How to Avoid Paying a Flight Cancellation Fee

4 Ways to Cancel Flights for Free

Cancelling a flight is often costly. Most of the U.S. carriers charge $100-200 to cancel or change a nonrefundable, domestic ticket. In some cases, however, you can cancel without paying a flight cancellation fee.

Woman watching a plane depart

Following are 4 ways to cancel your ticket without paying a fee. I’ve used three of these four ways a good number of times.

1. Cancel within 24 Hours of Booking

Within 24 hours of booking a flight, you can cancel it for free as long as:

  1. It is on a U.S. carrier.
  2. You booked the flight at least seven days prior to the flight’s scheduled departure time.

This rule is a U.S. Department of Transportation directive.

This little-known policy recently saved me $115 on a Spirit flight that I canceled about 22 hours after booking.

2. In the Event of a Schedule Change

You can often cancel an airline ticket at any time without having to pay a flight cancellation fee if the airline changes the schedule for your flight(s). For instance, the airline could change your originally-scheduled 1 pm departure time to 10 am.

It makes sense that the airline would allow you to cancel your flight in such cases. You may not be able to make the new departure time. Or it may inconvenience you in some other way.

I experienced the benefits of this rule in pretty remarkable fashion about six months ago.

I had booked 5 roundtrip tickets to Hawaii using Singapore Airlines miles (that’s another story). Five months after booking, I decided to cancel the flights.

Singapore charges only $30 to cancel the tickets I had purchased. With 5 tickets, the total cancellation charge would be $150. That wasn’t bad, considering it would have cost $1,000 to cancel similar tickets booked through the major U.S. carriers. Still, I’d rather not pay the $150, obviously.

Before I called to cancel, I compared the originally-booked itinerary to the itinerary then showing online. I noticed that one of the flight times had changed by one minute. One minute.

I called in to cancel. The Singapore rep informed me that I’d be charged $150 to cancel the 5 flights. I was completely ready to pay that without a fight. But first, I said that I noticed there was a change to the schedule for the flights. Could he waive the cancellation fee on account of that change?

He immediately said he could waive the fee. He even apologized, saying that he hadn’t noticed the schedule change. Can’t imagine how he missed it. . . .

3. Alaska Airlines 60+ Days Out

Tickets on Alaska Airlines can be cancelled for free 60 or more days prior to the scheduled flight departure. Within the 60-day window, Alaska’s normal $125 cancellation fee applies to most tickets.

4. Southwest Airlines Always

Southwest Airlines never charges a flight cancellation fee, provided you cancel your flight at least 10 minutes prior to departure.

The money you spent on the ticket is converted into Southwest travel funds. The originally-ticketed passenger can apply those funds toward travel on Southwest within one year of the original purchase date of the ticket.

I have great love for Southwest because of this rule. I have cancelled more flights on Southwest than on any other airline. But I also purchase more flights on Southwest than on any other airline, and by a wider margin. They have won a large share of my business because of customer-friendly rules such as this one.

Question: Would knowing these rules have helped you cancel a ticket without paying a flight cancellation fee? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

If you liked this post, sign up here so that you don’t miss a future post.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *