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Everything You Need to Know About Non-Refundable Airline Tickets

Often, airlines sell you plane tickets that cannot be given back to the carrier, and under certain conditions. Thus, you will commonly hear the term “non-refundable” tickets when booking flights. What are these non-refundable tickets? How do they differ from other types of plane tickets? Are there any additional fees that major and low-cost airline carriers charge?  We are going to find out here.

In this blog, we will provide you everything that you need to know about non-refundable flight tickets, and some tips and advice.

What is a Non-Refundable Ticket for a Flight?

In simple words, a non-refundable airline ticket is one, once purchased, cannot be changed (economy travel class) or refunded for the full amount that you had paid for.

This means that if you wish to cancel your flight, you will not be reimbursed the total cost that you had originally paid when purchasing your flight ticket with the airline carrier.

Why Airlines Sell Non-Refundable Tickets?

Generally speaking, airline carriers sell refundable and non-refundable tickets. However, there are many factors that determine, for example, how these are sold and which customers are these tickets sold to. In addition, by selling plane tickets, whether refundable or non-refundable, an airliner can make up for the cost of products and services that are offered to customers throughout their trips by including them in the airfare.

Non-refundable tickets are usually the only option for customers that want to travel in economy class. Also, since the price of an economy class airfare is cheaper than other travel class tickets, these are, thus, non-refundable in nature. This also applies for airline carriers that offer basic economy travel class.

No Change or Cancellation Fee is Charged for Non-Refundable Tickets under These Conditions

There are certain conditions, where an airline carrier may not charge fees with regard to changing or cancelling flights booked via non-refundable tickets.

Here are a few conditions that are mentioned in the travel policies of most airline carriers.

1. You can change or cancel your flight for free within 24 hours of booking.

2. Sometimes, unwanted events can also occur with the airline carrier. For example, there may be a situation where your airline carrier might decide to change your flight’s schedule due to various reasons. Your flight’s departure may be scheduled one hour in advance or an hour later. Thus, if such a situation does occur, then the airliner will be obliged to waive your change or cancellation fee.

3. In case there is a sudden death of a family member, and you need to change or cancel your flight, the airline may waive the fee. However, in order to process the refund, the airline may require you to present an evidence of your family member’s demise, such as a death certificate.

Missing a Flight or No Show for Non-Refundable Ticket Holders

It’s generally not a wise idea to miss your flight or become a “no-show”, as what airlines usually refer to passengers that don’t show up to board the flight. Therefore, it is better to contact the airline and inform them of your inability to board the flight, rather than simply missing your flight and losing the value of your ticket.

How to Cancel Non-Refundable Tickets

As per their policies, airline carriers allow passengers who have purchased non-refundable tickets to cancel their flights within 24 hours of booking. Thus, this can be done by immediately contacting the airline’s reservations desk or customer service centre and the representative will do what is necessary on your behalf. Or, if you purchased your ticket online on the airline’s website, you can simply cancel your ticket via their website. You may be required to log in to the airline’s website in order to carry out the flight cancellation request.

You will receive a confirmation e-mail and/or SMS upon successful processing of your flight cancellation request.

However, if you make a cancellation request after 24 hours of booking your flight, the airline may charge fees. The amount can differ from one airliner to another.

Therefore, it is a good idea to plan your trip carefully, and if you feel uncertain about traveling after booking your flight, it is best to immediately cancel it than paying unwanted hefty fees.

Bear in mind that you will not get a full refund after canceling your non-refundable flight ticket. Some airline carriers may, however, offer a partial refund in the form of vouchers, instead of reimbursing in cash or credit. Receiving vouchers could also be a downside since the airline can charge hefty change fees or other processing fees if you later decide to make changes to your travel dates or cancel your flight.

Flight Change and Cancellation Fees for Non-Refundable Tickets

The fees charged for changing or totally canceling a flight that was booked by purchasing a non-refundable ticket vary from one airliner to another. In addition, there are also, several factors that are taken into accounts, such as fare class, route, loyalty program status, and more. However, the policy is a little different for award travel tickets, which are purchased using miles instead of money.

Usually, customers are required to pay a change fee, plus the fare difference, if any, when switching to another flight. While some airline carriers may charge around $50-100, other airline carriers may charge more.

Below we have included popular U.S.-based airline carriers and their change and cancellation fees charged toward non-refundable tickets.

Allegiant Airlines

  • Change fee is $75 per person for each leg of the itinerary, if made at least seven days prior to departure, plus the difference in fares, if the new fare is more expensive than the original.
  • As per the airliner’s cancellation policy for non-refundable tickets, $75 will be refunded, if done at least 7 days prior to flight’s departure schedule.

American Airlines

  • Change fee for domestic flight is $200.
  • Change fee for international flight can cost up to $750.
  • Same-day change fee can cost from $75 to $150 for economy fares. However, it is free for business and first class fares, as well as AAdvantage Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum members.
  • As per the airliner’s cancellation policy for non-refundable tickets, the value of non-refundable tickets can be applied toward future travel within a year of the original booking, but change fees may apply.

Delta Airlines

  • Change fee for domestic flight is $200.
  • Change fee for international flight can range from $200 to $500.
  • Same-day change fee is $75. However, it is free for Gold, Platinum, and Diamond medallion members.

Frontier Airlines

  • There is no change and cancellation fee charged, if done more than 90 days before departure date. A fee of $49 is charged if done between 89 and 14 days of departure date, and $99 if done within 13 days of departure date, respectively.
  • Same-day change fee is $99.
  • EarlyReturns Elite members can access same-day standby tickets for free.

JetBlue Airways

  • Change and cancellation fees for Blue and Blue Plus fares is $75 for tickets under $100 or changes made more than 60 days before departure; $100 for tickets between $100 and $149; $150 for tickets from $150 to $199; $200 for tickets over $200.
  • Change and cancellation fees for Blue Flex fares is free, plus the difference in fares when applicable.

Southwest Airlines

  • There is no change fee charged for all fare classes. However, as with most flight change policies, you have to pay the fare difference if your new ticket is more expensive than your original. You will receive a credit if your new fare is less expensive than your original.
  • Same-day change fee does not apply to A-Listers and Anytime or Business Select fares. However, other fare classes can pay to upgrade to one of these classes.
  • As per the airliner’s cancellation policy for non-refundable tickets, it is free for all fare classes.

Spirit Airlines

  • Change fee charged is $90 when requested online, and $100 when requested via phone/in-person.
  • Cancellation fee charged is $90 when requested online, and $100 when requested via phone/in-person.

United Airlines

  • Change fee for domestic flights is $200.
  • Same-day change fee charged is $75, whereas it is free for MileagePlus Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, and Premier 1K members.
  • As per the airliner’s cancellation policy for non-refundable tickets, fares will be refunded in the form of a flight voucher for up to a year after the date of issue, but change fees may apply.

These are the major and low cost career airline carriers in the United States with varied change and cancellation fees for non-refundable ticket holders. You can also check the cheap flights on the best online travel websites.


It makes sense to stay committed to your travel schedule, especially when purchasing a non-refundable flight ticket because your options are limited.

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