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Ultimate guide to canceling a flight and getting a refund with major US airlines

Aug. 07, 2022
15 min read
United plane
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Fortunately, most airlines now have favorable policies if you need to cancel your flight, especially if you booked using points or miles. If you book the right fare with an airline with friendly cancellation policies, you may not be out hundreds of dollars — or be on the hook for astronomical fees — if your plans change.

But with many different airlines and varying policies, it can be overwhelming to figure out each airline's cancellation and refund policies. To make it easier, we put together this guide about the cancellation and refund policies for the major U.S. airlines.

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Can I cancel a flight and get a refund?

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

These days, airlines make it extremely easy to cancel a flight, with many of them giving you the option to do it online. All airlines allow you to cancel a flight and many let you get a refund in some capacity. For the most part, if you book a nonrefundable fare — which is the most common fare type — you'll receive a credit or voucher to use for a future flight. But you'll find that some airlines charge a fee to do this, and some airlines base the fee on how far in advance you cancel.

For example, Southwest has one of the most generous cancellation policies regardless of the fare type. As long as you cancel at least 10 minutes before your flight's scheduled departure time, there is no fee to cancel your reservation, whether it is a paid fare or one booked on points. While you'll end up with a travel credit for the amount paid if you cancel a paid fare, Southwest won't deduct any fees from that voucher. And if you booked using Southwest points, the airline will immediately return them to your account with no fees. Delta, American and JetBlue also have favorable cancellation policies, as long as you didn't book their least expensive basic economy fare.

Frontier Airlines, on the other hand, will charge you a $75 fee when canceling a reservation booked on miles. However, as long as you cancel at least 60 days before your flight, there's no fee for canceling paid reservations.

Perhaps the least favorable airline is Allegiant, which requires you to cancel seven or more days in advance and charges a cancellation fee per segment (not round trip).

So when you ask yourself, "Can I cancel a flight and get a refund?" you'll notice that the answer truly depends on many factors, including the airline, the fare type and how far in advance you cancel.

How to cancel a flight with major airlines

Many airlines allow you to cancel a flight without hefty fees. Since every airline operates slightly differently, we've compiled the policies for each major airline and the associated fees so you can figure out how to cancel a flight. This information is for a regular passenger (not one with status) on a standard reservation.

If you booked under special circumstances, we've linked to our full guide for each respective airline which goes into more detail about each one's policy. These guides also include the policies if you need to change a flight instead of fully canceling.

Allegiant Airlines cancellation policy

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Canceling a paid Allegiant reservation

Allegiant has one of the more strict policies when canceling a flight: you must cancel seven days before departure and will still pay a fee. Typically, the fee is $75 per segment (not for the entire reservation). But for the time being, Allegiant has reduced the fee to $25 per segment. When canceling, you'll receive a voucher for the amount paid (minus the total cancellation fee), valid for up to one year from the original booking date.

When canceling a flight within seven days, no credit will be issued and you'll instead lose the entire value of the ticket.

Canceling an Allegiant reservation booked with miles

Allegiant offers a unique policy regarding canceling an award booked with miles. You'll be charged the same fee per segment and the flight must be canceled at least seven days in advance. But the points redeemed will not be redeposited back into your account; you'll instead receive a voucher for the value of the ticket.

Related: How to change or cancel an Allegiant Air flight

American Airlines cancellation policy

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Canceling a paid American reservation

Almost all American Airlines reservations, except American Airlines basic economy fares, can be canceled without a fee. However, some flights that originate outside North and South America have slightly different policies. Basic economy fares do not allow any cancellations — even for a fee — so you'll lose the entire ticket value if you can't make the flight.

When canceling a reservation (besides basic economy fares), you'll receive a travel credit that expires one year from the date of issue of the original ticket.

Canceling an American reservation booked with miles

American allows you to cancel award flights for free. There are no redeposit fees and your miles will immediately go back into your account. And since you can't book a basic economy fare with miles, there's no need to worry about this more restrictive fare type.

Related: How to change or cancel an American Airlines flight

Delta Air Lines cancellation policy

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Canceling a paid Delta reservation

Most Delta fare types for flights originating in North America (except Delta basic economy tickets) will allow you to cancel your flight without a fee. When canceling a basic economy fare for travel within the U.S. or to Mexico, the Caribbean or Central America, the fee is $99. For all other routes, the cancellation fee is twice the amount, at $199. Additionally, Delta will charge up to $500 in fees for flights that originate outside of North America.

Canceling a nonrefundable fare will result in an eCredit for the full amount paid (minus any cancellation fees, depending on fare type and route). However, if you cancel a refundable ticket, you'll get the amount paid refunded back to your original form of payment. eCredits typically expire a year after receiving them, but as of right now, Delta has extended the expiration date of all eCredits to at least Dec. 31, 2023.

Canceling a Delta reservation booked with miles

Similar to a paid reservation, as long as you book a fare type that isn't basic economy, you can cancel your flight and Delta will re-deposit the miles back into your account with no fee. Additionally, Delta will refund any taxes and fees to the original form of payment.

For reservations booked as basic economy, you can still cancel your flight. But Delta will deduct between 9,900 and 19,900 miles from the amount it redeposits into your account when you cancel.

Related: How to change or cancel a Delta Air Lines flight

Frontier Airlines cancellation policy

(Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Canceling a paid Frontier reservation

There's no fee if you cancel a Frontier reservation 60 days or more before your flight. However, within the 60-day window, you'll be charged a fee — $49 for flights canceled between 59 and seven days before departure and $79 for flights canceled six days or less before departure. You'll receive a credit for the price paid minus the cancellation fee. And you'll need to use this credit within 90 days of receiving it.

Canceling a Frontier reservation booked with miles

Unlike many other airlines, Frontier charges a cancellation fee even if you booked with miles. Regardless of how far in advance you cancel, you'll need to pay a $75 redeposit fee if you cancel.

Related: How to change or cancel a Frontier Airlines flight

Hawaiian Airlines cancellation policy

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Canceling a paid Hawaiian reservation

If you want to cancel a Hawaiian Airlines reservation, you can do so for Main Cabin, first-class and business-class fares without a fee. But, there's a catch. While you'll receive a flight credit for the amount paid, you'll lose any remaining value associated with your credit when you book a new flight if the new flight is less expensive than the previous flight.

Canceling a Hawaiian reservation booked with miles

For tickets purchased with HawaiianMiles, there's no fee to cancel and redeposit your miles.

Related: How to change or cancel a Hawaiian Airlines flight

JetBlue Airlines cancellation policy

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Canceling a paid JetBlue reservation

For all fare types, except for Blue Basic fares, there's no fee to cancel your reservation before departure. For all nonrefundable fares, you'll receive the entire amount paid back as a JetBlue Travel Bank credit, which expires 12 months from when you receive the credit. These credits are nontransferable, but you can use a credit to book for another passenger from within your JetBlue account.

For Blue Basic fares, the cancellation fee is either $100 or $200, depending on the route. For routes in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Central America, the fee is $100 per person. For all other routes, the fee is $200 per person. For these reservations, you'll still receive a travel credit (minus the fee). But there's one exception: JetBlue waives the cancellation fee if you booked a Blue Basic fare between Aug. 25, 2021, and Oct. 31, 2021, or before June 7, 2021.

Canceling a JetBlue reservation booked with miles

You can cancel any JetBlue flight booked with points without a fee. When canceling, the points redeemed will go back into your account. However, the taxes and fees paid will go into your JetBlue Travel Bank credit — not back to your original form of payment (which is the policy for most other airlines).

Related: How to change or cancel a JetBlue flight

Southwest Airlines cancellation policy

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Canceling a paid Southwest reservation

Southwest is one of the best airlines if you need to cancel your flight. You can cancel a Southwest flight for no fee if you cancel at least 10 minutes before departure. For Wanna Get Away and Wanna Get Away Plus fares — the two least expensive fare types — you'll receive a credit for the amount paid. For Wanna Get Away fares, the credit isn't transferable and only the original passenger can use the credit. But if you booked a Wanna Get Away Plus fare, any individual can use the credit.

Anytime and Business Select fares, however, are fully refundable. If you need to cancel one of these fares, you'll receive a full refund for the amount paid back to your original form of payment.

Canceling a Southwest reservation booked with miles

Similar to a paid reservation, when you cancel a flight booked with miles at least 10 minutes before departure, Southwest will return the points to the account used to book the award without charging any fees. The taxes and fees paid for the award can go back to the original form of payment.

Related: How to change or cancel a Southwest Airlines flight

Spirit Airlines cancellation policy

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Canceling a paid Spirit reservation

Spirit allows you to cancel a flight but charges a fee based on when you cancel the flight. If you cancel, you'll receive a credit for the amount paid minus the fee. However, the credit isn't transferable and expires 60 days from when you receive it. Here's what you can expect to pay in fees when you cancel a paid Spirit reservation:

Days before departureFee
60 or more daysFree.
7 to 59 days$49.
3 to 6 days$79.
2 days or less$99.

Canceling a Spirit reservation booked with miles

When canceling a Spirit flight that you reserved with miles, the same cancellation policy applies as if it were a paid reservation. Spirit will charge you a $49 to $99 fee to redeposit your miles if you cancel within 59 days of your flight and no fee if you cancel 60 days or more before your flight.

Related: How to change or cancel a Spirit Airlines flight

United Airlines cancellation policy

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Canceling a paid United reservation

Almost all United flights, except those booked in basic economy, can be canceled with no fee as long as you are traveling within the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, Mexico or on an international flight that originates in the U.S. For United basic economy tickets, if your plans change, you'll ultimately lose the value of the ticket entirely.

Unless you book a refundable fare (or a basic economy fare), you'll receive a travel certificate for the value of the price paid when you cancel. These certificates expire one year from the original ticketing date.

Canceling a United reservation booked with miles

You can also cancel a United flight booked with miles, but the fee incurred will be based on the time you cancel and your elite status. If you cancel 31 or more days before departure, United will redeposit the miles into your account with no fee.

However, the fee will depend on your United elite status if you're within the 30-day departure window. You can use the table below to determine the fee to redeposit the miles back into your account.

TimingGeneral memberPremier SilverPremier GoldPremier PlatinumPremier 1K
30 days or less from departure$125.$100.$75.$50.No fee.

Related: How to change or cancel a United Airlines flight

Can you cancel plane tickets?

(Photo by Petri Oeschger/Getty Images)

Many people book flights a year in advance and hope their vacation plan will stay intact. But of course, plans can change. Fortunately, many airlines now offer more friendly cancellation policies, so you don't have to wonder whether you can cancel a plane ticket. You can always cancel a plane ticket, but the refund policy varies from one airline to the next.

Whether you book with miles or as a paid reservation, the answer to the question "Can you cancel plane tickets?" is always "Yes." But, you must be comfortable with how you'll receive your money or miles back. For the most part, you'll receive the money back as a credit and the miles back into your account. But, for lower-cost airlines, there's typically an associated fee.

Related: Complete guide to changing and canceling award tickets

Can you refund plane tickets?

(Photo by MStudioImages/Getty Images)

Whether you can refund plane tickets depends on the fare type purchased and what you are looking for in terms of a refund. No airline offers full refunds back to the form of payment for every ticket purchased. Instead, you must purchase a more flexible fare type or a refundable ticket if you want this privilege.

While not all airlines offer refundable fare options, some airlines allow you to purchase an add-on to your ticket. This add-on may make your reservation fully refundable if you need to cancel. For example, Frontier offers "The Works" package, where one of the benefits is that your fare is fully refundable.

Some airlines do not allow refunds on their most basic fare types. For instance, if you purchase a basic economy fare on Delta Air Lines, you can't get a refund on a plane ticket. If your plans change and you need to cancel, you'll lose your entire ticket value.

Related: Why you should wait to change or cancel your flight if you want your money back

Bottom line

Before purchasing your next plane ticket, it's smart to be well versed in the airline's policy. While you always hope that your intended travel plans go off without a hitch, life happens and there are times when you might find yourself needing to cancel a flight. If you aren't confident of your plans when booking your flight, booking with a more favorable airline or purchasing a fare class with more flexibility may be your best bet.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases