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Expecting a Refund for a Cancelled Flight? Here’s How Long It Could Take

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic early this year and still going on, many airlines had no choice but to slash their flight schedules and park their fleets, thus, leading to hundreds and thousands of flight cancellations and significant schedule changes. Passengers have also had to either postpone or cancel their travel, which has, indeed, affected many.

Expecting a Refund for a Cancelled Flight? This has further led airlines to process refunds. You are entitled to a refund for your cancelled flight. But just because you are legally entitled to one, doesn’t mean that an airline is in a rush to give your money back. Travellers know that they should wait until the last minute before cancelling their flight to increase the odds they will get a refund. Even then, airlines are going to great lengths to avoid giving your money back.

It is also seen that airlines try to persuade passengers to instead, accept vouchers or future travel credit schemes, while a few airlines even announced that they were temporarily suspending the ability to offer refunds to their passengers.

Now, assuming you get a refund processed, the question is how long does it really take to show up on your credit card statement?

In this guide, we are going to take a look at how long can airlines take just to process refunds for a cancelled flight.

Refund For a Cancelled Flight
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Scope and Period of Airfare Refund For a Cancelled Flight

As you may know, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) mandates that a credit card refund be completed within seven business days of the request. However, things can get pretty difficult as most airlines could take much longer to process refunds.

Flight Cancelled by Airline Carrier

There is a possibility to claim refund in the event your flight is cancelled by the airline carrier for reasons that are beyond their control. In such a situation, the airline may usually take a few days’ time or even weeks to a certain extent.

Flight Cancelled by Passenger (Customer)

It may also happen that a passenger may wish to cancel his or her flight, for which, there is a possibility to claim refund, however, the passenger is bound to the airline’s policy. Also, passengers are required to contact the customer service centre and authorities and making requests for refunds. This may take some time, which can range from a few days to weeks or even a month.

How Long It Takes an Airline to Process Refunds for a Cancelled Flight

Here, we take a dip at various airline carriers in the United States and also learn how each one processes refunds that you are entitled to, in the event of a cancelled flight.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is known to be one of the quickest in terms of processing refunds for cancelled flights. It is also seen that the refund amounts are posted back in usually two business days. The airline carrier has a published policy regarding its commitment to timely refunds, which is stated as under:

While not every ticket is refundable, we are committed to refunding all eligible tickets within 20 business days for cash purchases and 7 business days for credit card purchases. Note: It may take 7-14 business days for your credit card company to post your refund to your account.

American Airlines

American Airlines, which is one of the biggest airline carriers in the U.S., has, in fact, been quite the best about giving passengers their money back for cancelled flights. Though the process of requesting a refund with the airline carrier could be a little complex, it also appears that passengers were able to get their money back within 10 days. The average, however, was much closer to five to seven business days, which aligns with the airline’s published policy regarding refunds, which is stated as under:

We have a lot of refund requests so it’s taking longer than usual. If your ticket qualifies for a refund, you should hear from us within 7 days.

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines reservations system seems to be pretty much overloaded by the number of refund requests that has been placed by passengers. In fact, there has been reports of refunds taking as little as four business days, sometimes, all the way to more than 21 business days. The ones that were processed the fastest were approved directly by the customer service agent via phone. While other requests are still in waiting that were sent to the Refunds Department and are supposed to be handled within 21 business days.

Delta Airlines policy states that:

We will make every effort to process eligible credits and refunds within 7 days. However, due to extremely high volume related to coronavirus and government-issued travel guidance, please allow up to 30 business days.

Frontier Airlines

There is not much about Frontier Airlines’ refund processing time. However, this does not come as quite a surprise, since the airline carrier has been keen on getting passengers to accept vouchers in place of refunds. In fact, the airline only has a rudimentary refund form on its website that does not even list the expected processing times.

Hawaiian Airlines

The airline carrier, which is based in Honolulu, Hawaii, has a good record of processing refunds in a timely manner. There has been reports of passengers receiving their money back within just a few days of making the request. In fact, some even received their money just one day after requesting it.

Hawaiian Airlines’ contract of carriage states that:

Upon meeting the above requirements, we will issue refunds for eligible Tickets within seven (7) business days for credit card purchases and twenty (20) business days for purchases made with cash, check, or other forms of payment.

JetBlue Airlines

JetBlue Airlines has been pretty much slow and stingy in many aspects, especially during the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. It is the only major airline carrier in the U.S. that has yet to extend its elite status. This New York-based airline also introduced (and then backtracked from) the strictest cancellation policy in the industry. It is no surprise that JetBlue Airlines is taking its time to process refunds. There has been reports about the processing time of refunds ranging from five to fourteen business days.

According to JetBlue Airlines’ contract of carriage, it states that:

JetBlue strives to provide credit card refunds promptly and cash or check refunds within 20 days upon receipt of all necessary information.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines, being America’s largest ultra low-cost airline carrier has a record of refunding tickets to its passengers on the very same business day. Though Spirit is not necessarily renowned for customer service, its timely handling of refunds is very impressive.

It is, perhaps, moving very rapidly since most people are opting to take vouchers. Choosing a voucher though is completely at  the hands of passengers. Spirit’s website, however, makes no mention of the possibility of getting your money back for a cancelled flight.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is known to be one such airline carrier that never imposes change or cancellation fees. However, the value of your ticket will be stored in a credit form, if you choose to make voluntary alterations to your travel. This is one of the major reasons why Southwest pays its passengers to wait until the airline makes an involuntary change, so you can get your money back. With Southwest, the refund process can take anywhere from 5 business days to as further as 30 days.

Southwest Airlines’ policy states that:

Our Refunds Department will process an eligible refund to the original credit/debit card within seven business days from the date we receive your request. Your card-issuing bank may then take up to ten business days to post the credit to your account.

United Airlines

United Airlines seems to have circumvented its obligation to provide refunds for cancelled flights. It is seen that over the course of the last two months, the airline carrier has made five updates to its schedule change policy. Their latest policy states that your flights needs to be cancelled and there is no adequate replacement within six hours of your original departure or arrival time, to qualify for a refund.

If your flight does indeed qualify for a refund, though, you can expect to receive it anywhere from five business days to as long as a month after requesting it. This huge variance can be attributed to the overwhelming number of requests the airline carrier has received, as the carrier explains:

Due to the extremely high volume related to coronavirus and government-issued travel guidance, please allow up to 21 business days for processing your refund request.

Tips for Claiming Your Refund

Due to a rise in flight changes and cancellations, there are many individuals seeking the best way to get a refund for their following flights. Thus, the first thing to do is to be patient and wait until the airline cancels or significantly reschedules your flight. Only then will you qualify for a refund for your non-refundable ticket. If you are flying with American Airlines

or United, it is advised that you should request your refund online on their official websites. You may also call their customer service centre to assist you.

However, if an airline violates the policy of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) by refusing to provide you a refund, then simply hang up the call and try attempting another callback. If this does not do you any good, then you should consider filing a credit card chargeback, as well as a formal complaint with the DOT.


More passengers will be entitled to refunds, for as long as several airlines continue to cancel their flights. In a turn of events, Spirit’s been the fastest to process refunds. Of the legacy carriers, Delta and United have been the slowest. Either way, it pays to know when you will get your money back.

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