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Yes, you can get a refund if your flight is canceled and you choose not to travel

You are entitled to a refund if an airline cancels your flight and you don’t travel, even for nonrefundable tickets, as a viral TikTok video claims.

Travel has proven difficult for many Americans over the last several years, as coronavirus-related staffing shortages, technology problems and other issues have led to flight cancellations nationwide.

But what options do you have if your flight is canceled? In a viral TikTok with more than 1 million views, popular creator Erika Kullberg claims airlines will give you a full refund if your flight is canceled and you choose not to travel. Kullberg also claims that the type of ticket doesn’t matter – and you can get a refund even if your ticket is nonrefundable. 

THE QUESTION

Can you get a full refund if your flight is canceled and you choose not to travel, including for nonrefundable tickets?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

   

This is true.

Yes, you can get a full refund if your flight is canceled and you choose not to travel. The same policies apply to nonrefundable tickets, though airlines can issue a credit or travel voucher instead of a refund.  

WHAT WE FOUND

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says customers are entitled to a refund if an airline cancels their flight, regardless of the reason, and the customer chooses not to travel. Customers can also get a refund if their flight is significantly delayed or there is a “significant schedule change.”

These same policies apply to nonrefundable tickets, though airlines can issue a credit or travel voucher as compensation instead of a refund.

Factors that determine refund eligibility for “significant” delays include the length of the delay and the length of the flight among other things, the DOT says. The DOT does not specify the exact time that constitutes a significant delay. 

VERIFY also looked at refund policies of major airlines in the U.S., including United, Alaska, Delta, American, Southwest and Spirit. 

United Airlines offers a travel credit or refund upon request for customers who choose not to travel after their flight is significantly delayed or canceled. Alaska Airlines also says customers can choose to reschedule their flight for another day or refund their ticket. 

If you’re flying with Delta, the airline will rebook you on an alternative flight or convert your ticket into a credit for future travel in the event of a cancellation or significant delay. However, there are some instances where travelers can request a refund for their nonrefundable ticket, the airline’s policy says

American Airlines says travelers are entitled to a refund if there is a same-day flight change or standby. 

If you purchased a nonrefundable “Wanna Get Away” ticket from Southwest Airlines, it will be converted to a travel credit that you can use for a future flight, the airline says. “Business Select” and “Anytime” flights on Southwest are refundable in the event of a cancellation.

Spirit Airlines says on its website that under federal law, travelers are “entitled to a full refund if your flight is canceled by the airline and you are rebooked on a later date or if you opt not to fly.” 

Those who are entitled to a refund and want to request one should do so in writing or with a ticket agent, the DOT says. If an airline or ticket agent refuses to give you a required refund, you can file a complaint with the DOT online

So how long will it take for you to receive a refund? Under federal regulations, airlines and ticket agents are “required to make refunds promptly,” according to the DOT. For airlines, that is defined as seven business days if the passenger paid with a credit card and 20 days if they paid by cash or check.

Major U.S. airlines, including American and Southwest, also have information about the timeline for issuing refunds on their websites. 

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

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