Refunding Delta flights was quick and easy with patience and know-how

May 8, 2020

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Mary, whose patience helped her score a full refund instead of a travel voucher when Delta canceled her flight:

I had a few upcoming trips that I was patiently waiting to cancel to try to get a refund instead of credit during the pandemic. I finally got my opportunity to call Delta this weekend, when I got a notification that my flight coming up in six days was canceled.

The email I received indicated that I could change to a later date or automatically get a credit if I wanted to cancel online, but I knew better and called. I briefly explained to the agent that I would like a refund since the flight had been canceled, per DOT rules, and she said ‘you’re right’ and transferred me to to the refunds desk to finish up.

While I was on the refund line, I asked if my upcoming flight to Rome was actually going to happen, since I had heard most flights to Europe would be canceled. Sure enough, that flight was canceled a week ago but notification had not yet been sent, and I was able to secure a refund for that as well.

Thanks to the advice for patience from The Points Guy, my money isn’t tied up as a loan to an airline!

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Patience is a virtue in travel rewards, whether it manifests as waiting for last-minute award space to open up or waiting for an airline to cancel your flight, entitling you to a full refund instead of just a travel voucher. As COVID-19 continues to cause an unprecedented number of flight cancellations around the world, many airlines are strapped for cash and trying to avoid giving refunds. In fact, some foreign governments have even supported airlines who choose to give passengers travel credits instead of full refunds.

In the U.S. the rules are much clearer: If your flight is canceled, for any reason, you’re entitled to a full refund back to your original form of payment. Now that doesn’t mean the airline will be proactive in offering you a refund (as opposed to trying to persuade you to accept a travel voucher), but by knowing her rights and knowing what to ask for, Mary was able to get what she wanted.

Mary is also a great role model in exercising patience, which doesn’t always come easy. My girlfriend is currently ticketed on a United flight from Shanghai (PVG) to Chicago (ORD) in May that has exactly a 0% chance of ever flying. United hasn’t formally canceled the flight yet, meaning she can’t yet get a refund. I keep reminding her that she needs to wait and let United make the first move. If she tries to cancel the ticket before United cancels the flight, she might be forced to accept a travel voucher instead of getting her money back.

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

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! Please email your own award travel success stories to; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes; due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy.

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