Can I Redeem My Airline Voucher for Partner Travel?
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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week — Mondays and Fridays — by TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig.
Airlines issue travel vouchers for a variety of reasons, be it compensation for denied boarding, a broken seat or an extended delay, or to cover the balance of an unused nonrefundable ticket — while most bookings can’t be refunded to the form of payment, you can get a voucher that covers the remaining value, less applicable change fees. These vouchers do come along with some restrictions, though, which is what TPG reader Hamza wanted to clarify when he reached out via Facebook…
Air Canada says I can cancel my flight and receive credit if I pay a $200 cancellation fee. Can I use the remaining credit on any Star Alliance flight, or only on flights operated by Air Canada?TPG Reader Hamza
In addition to important restrictions, which I’ll go over in a moment, Air Canada adds some confusion by issuing several types of credits. In the case of a voluntary cancellation, which describes Hamza’s situation, once you cancel your flight, a nonrefundable ticket will retain its original value. You can apply the value toward a new flight booking for the same passenger only, and travel must begin within one year of the date the original ticket was issued.
You can use this credit to cover both Air Canada flights and partner flights with an Air Canada flight number (known as codeshare flights), but that won’t include all Star Alliance routes — if you’re trying to use an Air Canada credit to book a Thai Airways flight from Hong Kong to Phuket, you’ll probably be out of luck. Credit will not be issued for any leftover value, so if you book a $1,000 flight, cancel that and use the credit for a $500 flight, you’ll lose the difference in value. Additionally, you’ll be responsible for paying the original ticket’s change fee separately, which in Hamza’s case is $200.
Other credits are issued in the form of a Miscellaneous Charges Order (MCO), also known as a paper travel voucher, which can only be redeemed with a travel agent, an Air Canada airport ticketing agent or by mail to the airline’s refund department. Air Canada also issues e-MCOs, or Electronic Travel Vouchers, which function in a similar way but can also be redeemed over the phone or online. Both are valid for one year from the date of issue — you can travel after the one-year cutoff as long as the flight is ticketed within the first year.
Unlike the first scenario, MCOs and e-MCOs retain any residual value, so you can redeem them for less than the full value of the voucher without forfeiting the balance. These vouchers can be transferred to someone else, but they only cover the base fare of a ticket — taxes and surcharges must be paid separately. Additionally, Air Canada may choose to grant a one-year extension as long as you contact the airline (by phone for e-MCOs or in person for paper vouchers) before the original expiration date.
Many other airlines issue similar types of credit — retained value with a canceled nonrefundable ticket and electronic travel vouchers — and carry similar restrictions. Of the various credit types, travel vouchers are often a bit more flexible, though you may be limited to booking the carrier’s own flights, excluding codeshares and partner redemptions.
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