How long does it take for airlines to refund miles and taxes?

Aug 3, 2021

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If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything about award travel, it’s that travel plans are never set in stone. And while actually canceling your ticket is relatively easy, it can sometimes take a while to get airline miles reinstated and award taxes and fees back in your bank account.

Here at TPG, our staff has canceled countless numbers of tickets over the past year-and-a-half. Some airlines refunded points immediately, while others took a few days (or in some cases, months) to give us our points back. This can be a stressful experience — especially if you have a lot of miles locked up in a ticket.

In this article, we’ll show you how long it takes to get get your miles back with some of the major airline loyalty programs. You’ll find data points for all the major U.S. carriers and some of the major transfer partners. We’ve also listed special notes you should be aware of when requesting a refund from more difficult programs.

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In This Post

How long does it take for an airline to refund miles and taxes?

Airplane at the gate in Bangkok
Here’s how long it takes airlines to reinstate miles and refund taxes and fees on award tickets. (Photo by Nuamfolio / Shutterstock.com)

Here, you’ll see how long it takes for each major airline loyalty program to refund miles and taxes. Do note that the time it takes to get taxes refunded to your credit card varies based on your bank. These times were sourced by TPG’s editorial staff and TPG readers in the TPG Lounge Facebook group.

Program Mileage refund time Tax and fees refund time
Air Canada Aeroplan Instant 2-3 days
Air France/KLM Flying Blue Instant 2-3 days
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Instant 2-3 days
American Airlines AAdvantage Instant 2-3 days
ANA Mileage Club 7 days 7 days
Avianca LifeMiles 2-7 days 90+ days in some cases
British Airways Executive Club Instant 2-3 days
Delta SkyMiles Instant 2-3 days
Etihad Guest Up to 45 days Up to 45 days
Frontier Airlines Instant Instant as flight credit
Iberia Plus Varies (see next section) Varies (see next section)
JetBlue TrueBlue Instant 2-3 days
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Instant 10 days
Southwest Rapid Rewards Instant 2-3 days
United Airlines MileagePlus Instant 2-3 days

Related: Airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies: A complete list of major carriers

Special considerations

Avianca Plane Landing in Lima
(Photo by Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com)

As you can see, most major airlines are great about refunding miles and fees. But, some programs have special quirks you should be aware of when requesting a refund — let’s take a closer look.

Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca LifeMiles is a mixed bag when it comes to refunds. Sometimes miles are reinstated instantly; sometimes, it takes a few weeks. One consistency, however, is how long it takes to have taxes and fees refunded. Some TPG Lounge members said it took 4+ months to have their taxes and fees refunded. If this happens to you, you may want to consider filing a chargeback with your credit card.

British Airways Executive Club

TPG Points and Miles intern Ryan Patterson recently booked a British Airways award ticket for a friend. Strangely, he had to call British Airways to get his Avios refunded after he canceled the ticket online. This is because, at first, the airline refunded the Avios to the passenger, even though Ryan booked the flights with his points.

Iberia Plus

Iberia Plus is notoriously difficult to get a refund from. Sometimes you get your points back in a week; other times, you get them back months later. The important thing to do is call the airline and (respectfully) push for a faster refund. Otherwise, it may not come at all. You may have to call the airline multiple times to move the needle.

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

Bottom line

Travel plans may be less predictable these days, but airlines made their change and cancellation policies more flexible in response. That said, some airlines take longer than others to refund award ticket taxes and fees. Use this article as a reference guide the next time you have to cancel an award ticket.

Feature photo by Thiago B Trevisan/Shutterstock.com

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