How to get a refund for non-refundable flights

Need to cancel 'non-refundable' flights or accommodation? There might be a way you can get your money back

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Travel insurance rules continue to change as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We’re working hard to keep up and make sure our guides are up to date, however some information may not be accurate during the pandemic. It’s even more important to double-check all details that matter to you before taking out cover. Please know that some policies may not be available through Finder at this time. Here are some helpful tips:
    • If you're buying a policy today, it's unlikely that you'll be covered for border closures
    • If your travel plans go against government advice, your policy will most likely be voided and you won't be covered
    If you're one of the millions of people who've had travel plans thrown into disarray due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), it can be a double blow if you learn your flights and accommodation are non-refundable.

    But don't lose hope just yet - you might be able to get some money back after all. Here're our guide on when you can get refunds, and how you can do it.

    Coronavirus (COVID-19): What if I booked non-refundable flights and other services?

    • Most airlines are offering full refunds or credit values for those whose travel plans have been affected by COVID-19. Just remember to keep in mind that credit values need to be redeemed by a certain time.
    • Depending on your departure date, tour companies and cruises are offering refunds, credit values or the option to rebook to a later date.
    • If you have a valid travel insurance policy, you should be able to claim out-of-pocket expenses regardless if they were non-refundable or not.
    • If you don't have travel insurance, contact your travel service providers directly to see if they are making exceptions, or can at least offer you credit.

    The ACCC has put together a guide to help navigate consumer rights and expenses related to COVID-19.

    Other COVID-19 guides;

    If you have travel insurance, it's possible to get your money back if;

    1. You bought the policy before the known event occurred
    2. You have cover for cancellations costs
    3. The cancellation is outside of your control

    If you find yourself in this position, make sure to keep all your receipts, have proof that your expenses were non-refundable, and make a claim directly with your travel insurer.

    Can I get a direct refund from the airline?

    This can depend on the rules of your airfare but, generally, if your flight is non-refundable then no. An airline may consider waiving cancellation fees for extenuating circumstances like a death in the family, but not for change-of-mind.

    If your non-refundable flight is cancelled by the airline, they may offer you an alternative option, a credit value or a refund - if you're lucky.

    How do I know if my flight is non-refundable?

    There are a few ways to figure out the rules of your airfare;

    • During the booking process, your change and cancellation fees will be provided. If booking online, pay extra attention to pop-ups and extra links that could lead you to this information.
    • Check "Manage My Booking" - Most airlines will have an online portal where you can access the details of your booking.
    • Check your original e-tickets, booking confirmation or any other emails/paperwork regarding your booking.
    • Check with your airline, online aggregator (like SkyScanner and Webjet) or travel agent. It's important to refer back to the company that you booked with as airfare rules can vary.

    Beware of low-cost airlines and cheap fares

    Cheap flights can be tempting but it's important you understand exactly what you're getting for your money. Low-cost carriers and budget airlines provide the bare minimum for air travel, and charge extra for other services. Here are some examples;

    ⚠️ Airfares may be non-refundable - you'll have to pay more for a flexible ticket
    ⚠️ Airfares may be non-changeable or very expensive
    ⚠️ You may have to pay for checked baggage
    ⚠️ You may have to pay for food and drinks
    ⚠️ You may have to pay for a preferred seat on the aircraft
    ⚠️ Name changes may not be permitted

    Cancellation and refund policies of major Australian airlines

    Searching through terms and conditions can be tricky, not to mention boring. So we did it for you! Here's a brief summary of refund policies in place with major airlines.

    Cancellation fees vary based on your destination and fare type, so we've highlighted the maximum fee the airline could charge to cancel an international return airfare.

    AirlineMaximum cancellation feePolicy
    Qantas$500 to Non-refundable"Cancellation fees may apply and these vary depending on your point of origin and destination."
    Virgin Australia$400 to Non-refundable"All bookings can be cancelled; however some bookings are

    non-refundable and may attract cancellations fees and surcharges."

    Jetstar Airways$50 to Non-refundable"Some fare types are non-refundable or only partially refundable, subject to our Conditions of Carriage or applicable law. However, if you choose not to travel,contact us to request a refund of certain third-party charges and Government taxes

    that may be included in your fare: excluding fuel and insurance surcharges."

    Tiger AirwaysNon-refundable"Sometimes we will provide you with the ability to obtain a refund even when we have not failed

    to comply with the Consumer Guarantees. We do this because we value you as a customer and

    we want to ensure you get to your destination as quickly as possible."

    Air New Zealand$500 to Non-refundable"Bookings for domestic and international travel may be cancelled online, subject to the following considerations:
    • Flexi fares and Business fares may be cancelled up until departure and are fully refundable with the exception of Flexitime and Business Saver fares
    • A booking must be cancelled in full, i.e. both the outbound and return flights if a round trip"
    Qatar Airways$993 to Non-refundable"To cancel your booking and get a refund of your ticket price (depending on the fare conditions of your ticket), please contact the agent/office where you booked your ticket, or if you changed your booking, contact the office where you last modified it."
    Eithad Airways$565 to Non refundable"Refunds are subject to fees and the rules of the fare that you have booked for each segment"

    *This information is accurate as of 23 March, 2020. These fees are per person and may not be applicable to codeshare flights.

    Cancellation and refund policies of major travel agents

    Travel agencies let you compare lots of different travel services that are available across the market - including flights with various airlines. They are essentially a third party in the process.

    When you book a flight with a travel agent, and use their services, a separate cancellation fee may be applied to your booking. You'll incur both the airline cancellation fee and the travel agent cancellation fee. If you have the right travel insurance policy, it can cover you for both expenses.

    This table outlines the agency cancellations fees that are applied on top of the airline cancellation fees. It mainly refers to international flight bookings since these have the highest penalties.

    Travel agent or aggregatorAdditional Maximum cancellation feesPolicy
    Flight Centre$300 to Non-refundable"Cancellations to International bookings (excluding Trans-Tasman bookings) will incur a fee of $300 per passenger per booking in addition to supplier fees."
    STA Travel$200 to Non-refundable"Cancelled bookings will incur charges. These charges can be up to 100% of the cost of the booking, regardless of whether travel has commenced. Fees will also apply where a booking is changed or tickets are reissued. All online bookings are subject to STA Travel cancellation fee of AUD200 and any other airline fees applicable. This will vary depending on the airfare you have booked. For some fares no refund is available, so check your specific fare rules carefully. If the reason for your cancellation is covered under the terms of your travel insurance policy, you may be able to reclaim your cancellation charges through your insurer."
    Helloworld$300 to Non-refundable"Each fare within the itinerary you have booked carries unique rules and restrictions:
    • If each fare has an airline change fee, then the highest fee applies to each traveller.
    • If any fare does not allow changes, then no changes are allowed to any flight.
    • If any fare is non-refundable, then all flights are non-refundable

    Cancellations to International bookings (excluding Trans-Tasman bookings) will incur a fee of $300 per passenger per booking in addition to supplier and credit card fees."

    Cancellation and refund policies of major online aggregators

    Online aggregators such as Webjet and Skyscanner are very popular ways for people to book travel. You can easily search for many different airfares with the click of a button and at any given time.

    You can see why the popularity of online bookings are increasing, however there is one major downfall when it comes to booking with an aggregator. It's the lack of human support, especially when you need it. Online aggregators will usually direct you back to the airline that you've booked with and you'll need to have the relevant information for the airline to access your booking. This sounds easy, but it can be tricky if you can't find the right booking numbers.

    This is how some aggregators deal with international cancellations.

    AggregatorMaximum cancellation feesPolicy
    Webjet$32.95 "Your right to a refund of an airfare booked on the Website is governed by the terms and conditions of the airfare you purchased and is as determined by the applicable airlines. Many fares are non-refundable. Airline charges or cancellation fees may apply to your particular airfare."
    Skyscannern/a"For changes, cancellations or refunds, we recommend that you contact the travel provider (airline or travel agent) agent that you completed your booking with.

    As a travel search engine, Skyscanner doesn't take your booking or payment ourselves. Instead, we pass you through to your chosen airline or travel agent where you make your booking directly. We therefore don't have access or visibility to any of your booking information. Depending on the type of ticket you've booked, there may be different options for changes, cancellations and refunds, and the travel provider will be best placed to advise on these."

    Which airlines are most likely to have cancelled flights?

    In June 2017, analysed Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) data for caline cancellations dating back to 2010, to find out which was the worst performing airline in Australia. It found thatQantasLink had the highest percentage of cancellations since 2010 at 2.32%.

    CarrierFlights 2019Cancellation 2019Cancellation %
    Regional Express71,9747121.0%
    Virgin Australia140,9122,7612.0%
    Virgin Australia Regional Airlines9,4152012.1%

    Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE)

    Does travel insurance cover you for non-refundable accommodation?

    If you have a valid travel insurance policy, then it should cover non-refundable expenses. You'll have to provide copies of your receipt and prove that you can't be reimbursed elsewhere.

    If you don't have valid travel insurance, it's still worth getting in touch with the accommodation provider to see if they will let you change the dates of your booking, or give you a credit voucher. Try to give them as much notice as possible.

    How do I know if my accommodation is non-refundable?

    Here are a few hints to help you figure out if your hotel is non-refundable.

    • The terms and conditions of your hotel booking will be outlined during the booking process. Pay attention as this is the easiest way to understand the cancellation policy of your booking.
    • If booking online, you may be able to access the "Manage My Booking" section where your cancellation fees could be provided.
    • Check emails and invoices. These details are often found here.
    • Check directly with the hotel. Give them a call or contact them via email.

    Watch this: When to buy and how to save on travel insurance

    When won't my travel insurance reimburse me?

    Here are some examples of why your travel insurance policy may not cover you if:

    ❌ You cancel due to change of mind
    ❌ Your travel service provider goes bankrupt or insolvent
    ❌ You make an error on your own booking
    ❌ You trip is affected by a government regulation or prohibition

    Compare travel insurance policies that can cover you for unexpected cancellations

    Once you enter in your details and click "Get my quote" you can filter the results by clicking "Cancellation fees" on the left side of the page to only see policies that include this.

    warning Finally, some good news! Domestic travel is picking up, so some insurers have started offering cover again 🦘
    Just remember, you won't be covered for any pandemic related claims if you do take out domestic travel insurance.
    International travel insurance is limited and sometimes unavailable at this point.

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    2 Responses

      Default Gravatar
      VitaNovember 27, 2018

      I purchased tickets directly via Tigers website. Would Tiger insure provide refund if flight has been canceled?

        Avatarfinder Customer Care
        JeniNovember 27, 2018Staff

        Hi Vita,

        Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

        Tigerair has this compensation policy wherein in they will move you to the next available Tigerair Australia service to the same destination at no further costs in the event that they need to delay or cancel your scheduled service for a reason other than an event within Tigerair control and your new flight time is not suitable to you. Tigerair will provide a refund if you are entitled to receive under the Compensation Policy of any amount you have paid them.

        I suggest that you check their T&Cs as well as contacting their customer contact centre for further clarification on this matter.

        I hope this helps.

        Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

        Thank you and have a wonderful day!


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