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How To Get A Refund For A Cancelled Flight

This article may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on the link, I may receive a small commission.

Typically I buy flights last minute because, as a long term traveler, I know plans always change. Yet, 2020 was my year to be organized, and I purchased over 10 flights for my future travel plans.

I was so proud of myself for purchasing my flights early because the prices were lower. Yay! Go, Kesi!

But then – COVID-19 stepped in and completely changed my plans!

Slowly I kept seeing my flights and hotels become canceled.

Here’s a peek at my Gmail:

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I was disappointed that my plans changed, but more importantly, I wanted to know:

If my flight is cancelled do I get a refund?

It was not my choice to cancel the flight, so surely, the airlines will refund my money for the cancelled flight, right?

Newsflash! Airlines want to keep the money and are issuing credits instead of refunds.

What’s The Difference Between a Refund and a Credit

A credit has more restrictions and can only be used on the same airline. Most airlines require to use the credit before the end of the year (December 2020).

Example – I purchased a $550 flight from NYC to Sao Paulo, departing March 30, 2020. Copa Airlines offered me a $550 credit, which means I have $550 to use on a future flight with Copa Airlines before December 2020.

 A refund is better since it gives back all of your money the same way you paid.

How To Get a Refund For a Cancelled Flight

If my flight is cancelled, do I get a refund? 

According to the US Department of Transportation (DOT), if an airline cancels your flight, then the passenger is entitled to a full refund. 

So how do you get a refund for a cancelled flight, if the airlines are refusing? The answer is with your credit card!

Steps to Follow

Below are my suggested steps on how to get a refund for a cancelled flight.

Note: Be warm and pleasant when contacting customer service agents. These agents are bombarded with lots of angry people daily, trying to get refunds. It pays to be kind. Even if airlines are not cooperating with your requests, be polite. You already have a backup plan to get a refund via your credit card!

1. Contact the airline and ask for a refund.

Once you reach an agent reference that the DOT entitles you to a refund for a cancelled flight. There are various ways to contact the airline, whether via their customer service number, online chat, or Twitter page. Note that waiting times to talk to an agent are much longer than usual.

2. HUCA – Hang up and call again

If the first operator does not give a refund, then call back and try your luck with a new agent. 

3. Contact your credit card and file a dispute

 If the airlines refuse to give you a refund, then call your credit card company. When you call your credit card, explain that you purchased a flight, and it was cancelled and that the airline refuses to give you a refund. You can also reference DOT, but your credit card company will most likely already be understanding and on your side.

Your agent will ask if you have contacted the airline and since you followed the first two steps mentioned above, you can tell them yes. Be prepared to share all your flight details with the agent. They will want to know your confirmation number, the date the flight was cancelled, and where you were going. It’s best to have all this information available before you call.

Due to COVID-19, expect long wait times before you can talk to an agent. Some disputes can be filled out online without talking to an agent. For example, all personal Chase cards allow you to file disputes online. If you have a Chase business card, like me, then you must talk to an agent to file a dispute.

4. Wait a couple of days for the refund

 After the dispute is filed, it typically takes a couple of days to see the refund reflected.

My Personal Experience 

I’ve already received two full refunds from cancelled flights, thanks to filing a dispute with the following credit cards: the Chase Ink Business Preferred and the United Business. Below I go through the details of who I contacted to get a refund. 

 Personal Experience 1 – Copa Airlines Cancellation

Copa Airlines

  • Contact: 1 (305) 371-2672
  • Number of times I called: 2        
  • Average wait time to talk to an agent: 5 minutes
  • Refund Status: Only a credit offered

Chase United Business

  • Contact: 1 (888) 269-8690
  • Number of times I called: 1         
  • Average wait time to talk to an agent:  1 hour
  • Refund Status: Full refund

I purchased a roundtrip flight with added insurance via Copa’s website and it got cancelled. I called Copa Airlines twice on two different days and asked: “if my flight is cancelled, do I get a refund?”. Both times the agent told me that I could only receive a credit. I stated that I am entitled to a refund, especially since I bought insurance via the Copa Airlines booking portal. They told me to contact the insurance company separately since it is a different company. The insurance company, Chubb, only offered to refund me the amount of the insurance policy (~$18) and not a refund for the flight.

Finally, I contacted my credit card, Chase United business card. Although I waited an hour before talking to an agent, I was delighted with the service provided. The agent ultimately agreed that I deserved to be refunded since I paid for a service that no longer existed. My agent issued a refund, and within two days, I received the money back on my credit card.

Personal Experience 2 – Tap Portugal canceled flight booked via Orbitz

Orbitz

  • Contact:  online chat
  • Number of times I called: 1         
  • Average wait time to talk to an agent: 15 hours, I sent a message on Orbitz chat and left my number and received a callback 
  • Refund Status: Only a credit offered

Chase Ink Business

  • 1 (800) 945-2028
  • Number of times I called: 1         
  • Average wait time to talk to an agent:  40 minutes
  • Refund Status: Full refund

After I saw that my flight was cancelled, I messaged Orbitz on their online chat. I received a call back 15 hours later. The Orbitz agent contacted Tap Portugal and informed me that Tap Portugal would only issue a credit and not a refund.

The next day, I contacted my United Business credit card at 1 (800) 242-7338 to file a dispute. The agent agreed, and I received a refund two days later.

How To Get a Refund For a Cancelled Flight Booked on Kiwi.com

I will preface this section by stating:

I do NOT recommend ever buying flights on Kiwi

Kiwi.com is one of my favorite flight search engine tools since:

It is the perfect site for nomads who have flexibility on where and when to travel. There is an abundance of different search options that allow the user to find the cheapest and/or most efficient way to travel between two places. You can search for flights based on:

  • Continents i.e., From Europe to USA
  • Multiple cities, i.e., From Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin to NYC, Boston
  • Regions, i.e., From Berlin ± 200 miles to NYC (This search looks at berlin and all airports within 200 miles of Berlin to get to NYC)

Why do I not recommend buying flights on www.kiwi.com?

  1. Kiwi charges a slight premium, and the same flights are cheaper on Skyscanner.com
  2. The customer service is AWFUL!

My nightmare experience trying to get a refund from Kiwi.com for a cancelled flight

Kiwi.com is the bane of my existence when a flight is cancelled. Even if the airline wants to give you a refund, Kiwi has to issue that refund to you. It’s not possible to get a refund directly from the airline when you book via Kiwi.

It is time-consuming to try and get a refund from Kiwi. I will share my personal experience dealing with a cancelled flight from this past New Year’s Eve.

Spoiler Alert: It took Kiwi 3.5 weeks to confirm that I was eligible for a full refund, even though it only took ten minutes for the airline to confirm I was eligible for a full refund.

Flight Details: An InterCaribbean Airways flight from St Croix to the British Virgin Island’s got cancelled

 Step 1 – Contact the airline, InterCarribbean Airways: I called the airline, and they told me the cancelled flight could be refunded, but since I booked with Kiwi, I would have to get the refund from them. This sounded easy to do, right? Wrong!

Step 2 – Contact Kiwi: I called Kiwi and told them I wanted to be refunded for a cancelled flight. They told me I had to send a refund request online.

Step 3 – Fill out a refund request form on Kiwi: I went online to fill out the refund request, but I was surprised to see that it takes 30 days to process the request and that Kiwi.com keeps 20 Euros as a fee.

Step 4 – Call and email Kiwi.com a bunch of times to find out how much Kiwi will refund me: I did not want to wait 30 days to find out how much I’d be compensated. Since I already contacted the airline and knew that they would issue a full refund, I wanted confirmation that Kiwi would also give me a total refund. I talked with several agents, and no phone agent could confirm the dollar amount of the refund.

I was confused because it took me ten minutes maximum to contact InterCaribbean Airways to know the dollar amount of the refund. Why could no phone agent from Kiwi contact the airline? Eventually, one of the agents agreed to expedite my online refund request.

Step 5 – Receive a “refund” for the cancellation: I finally got an email response from Kiwi but was shocked when they told me that no refund was eligible since I booked a non-refundable flight. This was ridiculous! I knew a refund was available since the airline told me. I tried to get both the airline and Kiwi on the phone together, but Kiwi said that was not an option.

Step 6 – Find a pillow and yell into it: I always try to be polite when dealing with customer service agents. I want to present facts and rationale to get a refund. I do not want to piss anyone off, so I had to find somewhere else to place my anger.

Step 7 – Keep emailing and calling Kiwi.com to get an ACTUAL refund: Eventually, after too many calls and emails, Kiwi finally agreed to give a refund for a cancelled flight.

In the future, I will call my credit card company and file a dispute, versus wasting all my time trying to get the refund I’m entitled to from Kiwi.com

 Do not book flights from Kiwi.com!

Credit Card Recommendations for Flight Purchases

Not all credit card companies are created equal. Each of the credit cards I list here has excellent customer service and will refund your money if your flight is cancelled. These cards also reward you with more points/miles when you purchase flights. The two Chase cards have timely sign-up offers, so I recommend applying to these cards ASAP before these huge sign-up bonuses are gone.

1. American Express Business Platinum Card

Offers 5X Membership Rewards points when purchasing flights and hotels via amextravel.com

When it comes to customer service, you can’t beat the Amex Business Platinum card. I have had this card since I started traveling in 2015.  I don’t use this card for everyday spend, but I keep this card for its travel benefits. I recommend applying to this card at any time. The highest sign-up bonus I’ve seen for this card is 100,000 points, but this sign-up bonus is rare and typically has a high minimum spend requirement. The annual fee is high, but the benefits make it worth it. 

Note: I would trust any American Express card when it comes to customer service and filing disputes. American Express values their customers. If the annual fee is too high on the Amex Platinum, apply for a no fee Amex card. 

2. Chase Ink Business Card

Offers 3X points on all travel purchases, which includes flights

This card is new in my wallet, and although I originally applied to this card because of the high sign-up bonus, I now appreciate this card’s customer service. The annual fee is only $95, and this is a good card for everyday spend. The perfect time to apply to this card is now. With my link below, you can apply for the Chase Ink card and get a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after spending $5000 in three months. If you are a big spender than I would recommend another current offer, which allows you to earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in three months. 

3. Chase United Business Card

Offers 2X miles on United flights

This card is the newest in my wallet. I applied for this card because I could get 100,000 miles after spending $10,000 in 3 months. This is another card that is good for everyday spend since it offers 2 miles per $1 spent on restaurants and local transit and commuting (i.e., Uber, taxis). Once again, the customer service pleasantly surprised me on this card, and I am thankful that the Chase agents helped dispute my cancelled flights. 

To look at other good travel card options, click here. 

Share your flight cancellation success and horror stories in the comments

Need a travel bag? Check out this post on the best travel backpacks with wheels.

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