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How to Cancel a Flight – Everything You Need to Know

Sometimes, there may be circumstances that could make a person cancel his/her flight reservation. Of course, the reasons can vary from one individual to another. Therefore, airline carriers allow customers to cancel or change their flights. This is applicable to both refundable and non-refundable flight tickets, which we shall learn more about in this blog.

In this travel guide, we will provide you with a detailed tutorial on how to cancel your flight, given the circumstances and whether or not you are liable to pay extra fees.

Policies Toward Flight Cancellation and Refunds

Airline carriers usually state in their travel policies under which circumstances customers are allowed to cancel their flights and request refunds.

The most common scenarios include the following:

(a) The customer wishes to cancel or change his/her flight that was booked several days or months in advance.

(b) The customer needs to cancel his/her flight due to an emergency medical reason.

(c) The airline carrier puts the customer on a different flight scheduled for departure without prior notification.

However, sometimes, due to certain unforeseeable circumstances that are not in the airliner’s control, the carrier may be obliged to either reschedule its customer’s flight or compensate their customer on request of flight cancellation by the customer.

These unforeseeable circumstances include the following:

(a) Technical or mechanical issues in aircraft

(b) Bad weather/storm

(c) Act of God

Cancelling Your Flight Ticket within 24 Hours of Purchase

If you purchased your flight ticket and suddenly decide to cancel the ticket, you should do it no later than 24 hours of booking your reservation.

Travel policies among full service and low-cost airline carriers can more or less different, and may also depend on the country of origin, i.e., where the carrier is based. The US Department of Transportation (DoT) states in its travel policy that airline carriers must hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty. While some airline carriers may offer cancellation option to customers, some carriers may, however, hold a reservation.

For instance, when travelling to or from the USA, if you purchased your flight ticket directly from the airline carrier at least seven days in advance of your trip, you can cancel your ticket and get a full refund. Also, you will not have to pay extra fees, such as for processing the refund.

The main purpose of this rule is basically to allow travellers to change, modify/update booking information or even cancel their trip within 24 hours of booking tickets that were purchased at least a week ahead. Also, the type of ticket purchased, change or cancel fees charged or fees exempted play a key role here, whether you are travelling on a domestic flight or an international flight. However, fees will not be charged if you purchased non-refundable tickets and decide to change or cancel your ticket not later than 24 hours of booking. This rule applies to both US-based airline carriers and foreign air carriers as well that serve flights to and from the United States.

However, this rule does not apply to airline carriers that do not serve flights to and from the United States. As such, these airline carriers may have other travel policies specific to their flight bookings, corrections/updates or trip cancellations and within a limited time frame. Also, the fees charged may differ or perhaps, not charged at all.

Thus, to put this in simple words, we can say that the 24-hour rule provides travellers a time-frame within which you can either change/correct/update your reservation information or simply cancel your entire trip with or without paying fees.

There is a strategy followed in the aviation industry, which is commonly referred to as the “24-hour rule”. An important thing about this 24 hour rule is that it is only applicable if you book your flight ticket directly from the airline carrier, and not through a travel agent and/or OTA (online travel agency). You can take this 24-hour rule as an opportunity to cancel your flight ticket either from the airline carrier’s website or by contacting your airliner’s customer service centre and let one of their representatives do it for on your behalf.

Keep in mind that online travel agencies may also have their own cancellation policies, whether it is within 24 hours of ticket purchase or later.

How to Cancel a Refundable Flight Ticket when Purchased After 24 Hours

If you purchased a refundable flight ticket, which is usually also the most expensive of all ticket types, you can easily cancel your ticket via your airliner’s website, also by contacting their customer service centre. Even a refundable economy class ticket is quite expensive than a non-refundable economy class ticket. This is perhaps, one of the reasons most travellers avoid buying refundable tickets, especially for budget flights.

When you visit your airline carrier’s website, you will find the Log in/Sign In button usually located on the top right corner of the site’s homepage. Alternatively, some airline carriers may provide a “Manage My Flights” or “My Trips” buttons on their sites, which allow customers to easily cancel or change their flight reservations online.

In order to cancel your flight ticket online via your airliner’s website, you will be required to provide your ticket number or confirmation number and/or passenger’s name. For the rest, you will need to follow the on-screen instructions to complete the cancellation request.

Once your flight cancellation request is processed and completed, you will receive a confirmation mail, which is sent to your e-mail address that was used during the booking of your flight reservation.

How to Cancel a Non-Refundable Flight Ticket when Purchased After 24 Hours

Generally speaking, purchasing a non-refundable flight ticket may not give you the benefit of cancelling your reservation for a full refund. In addition to the loss of value, you may also be charged additional fees (cancellation fees) in order to process your request. Thus, whatever amount is left after the deductions, will be refunded to you in the original form of payment, i.e., if you purchased the ticket using debit/credit cards, or online banking the refund amount will be credited to your bank account. The deductions depend on the value of the ticket you purchased when booking your flight reservation with the airline carrier.

Alternatively, your airline may also offer you a voucher which you can use for purchasing another flight reservation in the future.

The procedure for cancelling your fight reservation with a non-refundable ticket is similar to that of a refundable ticket, i.e., it can be done either online or via phone.

Generally, cancelling your flight via your airliner’s website is pretty easy and quick. You simply need to visit your airliner’s website, sign in or log in, if required, then provide your ticket number or confirmation number and proceed by following the on-screen instructions.

Also, you may contact your airliner’s customer service centre to have a representative assist you over the phone. You may be required to provide your details, such as the ticket or confirmation number, passenger’s name, etc. The agent will then process your request on your behalf. Once, the request is complete, you will be sent a confirmation mail to the e-mail address which you used during booking your flight reservation.

There’s an important thing to keep in mind though. When you purchase a non-refundable ticket, however, due to some reason you are not going to board your scheduled flight, it is generally a good idea to inform your airline immediately. In certain situations, your airliner may be generous enough to offer you a voucher which you can use to purchase a flight reservation for your future trip within a year.


Airline carriers will never want their customers to cancel their flights after purchasing reservations. Therefore, they try to make their cancellation policies quite strict, just to prevent major losses in their business.

If, after purchasing your flight ticket, you wish to cancel it, a general rule of thumb is to cancel your reservation no later than 24 hours of booking.

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