, you can get a full refund (minus a cancellation penalty, depending on the fare paid) for an unused round-trip ticket up to 1 year from the date of issue of the ticket.

For a partially used ticket, you can get a refund for the unused portion of the ticket, minus any cancellation fees that apply to the fare.  The 1 year rule also applies.

Cancellation Policies Of Major US Airlines And Online Travel Agencies
You Can Get Your Money Back on Refundable American Airlines Tickets, but There Might Be a Fee

If you want to change your ticket to a different date, you’ll pay the difference in fare.  The ticket must be re-issued within 1 year of the original date of issue.

b)   Award Tickets

If you need to cancel an award ticket, you can get your miles back if you pay a $150 fee, as long as the ticket hasn’t expired.  If you need to cancel more than 1 award ticket and return the miles to the same account, you’ll pay an additional $25 per ticket.

If you’ve used part of the ticket and have to cancel your return leg, you can’t get your miles back at all.

And you’ll pay between $75 and $150 to change your award ticket, depending on how close you are to your date of travel.  American Airlines Executive Platinum elite flyers don’t have to pay the fee.

However, if only your dates of travel are changing (with the same routing), you won’t be charged a fee, unless the change results in a departure date within 21 days.  Then you’ll have to pay $75.

3.   Delta

Link:  Delta Refunds

Link:  Delta Award Ticket Refunds

a)   Paid Tickets

If you cancel a paid e-ticket with Delta by midnight on the day after you bought your ticket, you’ll get a full refund.  This only applies to tickets bought directly through Delta and only for flights originating in the US, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Cancellation Policies Of Major US Airlines And Online Travel Agencies
Change Your Mind on Delta? You Have Until Midnight the Day After Booking to Get a Full Refund

If you have a refundable ticket, you can cancel and get your money back, but you may pay a fee depending on the fare rules on your ticket.

All refund requests are subject to the rules of ticketed fare, and fees or penalties may apply to your refund. Your itinerary will be CANCELLED at the time the refund is processed.

For a non-refundable ticket, you can apply the value of the ticket to another flight.  You’ll pay change fees and any difference in fare.  For domestic tickets, the ticket must be reissued and travel completed within 1 year of the original ticket issue date.  International tickets have the same rule, but travel must begin (not be completed) within a year of the original ticket issue date.

Like other airlines, Delta will make exceptions in the event of passenger, traveling companion, or family member death.

b)   Award Tickets

If you cancel a Delta award ticket, you’ll be charged $150 to have the miles redeposited to your account.  Diamond and Platinum Medallion elite members don’t have to pay a fee.  And you must cancel at least 72 hours prior to departure, or you’ll lose your miles altogether.

You can change an award ticket up to 72 hours prior to travel, but you’ll have to pay taxes and fees on the new ticket and pay a $150 fee (also waived for Diamond and Platinum Medallion elite flyers.)

4.   Southwest

Link:   Southwest Refunds

Link:   Southwest Award Ticket Refunds

a)   Paid Tickets

Paid Southwest tickets can be cancelled within 24 hours of booking for a full refund.

Refundable (Business Select and Anytime) fares can be fully refunded within 1 year of the date of issue.  Or you can apply the value towards another ticket.  There are no fees.  But you have to cancel within 10 minutes of departure, or you’ll lose the value of the ticket.

Cancellation Policies Of Major US Airlines And Online Travel Agencies
Need to Cancel a Southwest Flight? You Won’t Pay ANY Fees!

Non-refundable tickets (like Wanna Get Away fares) can be cancelled without a fee, as long as you cancel at least 10 minutes prior to departure.  The value of the ticket can be used towards another ticket within 1 year of the original ticket’s date of issue.

b)   Award Tickets

You can change or cancel an award ticket without a fee.  The points will be immediately returned to your account.

If you fail to cancel but don’t fly on the ticket, Southwest will redeposit your points within 3 to 4 days after the date of the last flight in your reservation.

Southwest really does have the best change and cancel policy! 

5.   United Airlines

Link:   United Airlines Refunds

Link:   United Airlines Award Ticket Refunds

a)   Paid Tickets

You can cancel a ticket and get a full refund within 24 hours of purchasing your ticket.  That’s great for folks who like to jump on low fares but realize later that they can’t travel on the dates they’ve purchased.

Most United Airlines tickets are non-refundable.  You can get your money back on a refundable fare, but there might be cancellation fees based on the rules of the ticket you purchased.  Depending on the ticket, you might be able to apply the fare paid to a new ticket, but you’ll have to pay a fee.

United Airlines says:

The refund amount you will receive depends on several variables.  For example, if the ticket has both refundable and non-refundable fares included, each fare will be considered individually.  Tickets that are partially traveled will be calculated at a prorated amount based on the rules of the ticket purchased and segments flown.  Fees and surcharges collected in conjunction with the ticket will only be refunded if applicable.

It’s complicated and vague!  And you might be able to apply the value of a non-refundable ticket to a new ticket, but you’ll pay a penalty.

Most fares are non-refundable, and are not eligible for voluntary refunds.  However, the value of your ticket may be eligible to be applied toward the price of a new ticket for a fee.

b)   Award Tickets

You can get your miles reinstated to your United Airlines account when you cancel an award ticket, but you’ll usually pay a fee.  Depending on your elite status, you’ll pay between $75 and $200 to have miles returned to your account (unless you’re a Global Services, Premier 1K, or Premier Platinum elite member, in which case you won’t pay anything.)

Cancellation Policies Of Major US Airlines And Online Travel Agencies
You’ll Pay Fees to Cancel Award Tickets on United Airlines, Unless You’re a Top-Tier Elite Member

You can cancel your award ticket within 1 year of the date of issue and get the miles back, as long as you pay the applicable fee.

Online Travel Agency (OTA) Cancellation Policies

If you book a paid ticket through an Online Travel Agency, you may be able to cancel your ticket and get a refund or apply the value of the ticket towards future travel.

Bear in mind that even though you’ve purchased a ticket through an Online Travel Agency, your ticket will still be subject to the fare rules, cancellation policies, and fees from the airline you’re traveling.

1.   Orbitz

Link:   Orbitz Cancellation Policy

Link:   Step-By-Step Guide to Cancelling a Flight on Orbitz

Orbitz will let you cancel most tickets within a short time after booking (depending on the airline).  You’ll get a refund for the ticket, but not the Orbitz service fee.

Cancellation Policies Of Major US Airlines And Online Travel Agencies
You MAY Be Able to Cancel Your Ticket on Orbitz, but It Depends on the Airline and Fare You Booked

If you’ve bought a fully refundable ticket, you can get a refund but it has to be processed through Orbitz.  It can take up to 45 days for the refund to be posted to your credit or debit card.

Non-refundable tickets may be applied towards future travel, but you’ll have to pay the difference in fare, plus any fees charged by the airline and a $30 Orbitz change fee.  You’ll need to check the fare rules on your ticket to determine if you can cancel and use the funds towards another flight.

2.   Expedia

Link:   Expedia Cancellation Policy

Expedia’s policies are similar to Orbitz.  Depending on the airline, you may have until midnight the day after booking to cancel and get a full refund.  There’s no cancellation fee.

Cancellation Policies Of Major US Airlines And Online Travel Agencies
Expedia Doesn’t Charge Change or Cancellation Fees…but the Airline You Booked With Might

Fully refundable tickets can be refunded, but you’ll have to cancel through Expedia.

Funds from non-refundable tickets might be applicable towards future travel, but again you’ll pay the difference in fare and any fees imposed by the airline.  Expedia does not charge change or cancel fees for any type of ticket.

3.   Priceline

Link:   Priceline Cancellation Policy

You can cancel a Priceline ticket within 24 hours of booking and get a full refund with no cancellation fees.  You have to call before 11:30 pm Eastern Standard Time and at least 1 hour prior to departure or check-in.  However, Air India, JetBlue, and Spirit Airlines are not included.

And tickets purchased with the Name Your Own Price® program (where you don’t know the full itinerary until after you book) do NOT get a refund and you can’t change the ticket regardless of how soon you cancel.

Cancellation Policies Of Major US Airlines And Online Travel Agencies
Don’t Negotiate a Name Your Own Price® Fare Unless You’re Absolutely Sure You’ll Travel…They Can’t Be Changed or Refunded

Fully refundable and non-refundable tickets can be refunded or changed based on the airline’s fare rules for the ticket.  As with other OTA’s, you’ll have to pay the difference in fare, any fees charged by the airline, and a $30 (per ticket) Priceline service fee.

Bottom Line

If your plans change and you need to cancel or change a paid or award airline ticket, you’ll have to look closely at the policies of the specific airline or online travel agency you booked with.

Generally, you can get a refund on fully refundable tickets (but may pay a fee).  Non-refundable tickets can sometimes have their value applied to future travel, but you’ll always pay a difference in fare and airline change fee (except on Southwest, which doesn’t have change fees).

Online travel agencies have similar policies, and will defer to the airline’s fare rules and fees.  Orbitz and Priceline add change fees, but Expedia doesn’t.

Have you had to change or cancel a ticket?  What was your experience?

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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I booked my May 3rd flights in January, my wife has a lung disease with immune deficiencies, so I did take out the insurance, just in case. The doctor told us we can’t fly now do to the virus. I went to Frontier and tried to cancel, they said I had to go to Priceline, since I purchased the tickets thru PriceLine. I was on hold for 2 hrs 47 minutes before I hung up. I don’t know what to do. We can’t afford to travel much. If anyone can help, I am open to suggestions. Thank You

I had a reservation for Monday March 16, 2020 at the LaQuinta north for 1 night. Tried to cancel Friday March 13 & was told by website your only working w/customers win 72 hrs of arrival. Well I was in that window and tried to send email but no response back. I’m very disappointed that you didn’t have a better plan in place to assist customers. I’m a 5 yr Delta employee and my friends and family travel all over the world often on a dime at least 10 to 20 times a year. I will be sure to spread the word that Priceline doesn’t have the compassion or the decency to help assist with cancellations especially within a 72 hour notice on the hotel cancellation. I was going for a job promotion interview at Delta Airlines at world headquarters and it got canceled due to the coronavirus. We work with your customers Daily at Delta Reservations helping assist them with there rebooking of a flight. We’ll charge a $50 3rd party fee for Delta to take over the ticket from you Priceline. And here I have a $109.00 hotel that you could refund in any way due to something beyond my control. Priceline needs to rethink their customer Cancellation policy. The whole world is suffering from the coronavirus and you have a chance to make it right with your customers. I hope you rethink what your company is doing otherwise you’re gonna lose a lot of business good luck. From a very disgruntled customer.

Curtis waterman

Our Scandinavian flight (oawobp) has had a travel ban to Ireland. I would prefer a tickets voucher or since I paid the insurance a refund of ticket cost.

Thank you,

Curtis Waterman

Does anyone know how to cancel your flight because of all the corona viris stuff going on?

My flight leaves Wed out of chicago

Good luck

Priceline doesn’t respond to any questions. If you booked through a third-party and you have a nonrefundable price line does not care even if it’s beyond your control or not

I have been calling the customer service line since my 72hr of cancellation time and all I have been getting is the dam answering machine, I even call early and still get the same answering machine. It seem like price line is not helping people change there flights like the policy suggest.

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