A trick to get your money back from airlines that canceled your flight
A trick to get your money back from airlines that canceled your flight

What a week, eh? Every morning, I wake up thinking this must be a nightmare but I’m confident we will get through it. My family and I are doing our part to flatten the curve by not going out except when we absolutely need to and we’re staying well away from our neighbors when we do our daily walk around our neighborhood. Like I said last week, I’m actually enjoying the mandatory quarantine since I’m home with my family and we’re all healthy. It’s a nice change of pace to be home instead of always rushing through airports.

My dad
What really sucks, besides having over a dozen friends and family getting really sick, including the priest at our church, is not being able to see my dad. He’s 91 and pretty much on lockdown in South Florida. Fortunately, he knows how to FaceTime so we call him multiple times a day because he’s awfully lonely as he can barely see and hear.

Check in on seniors
That’s why this week, I made a number of calls to seniors on behalf of our church to see if they needed any groceries, medicine or help during these crazy times. Cold calling brought me back to my first job, which was as a college recruiter for Marymount College Palos Verdes, when I used to call prospective students and answer any questions or arrange a campus tour. Although calling was nerve-wracking at first, they all went well and the seniors were very appreciative. Fortunately, none of them needed any help because their neighbors and family members are taking care of them. I even learned a lot, like about the mom & pop fruit and vegetable shops I never knew about. Also, many stores offer senior citizen hours before they open like Trader Joe’s. If you have any senior neighbors, please reach out to them or volunteer at a local church or organization. No doubt these are the worst of times but can be the best of times if we all look out for each other.

Stay home
I don’t think anyone should be traveling right now unless you absolutely must. But I’ve never seen airfares this low in some markets like Los Angeles to Miami, a route I often take. On top of that, the planes are going out pretty much empty (I mean just a handful of people on some flights).

A trick to get your money back from airlines that canceled your flightL.A. to Miami $20 each way
You can fly tomorrow or in May for—get this—$20 each way on an American Airlines jet (see screenshot above) between LAX-MIA. This month, they’re still using a wide-body 777 on one of the flights and if you have elite status and pay the main cabin fare $55 each way, it’s pretty much guaranteed to get upgraded to a lie-flat bed. However, if you do get upgraded, especially on a narrow body, you should consider passing it up and going back to economy if there are a lot fewer people. I’m reading stories/tweets about how some airlines are upgrading a lot of standby employees and the back of the plane is empty so consider passing on the upgrade so you’re around a lot fewer people.

Bring food and snacks
If you are traveling, bring food and snacks because many airlines (including American) have eliminated both. Here’s a story about that.

Why now is the best time to buy
I recently wrote about how this is the best time to buy plane tickets for the summer because flights are so cheap and the restrictions are really loose. Read about it here.

Don’t use miles/points if flights are cheap
If you are flying, this is definitely not the time to be using your miles/points as most airfares are so cheap. The screenshot below is of AA’s cost to use miles on the same cheap flights above.

The one trick to get your money back from airlines that canceled your flight
The most common question I’ve been receiving from readers is that X airlines will not refund their money even when the airline cancels their flight. That’s crazy and flat-out illegal in the United States. According to many, as you’ll see in the stories below, United has been the worst.

If United or any other airline cancels your flight (if they haven’t canceled it, then wait and see if they do, but make sure you cancel at least 10 minutes prior to takeoff) and tries to give you a credit and refuses to give you a refund, ask to speak to a supervisor and read them this line from the DOT:

“If your flight is cancelled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”

If the representative still won’t budge, hang up and call your credit card company, as long as you purchased your flight in the last 60 days. As Joe Brancatelli, a veteran business travel expert, tweeted yesterday: “You can write about nasty airlines not doing cancellation refunds, but if you want to help readers/viewers, tell them IN BIG LETTERS: Credit cards WILL process refunds. Airline rules and DOT boilerplate are irrelevant now. Tell them to go FIRST to their card and contest charge.”

More tips on getting your money back from airlines from USA Today:

  1. “Keep pressing your case with airline representatives, over the phone (late night is best for lower call volume) or via social media, and cite the DOT policies. Be polite and respectful, not angry and rude. Customer service representatives have been overwhelmed by the crisis.
  2. Document everything. Provide dates, times, flight numbers and reservation numbers, McGee said. And always record names, titles, times and dates of all in-person and phone conversations. The more information, the stronger the case, he said.
  3. File a complaint with the airline and copy the DOT and the EU if applicable.
  4. Contact your credit card company for potential help.”

Lastly, below is an article we wrote for SmarterTravel.com: Where to Donate Some of Your Travel Budget to Help Others



Have your own tip? Email it to whitney@johnnyjet.com!
Want to see more tips? Click here for all 1,675!

Want even more travel tips? Sign up here for the Daily Travel Tip newsletter! Enter your email address and check “Daily Travel Tip” to receive Johnny’s best tips in your inbox each day!

If you already subscribe to our weekly newsletter, you can sign up on the same page. Just fill in your email and check “Daily Travel Tip” on the same page. You’ll receive an email with a link to update your JohnnyJet.com preferences. On that page, just click the Daily Travel Tip box and Update Profile.

32 Comments On "A Trick to Get Your Money Back From Airlines That Canceled Your Flight"
  1. Patricia Owen|

    We bought our tickets from Skylux which is a consolidator, I guess. I have received 3 different answers from 3 different people. I asked if due to the Coronavirus and there is no travel to France if we could get our money back. Our flight is April 30 and has not been cancelled yet. Our travel agent, Leonardo, said we could either use the credit to book another flight to be used by 12/31/2020 or they would only give us half of our money back. Any ideas?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      You should never book through a third party because the airlines will make you deal with them instead of direct. I would probably take the credit then book a ticket just before the expiration date for a flight for sometime in 2021

  2. Charles W Spurgeon|

    Stater Brothers is opening daily at 7-8.00AM for seniors only, and my experience has been very positive. Welcomed by staff, carts wiped down, shelves supplied with toilet paper and paper towels. (Bad experiences with Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s, not welcoming, not opening for seniors on time, not well stocked.)

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good to know! The TJ’s in MB on Rosecrans is managed by an MCPV Alum (Kyle)

  3. Mira|

    What to do about tickets bought with miles (on United), after the airline cancelled the flight? They are refusing to re-deposit the miles without a hefty fee.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      United is charging a ridiculous $125 fee. If they canceled the flight you should not have to pay it. That’s ridiculous.

  4. Mark McCormick|


    Good info but do you have any suggestions for dealing with the Canadian airlines?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Sadly, the rules are different in Canada. Here’s a good post https://globalnews.ca/news/6736735/coronavirus-airlines-refunds-credit/

  5. TDHill|

    Thanks! I have spent the afternoon trying to figure out TAP Portugal refund, not a voucher. Am resorting to Twitter and FB Messenger. Would love any tips if anyone has been successful.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Did they cancel your flight? When did you buy it? If it was less than 60 days ago call your credit card company

  6. Charlie|

    I’m glad to hear the Big Guy is hanging in there!! Y’all stay safe!

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thank you!

  7. Giovanni|

    Saying “you should not have to pay 125 fee for redepositing miles”:is not very helpful. Are there ways around that fee?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I would dispute it. Write a letter to the their executives. Shame them on social media.

  8. Pat Walsh|

    I booked American flights using Capital One points to Spain last October 1st for travel starting 4/17/20. They are telling me that American is allowing free rebooking up to one year from date of original ticketing. I haven’t rebooked yet. Hoping that they change their policy since I don’t think travel will be safe by this October.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Wait to see if they cancel the flight then ask for your points back

  9. Gary Bores|

    My wife, myself, and two others booked a tour to Croatia & Slovenia from April 25th to May 5th flying to Venice, Italy and back. It has been cancelled. At this point we’ve only received credits for a future tour if booked within 18 months. The airline credit portion flying United appears to only be good until the end of this year or 12 months, whichever is sooner. As I interpret the airline part, it is suppose to be for the same flight arrangements as the original. We paid the original portion using a credit card and the final payment by check since a discount was offered to do so. My wife and I already have other travel plans for this fall which means we’ll be limited in our travel dates to still use the credit/s as now offered by the tour companies and airlines. I’m wondering if the rules mentioned in Johnny’s article above would apply to our situation as for getting a total refund?

    1. Johnny Jet|
  10. Bob|

    Hey Jonny, look up the Force Majeure rules included in US airline Contract of Carriage. Not being a lawyer, not sure if it applies, but it sure sounds like it does. The United Airlines CofC specifically states that if a flight is cancelled under Force Majeure, “UA may re-accommodate Passengers on another available UA flight or on another carrier or combination of carriers, or via ground transportation, or may refund any unused portions of the Ticket in the form of a travel certificate.”

  11. Simon Lock|

    What is the situation with dealing with European airlines? We had one-way tickets from Dubrovnik to London Gatwick with EasyJet for early April. The flight has been canceled. I have requested a full refund from EasyJet citing European regulation 261 but on their website, they are saying they are giving credits only. The tickets were purchased more than 60 days ago so disputing the charge with my CC probably won’t work and, at this point, a voucher is not going to do much good if we don’t get back to Europe this year.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      “Airlines must reimburse customers for flights cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Union transport chief said on Wednesday, rejecting calls by carriers to relax EU rules and allow an EU-wide waiver of refund obligations.”

  12. Stephen P Dickey|

    Fortunately United has relented on voluntary cancellations of flights redeemed with Mileage Plus miles. They will now let you cancel your reservations for award flights through May 31 and redeposit the miles with no penalty! Took them long enough. You can cancel your reservation and get your points back online. Very easy.

    “United is waiving redeposit fees for MileagePlus award travel scheduled through May 31. Customers continue to have the flexibility to change award travel without incurring a fee, or cancel award travel and retain the value of their ticket as a credit towards future travel.”

    United finally relents, begins waiving award redeposit fees

  13. Helen|

    I canceled an Alaskan cruise for my family and me (total 7 people) with Holland America and Holland America told me it would take up to 60 days to get a refund. I charged it on American Express and they told me it should only be 7 to 10 days. Any suggestions as to how I can get my refund any earlier than 60 days?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Helen,

      I’m not sure there is a way to get it faster but please let us know how long it took.

  14. Jeannine Roman|

    I paid Emirates directly for first class FCO-DXB-HND. Emirates cancelled flights and UAE closed airport and country. I have completed refund form but Emirates is non-responsive for one month now. My credit card company has not been of assistance. I have tried all methods of communication but no response other than “we’re busy”. Any suggestions on how to get refund?

  15. sebastian|

    hi my name is sebastian i had purchase 3 flights to return from brazil to the usa and all air lines had cancelled thier flights due to corona virus american air lines,delta,and Avianca,and i lost a 3 days hotel payd in advance in new york do you know if they are legally obligated to refund the money to my card,and the lost for the hotel

  16. Sharon|

    My flight to Europe in May was cancelled. I called Delta and asked for a refund not a credit. The person took my information and indicated that the money would be refunded to my credit card. The whole transaction took less than five minutes and an email confirmation was sent to me. The Customer Service person was so nice.

  17. Leslie|

    I used a 3rd party/online travel agent for tickets from the US to Greece who is now telling me they bought through a consolidator and will not refund my business class ticket(s). They say the consolidator will not refund the ticket. Any suggestions on how to proceed?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Call your credit card company and ask for a chargeback

  18. Terry Osowski|

    We need help. We booked 8 round trip tickets to Hawaii for July 25 and return August 8. Plus 4 houses we have rented for our family in 4 different islands. Hawaii is closed until June 30th. What should we do? United is offering refunds up until May 31st on booked flights.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Do you want to go? If you don’t then wait until a few hours before the flight to see if they cancel it to get your money back.

  19. Mandie Fruhling|

    Your article is really helpful. thnks…

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *