Airline Change & Cancellation Fees For Cash Tickets – and How To Avoid Them! [2017]

airline change cancellation fees

Changing or canceling flights is probably not high on your list of things to do. Seriously, who wants to cancel a flight, especially when it’s taking you on vacation?!

To make this process a little bit easier for you, we’re going to outline some vital info about changing or canceling flights with some of the most popular airlines for tickets purchased with cash. (We’ve written about award flight cancellation and change fees too.)

Airline Change and Cancellation Fees (Cash Tickets)

The vast majority of airlines require you to pay to change or cancel flights even when you have paid for your ticket. Unfortunately, each also has its own rules, making it very confusing.

What Are Change and Cancellation Fees

When purchasing a flight, you are likely paying for a nonrefundable ticket, especially if you are taking a vacation.

Refundable tickets are much more common for business travelers whose schedules change more often; they also pay a premium for these tickets.

If you have to change a flight because of an unforeseen event, you can expect a change fee with most airlines. A cancellation charge also applies if you need to cancel a trip. These fees vary by airline, so we’ll discuss specifics below.

Quick Tips To Avoid Cancellation or Change Fees

Tip #1)  The Department of Transportation requires airlines to allow customers to cancel or change at ticket at no cost within 24 hours of purchase if the ticket is purchased at least 7 days prior to departure.

Tip #2)  Under some special circumstances, you can get change and cancellation fees waived. If you experience the death of an immediate family member or your travel companion or have jury duty, you might qualify for the fee waiver.

Tip #3)  With American, Delta, and United all charging $200 to change a domestic itinerary, consider whether you are better served booking one-way tickets or a round-trip ticket. If you need to cancel or chance the first leg of a trip, you won’t impact the return leg if you book one-way flights. However, if you need to change both, you are better off having a round-trip booking.

Tip #4)  Use schedule changes to your advantage. Make sure you know the schedule change policy of the airline you are flying. If your departure or arrival time is changed, you might be eligible for a free change or cancellation. With the chance of a schedule change, you should consider waiting to cancel until the deadline to do so. Just remember to cancel before the deadline!

Tip #5)  Know which airlines will allow you to fly standby on the day of your flight so you don’t end up paying to change flights.

Tip #6)  Sometimes it’s better to dump your reservation and book a new flight rather than paying the fee to change the original ticket.

Bottom Line: When trying to change or cancel a flight, there are lots of pitfalls. So make sure you know your options before booking!

Which Credit Cards Have Trip Cancellation Insurance?

Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred have trip cancellation insurance that can help recoup the cost of airfare if you or a family member become ill.

If you’re interested in a card with trip cancellation insurance, give these a look:

BankApplicable Cards
ChaseChase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
CitiCiti Prestige® Card
Citi ThankYou® Premier Card
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
BarclaycardBarclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite MasterCard®

Make sure you read the details of each card’s trip cancellation insurance to ensure you get what you want.

Change and Cancellation Policy / Fees by Airline

The following are a list of change and cancellation fees and different policies and information listed by airline. Note that these can be subject to change, and agents have the ability to waive certain fees in certain situations (so always be nice to your customer service agent!).

Note that this list does not cover baggage fees, which is covered in a separate series.

American Airlines

  • Domestic Change Fee: $200
  • International Change Fee: $450
  • Same Day Change: $75 (economy); free (business/first class)
  • Cancellation: If you cancel a non-refundable ticket, you can apply the unused value of the ticket toward a future trip (no later than 1 year from the date your original ticket was issued). Change fees may apply.

United Airlines

  • Domestic Change Fee: $200
  • International Change Fee: up to $400
  • Same Day Change: $75
  • Cancellation: If you cancel a non-refundable ticket, you may return to the reservation up to a year after the date of issue. Change fees may apply.
  • Exclusions/Waivers:
    • If your departure or arrival time is altered by more than 30 minutes because of a schedule change, you may change your flight at no extra cost or request a refund.

Delta Air Lines

  • Domestic Change Fee: $200
  • International Change Fee: $200-$500
  • Same Day Change: $75
  • Cancellation: If you cancel a domestic itinerary, you must have the ticket reissued and complete your travel within 1 year of the original ticket. For international itineraries, you must begin your travel within 1 year of the original ticket. Change fees may apply.
  • Exclusions/Waivers:
    • Gold, Platinum, and Diamond medallion members are not charged for same-day changes.
    • Basic economy fares are not eligible for same-day changes regardless of medallion status.

Alaska Airlines

  • Change Fee: $25 (at least 60 days prior to flight); $125 (within 60 days of flight)
    • You will also be responsible for the difference in ticket price if the new flight is more expensive. If the new ticket is cheaper, you will either receive credit toward a future flight or a refund (depending on your ticket’s rules).
  • Same Day Change: $25
  • Cancellation: $25 (at least 60 days prior to flight); $125 (within 60 days of flight)
  • Exclusions/Waivers:
    • MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members receive complimentary same-day changes, and ticket changes fees are waived.
    • The same day change fee is waived for customers booked in F, D, A, Y, and Z fare classes.

British Airways

  • Change Fee: free (online); $25 (phone); $35 (at an airport ticket office)
  • Same Day Change: free
  • Cancellation: $10 (online); $25 (phone); $35 (at an airport ticket office)
  • Exclusions/Waivers:
    • 1 hour’s notice is required to make a same day change.
    • Free same day changes are not available if your itinerary has a connection.

Hot Tip: If you need to cancel or change a British Airways flight, do it online. Changes are free and cancellations are only $10!

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Continental US Change Fee$200
  • International Change Fee: $50-$300
  • Intra-Hawaii Change Fee: $30
  • Same Day Change: free (only available for Pualani Platinum and Gold members, plus some corporate customers)
  • Continental U.S. and International Cancellation: $100
  • Intra-Hawaii Cancellation: $25

JetBlue Airlines

  • Change Fee:
    • $75 for fares under $100 (plus fare difference)
    • $100 for fares $100-$149 (plus fare difference)
    • $150 for fares over $150 (plus fare difference)
    • $75 plus fare difference for all changes made at least 60 days in advance
  • Same Day Change: $50
  • Cancellation: $75 (if canceled 60 days prior to departure)

Hot Tip: If you are a TrueBlue Mosaic member and traveling with others, you can change or cancel flights for everyone for free.

Southwest Airlines

  • Domestic Change Fee: free + fare difference
  • Same Day Change: only permitted on Anytime or Business Select tickets
  • Cancellation: free

Bottom Line: Southwest Airlines makes changing and canceling flights easier than just about any other airline. When you cancel a flight, you will receive a credit to your account. Keep in mind, this credit can only be used by the holder of the original ticket.

Virgin America

  • Western Region Change Fee: $100 (Main Cabin and Main Cabin Select); free (First Class)
  • Long- and Medium-Haul Change Fee: $150 (Main Cabin and Main Cabin Select); free (First Class)
  • Same Day Change: $25-50
  • Western Region Cancellation Fee: $100 (Main Cabin and Main Cabin Select); free (First Class)
  • Long- and Medium-Haul Cancellation Fee$150 (Main Cabin and Main Cabin Select); free (First Class)
  • Exclusions/Waivers:
    • A “Plans Change Pass” can be purchased for $25 at the time of booking (or up to 24 hours after); this allows you to change your flight at no extra cost.

Hot Tip: Same day standby is available at no cost on the flight immediately prior to your scheduled flight on the day of departure, but a seat is not guaranteed.

Spirit Airlines

  • Change Fee: $90 (online); $100 (phone/in-person); $50 (group booking)
  • Cancellation: $90 (online); $100 (phone/in-person); $50 (group booking)
  • Exclusions/Waivers:
    • If you cancel a ticket through the online system, you will be issued a $10 voucher (per one-way) for a future booking if your ticket is less than the canceled ticket.

Hot Tip: For $35, you can purchase Flight Flex at the time of your booking. You will then be allowed 1 flight modification at no extra cost if done more than 24 hours prior to your flight.

Frontier Airlines

  • Domestic Change Fee: $99
  • Same Day Change: $99
  • Cancellation: $99 (ticket will retain its value for 90 days and can be applied toward a future ticket)
  • Exclusions/Waivers:
    • Same day standby for earlier/later travel is available to EarlyReturns Elite members at no extra cost.

Allegiant Airlines

  • Change Fee: $75 (must be made at least 7 days before departure)
  • Cancellation: $75 (must be made at least 7 days before departure)

Hot Tip: If you purchase TripFlex at the time of your booking, change fees and cancellation fees are waived. However, you are still required to make any changes or cancellations at least 7 days in advance.

Change and Cancellation Policy by Travel Agency

If you’re booking through an online travel agent, it’s important to be aware of their change and cancellation policies too.

Orbitz

If you book a nonrefundable ticket through Orbitz, you have 24 hours to cancel it without a fee. However, you won’t receive a refund of the Orbitz service fee.

Once you have passed the 24-hour cancellation window, airline change and cancellation fees will apply. Additionally, you will be responsible for a $30 fee paid to Orbitz.

In exceptional circumstances, such as the death of a family member, Orbitz will work with the airline on your behalf to see if the change or cancellation fee can be waived.

To change or cancel a booking with a low-cost carrier, you will have to contact the airline yourself.

Low-Cost Carriers
AirAsiaInterjetTigerair Singapore
easyJetJetstarVivaAerobus
EurowingsNorwegianVolaris
FireflySpiritWOW Air
FrontierTigerair Australia

Priceline

You have 24 hours to cancel bookings without a fee, but Express Deals are not changeable or refundable.

Beyond 24 hours, all applicable airline change and cancellation fees will apply, plus a $30 service fee will be charged by Priceline.

Bottom Line: When booking with online travel agents like Expedia, Orbitz, and Priceline, remember they will charge you a service fee on top of the airline’s change or cancellation fee if you need to make a change.

Final Thoughts

By now, you can see how vastly different these carrier change and cancellation policies can be. Some are as easy as Southwest Airlines, while others (such as Spirit Airlines) are much more strict.

Hopefully, once you have booked a nonrefundable ticket, you won’t need to make any changes. Your life will be much easier that way!

If for some reason you do need to make a change, you now have all the info you need to prepare.

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FAQ

How do I make a refund request for my refundable ticket?
Call the customer service line of your airline to process your refund. See details above for applicable contact information.

How much time do I have to put in a cancellation request on my airline ticket before I have to pay a fee?
Law requires 24 hours from the time of purchase of an airline ticket to do a full refund without paying any fees, as long as you are booking more than 7 days out.

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