Are Plane Tickets Refundable During COVID-19 Pandemic?

3 passports with plane tickets sticking out

A plane ticket refund or a change of flight in the past was only issued under specific circumstances or required tedious procedures most people wouldn’t know – in short, it was difficult, not to mention subject to additional fees. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, receiving compensation for your flight is more likely. There’s a catch, though – airlines don’t want to give you a cash refund for your flight, offering credit vouchers instead. Our dedicated aircraft dispatcher school in Fort Lauderdale stays up to date on all the latest news in aviation, ready to answer your questions about flight reimbursement during the coronavirus crisis.

How Do I Know If My Plane Ticket Is Refundable?

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. Millions of people worldwide are confined to their living spaces under strict social distancing guidelines; several states are on lockdown. The novel coronavirus has affected airlines drastically as revenue has basically come to a standstill. In the past month or so, airlines have canceled countless flights each day. In order to remain in business during this crisis, most airline companies are trying to retain the revenue from your flight, offering a flight credit rather than refunding your money.1

With a global pandemic like COVID-19, it’s essential to know if you are entitled to a plane ticket refund. Though it’s understandable that countless flights have been canceled due to low demand and government restrictions, the unsettling question remains about how to compensate customers – cash, credit, or potentially nothing at all. While airlines, of course, would prefer that airline passengers receive a credit, the U.S. Department of Transportation stepped in to clarify the legal entitlement of flight refunds during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Transportation states,

“U.S. and foreign airlines remain obligated to provide a prompt refund to passengers for flights to, within, or from the United States when the carrier cancels the passenger’s scheduled flight or makes a significant schedule change and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier. The obligation of airlines to provide refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fee charged for services a passenger is unable to use, does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control (e.g., a result of government restrictions).”2

Due to the overwhelming travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines are forced to cancel their flights and provide refunds to customers. Slashed routes, decreasing demand, and travel bans are a few of the reasons why airlines would cancel a flight and you would likely receive a plane ticket refund. Airlines are currently waiving fees the first time you reschedule a flight as well as offering deep discounts on future airfare to retain your business; however, it’s important to note you must change or cancel your flight with enough notice. Otherwise, you can not only lose the opportunity to have rescheduling fees waived but also hurt your chances of getting a refund. In the worst case scenario, you end up losing the full value of your ticket.3 

To sum it up, if the airline cancels your flight with no reasonable alternative date, you are entitled to a refund. If you have a flight scheduled soon, keep track of what’s going on with your airline as well as what you’re entitled to if they cancel it. Consider rescheduling or opt for a credit to help stimulate the business of your preferred airlines. If your trip is further out, keep an eye on the cancellation trends and rescheduling policies; be prepared to change your plans if necessary.

If you are on a flight path to a career in aviation, Sheffield School of Aeronautics offers various aircraft dispatcher courses to meet your needs. Call us today at 954-581-6022 for further information and fly into your studies today.


  1. Forbes – What To Do If An Airline Won’t Refund Your Cancelled Flight
  2. S. Department of Transportation – U.S. Department of Transportation Issues Enforcement Notice Clarifying Air Carrier Refund Requirements, Given the Impact of COVID-19
  3. Money – Airlines Will Let You Change Flights for Free Right Now, But What if You Want a Refund?
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