Canceled Trip? Getting Refund for Flight Ticket is Easy if You Know Your Rights and Airline Policies

Canceling a trip is easier said than done. If you have ever tried to get a refund for your flight ticket, you know that it may take airlines from a few days to a few weeks to process the ticket refund request. And it happens pretty often that the airlines reject the requests for one reason or another.Let's take a look at the refund policies of some most popular Asian airlines, and learn how to return the flight ticket and get your money back.

24 September 2021
Jessica Fender

We live in an ever-changing world, and we have to deal with uncertainty. No matter how long, and meticulously we plan our trips, sometimes the circumstances force us to cancel our plans. 

Unfortunately, canceling a trip is easier said than done. If you have ever tried to get a refund for your flight ticket, you know what I’m talking about. Typically, it takes airlines from a few days to a few weeks to process the ticket refund request. And it happens pretty often that the airlines reject the requests for one reason or another.

Today, we will discuss the refund policy of the top ten APAC (Asia Pacific) airlines. We will provide you with guidelines on how to return the flight ticket and get your money back.

Refundable vs. non-refundable tickets

Before we start talking about getting refunds, we should discuss the difference between refundable and non-refundable tickets.

The refundability of the ticket depends on the following factors:

  • Fare rules
  • The ticket price
  • The ticket class
  • Regulations in the country of purchase
  • The time left before the departure

Options for flight ticket refunds
Truly refundable flight tickets usually cost extra

You should always check the fare rules of the ticket before proceeding to checkout. Otherwise, you may buy a ticket that is not eligible for a refund.

As a rule, non-refundable tickets cost less than refundable ones. So if you opt for the cheapest tickets, you should understand that they will likely be non-refundable.

What refund will you get if you cancel a refundable ticket?

The refund amount will be equal to the price you paid for the ticket minus the service fee and refund fee. Keep in mind that even refundable tickets are subject to certain conditions, and those conditions depend on the airlines. If you make a refund request too late, or if the price of your ticket is too low, the airline may decline your request.

Further, we will discuss the refund policies of ten popular APAC airlines and outline the steps for requesting refunds for refundable flight tickets.

Have you just realized that you bought a non-refundable ticket? Don’t panic. You still have a chance to get a refund for your ticket or at least a partial refund. Keep on reading.

How to get a refund for a non-refundable flight ticket

Now you may be wondering what you should do if you’ve bought a non-refundable ticket and now need to cancel your travel plans. Well, there are three cases in which you can still request a refund. Let’s consider each of them in detail.

Tickets booked within the last 24 hours

Have you just booked a ticket but already want to return it? You have 24 hours to cancel your ticket and get a 100% refund.

The vast majority of airlines follow the 24-hour flight cancellation rule – they allow a purchased reservation to be canceled within 24 hours without penalty. This rule applies to both refundable and non-refundable tickets.

Companies provide a full refund to the original form of payment. It can be a credit or debit card or whichever payment method you choose. For instance, if you’ve bought a ticket that costs $85 using your credit card, the airline company will return $85 to your credit card. The refund will be paid in 3-60 working days, depending on the policy of a chosen airline.

How can you request a refund within 24 hours? You need to call or email the company. Or, if you have bought a ticket on the official airlines’ website, you can log in to your account and manage your trip online – you can click the “cancel” button and request a refund automatically.

Significant flight schedule change

In the age of pandemic crisis, airlines modify flights pretty often – they change the departure and arrival time as well as connection time. And you can use it to your advantage.

In cases of “significant flight schedule change” and flight cancellations, you, as a traveler, get entitled to a refund. Some airlines may offer you a rerouting, but you can insist that you need a refund only.

Let’s say you have booked a flight ticket from Bangkok to Singapore with a departure time of 6:30. The airline company has rescheduled your flight, and now it departs at 9:30. You can contact the company and request a refund. Even if you cancel your trip for personal reasons, you can pretend that flight schedule changes affect your plans; for instance, you can say that you will miss an important business meeting.

In other words, if you have a non-refundable ticket, you can wait for a few weeks and see whether an airline will reschedule your flight. If it happens, you will request a refund and get your money back on your account.

Just keep in mind that this strategy is applicable to “significant flight schedule change” only. If the “minor flight schedule change” occurs, you will not be entitled to a refund. In other words, if the new arrival time will differ from the initial arrival time of 15 minutes, the company will decline your refund request.

As a rule, airlines inform travelers about the flight schedule changes via email. In most cases, travelers are allowed to cancel tickets and get a refund online. Check your inbox, and see whether you can use this opportunity to get a full refund.

Death of an immediate family member

The vast majority of airlines provide ticket refunds for travelers who are forced to cancel their travel plans because of the death of an immediate family member. The traveler should contact the company, explain the situation, and send the death certificate via email as proof to get a refund.

Let’s consider an example. A traveler, Jane, wanted to fly to her friend’s wedding on August 20. But unfortunately, her grandfather has died on August 19. And now she needs to stay in the city to be present at the funeral. Jane can’t travel to the wedding, but she can provide a death certificate to the carrier and get back the money she spent on the flight ticket.

If you’ve got into a similar situation, you should hesitate to request a refund. You can do it even after the trip.

Tax refund

If part or all of your ticket has not been used, you may be eligible for a tax refund. Let’s say you want to cancel your trip to the United States. The price of your ticket Dubai – New York is $1048, and it includes such taxes and fees:

  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Fee
  • Immigration and Naturalization Fees
  • Passenger Facility Charge
  • Custom User Fee

Flight ticket refunds taxes and fees

Since you will not land in New York, the Customer User Fee, as well as other fees, will not be paid to the US Custom. You can contact the airline and discuss the possibility of a tax refund. Since your ticket is non-refundable, you can’t expect the company to give you $1048 back. But you can get at least part of this sum. Well, it’s not a significant amount of money, but still, it’s better than nothing.

Refund policies in the era of the global pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic heavily impacted the aviation industry. Due to international travel restrictions, the airlines experienced severe financial loss and were forced to revisit their strategies and update their refund policies.

The companies understood that they need to provide travelers with more flexibility in order to increase sales and get their businesses back on track. And for this very reason, the vast majority of flight tickets are now changeable under the flexible booking policy, and many of them are refundable.

So if you had troubles with returning flight tickets and getting refunds before 2020, you should know that today the situation is different. Thanks to the refund policy updates, you have much higher chances of getting your money back.

Here is a list top ten popular APAC airlines and guides on how you can request a refund from them.

AirAsia

When you buy tickets from AirAsia, you need to choose a ticket fare: Saver, Standard, or Flexi. If you want to get a refundable ticket, you need to select Flexi fare. If you choose Saver or Standard fare, you will have zero chances to return your ticket and get your money back.

How to get a refund for a refundable ticket? To request a refund from AirAsia, you don’t need to call AirAsia hotline, fill a form on the website, or contact the airline ticketing office (if you bought your flight there). Instead, you should chat with AVA on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, or right on the site.

Do you want to return a non-refundable ticket, such as promo ticket? Obviously, you can’t get a full refund, but you can request a tax refund within six months after the scheduled flight departure date. Here you have two options. You can pay a refund fee and get a refund back to the original mode of payment (your credit card, PayPal, etc.). Or, you can get AirAsia Credits (no fees apply) and use these credits to pay for your next flight tickets.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that approved refund requests for domestic flights within Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan can be refunded in the form of a Credit Account only. If your flight departing from Myanmar, your ticket is not eligible for any kind of refund.

All Nippon Airways (ANA)

ANA is one of ten 5-star airlines in the world. However, the company cannot boast of a smooth and clear refund request process. ANA doesn’t allow customers to submit a refund request online. If you want to return your ticket, you need to contact ANA by phone or visit an ANA city ticketing counter or ANA airport ticketing counter.

Ana all nippon airways refunds table
ANA fare types and refunds.

The good news is that the company accepts requests within one year and 30 days of the date of the first flight sector (or the date of issue if unused). So you still have a chance to get a refund for ANA flight tickets that were supposed to be used a few months ago.

It’s worth noting that ANA didn’t set a standard refund fee – the fee amount always depends on the type of concrete ticket. When you book a flight, the fees information is hidden, so you can only guess how big the fee is. If you want to know how much ANA will charge you for processing your refund, you need to make a call and talk to a customer representative.

If you have bought a ticket at a third-party website, the ANA company will not help you cancel your ticket. You need to contact that third-party website and discuss possible ticket refund options.

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific is a 5-star airline, and it has a clear and transparent refund policy. Whatever ticket fare you choose (including promo), you will be able to cancel your ticket anytime and get a refund. You can return both: unused and partly used tickets. The refund will be loaded on your credit or debit card or PayPal account. If some information is missing in Cathay Pacific’s database, for instance, if your credit card has recently expired, the company’s representative will contact you.

How long it takes to get a refund? Depending on the payment method you used, it can take up to 20 calendar days. If you’ve paid with PayPal or a credit card, you will receive your money within seven working days.

How can you cancel your flight? Log in to your account, navigate to the Manage Booking page, and follow the system guidelines. If you hold a Vantage Pass, Student Fare ticket, or Senior Fare ticket, you can request a refund through the contact center.

Note that Cathay Pacific will not provide you with a refund if you purchased your ticket through a travel agent or a third-party website. You need to contact the designated third-party agent to request a refund.

Cathay pacific cancellation fee
Cathay pacific cancellation fees for Core and Flex ticket classes.

Emirates Airlines

Emirates Airlines claim that they provide “full flexibility” to their customers. But it doesn’t mean that all their tickets are 100% refundable. If you choose the “Saver” fare or use one of Emirates promotions and pay the lowest price, you will be able to change your ticket at no cost. But what about a ticket refund? If you request a ticket refund before departure, you will have to pay an AED 500 refund fee (around USD 136). For instance, if your ticket costs AED 1500, you will get a refund of AED 1000. But if your ticket costs AED 500, you will get nothing.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that you can’t request a ticket refund after departure – it’s not permitted by Emirate Airlines.

Emirates Airlines allows you to request a refund by completing a form on their website. You should type in your personal data, your ticket number, and specify what type of refund you expect to get (refund of the fully unused ticket, partially used ticket, seat selection, etc).

Emirates refund fees depend on ticket fare class
Emirates refund fees depend on ticket fare class

Things you need to know before requesting a refund from Emirates:

Take advantage of ticket flexibility

Emirates Airlines allows you to use your original ticket anytime in the next 24 months. The company will not charge you a penny – you can change the date of your trip and even your destination. So if you plan to delay your trip rather than cancel it, think twice before requesting a refund – changing your ticket is a better solution.

Make sure that you understand the fare conditions applicable to your ticket

Emirates processes the refund requests automatically – you will not be able to talk to a customer service representative and ask additional questions. So make sure to read the fare conditions of your ticket before submitting your request to understand whether you will be charged a refund fee.

Tickets booked through a travel agent

If you bought your ticket within the last 24 months through a travel agent or Emirates ticketing office, you need to contact a travel agent for a refund. You can only use the refund form on the Emirates website if you bought your ticket more than 24 months ago.

IndiGo

All IndiGo flight tickets are changeable and refundable. However, if you decide to cancel your ticket, you will have to pay a rather high refund fee:

Domestic flights:

  • Ticket cancelation within 0-3 days left before the departure – INR 3,500 or Airfare charges (whichever is lower)
  • 4 Days left for departure and above – INR 3,000 or Airfare charges (Exception: Flexi Plus Fare – the charge will be INR 500)

International flights:

  • Ticket cancelation within 0-3 days left before the departure – INR 6500 or Airfare charges (Exception: Flexi Plus Fare – the charge will be INR 6,000)
  • 4 Days left for departure and above – INR 6,000 or Airfare charges (Exception: Flexi Plus Fare – the charge will be INR 1,000)

Another great news is that the process of requesting a refund for IndiGo ticket is pretty simple and straightforward. You can fill in the form on the website – it will take you one or two minutes. The refund for canceled tickets will be processed after the deduction of appropriate cancellation fees. You will receive your refund within seven working days.

Flight cancelation or schedule changes

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, IndiGo changes and cancels flights on a regular basis. If your flight has been postponed by two hours or more, or if your flight timing has been brought forward by one hour or more from the scheduled time of departure, you can get a full refund.

IndiGo has named this refund option “Plan B”. You just need to log in to your account and complete a few steps to officially cancel your flight. Your money will be returned to your credit/debit card.

Indigo refund plan B

Malaysia Airlines

Do you want to get a refund for your Malaysia Airlines flight ticket? We have bad news for you. In contrast to Emirates and Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines don’t have a clear refund policy. When you buy tickets online, you can’t even check whether your ticket is refundable and how much the refund fee is.

Malaysia Airlines does not have a clear refund policy
Malaysia Airlines does not have a clear refund policy

How can you request a refund for your ticket? You can’t do it online or via email – you need to call them and talk to the customer service representative. You need to contact the Malaysia Airlines Global Contact Centre at 1-300-88-3000 (if you are currently located in Malaysia), +603 7843 3000 (if you are currently located outside Malaysia), and find out if you are eligible for a refund.

If the company accepts your request, you will need to wait for your refund for three to six months (!), even if you are a business class traveler. We highly suggest you call them every few days or leave reviews on Facebook, Twitter, or TripAdvisor to speed up the process and get your money back sooner.

Malaysia airlines refund process
Getting a refund even for a Business Class ticket can be a challenge when it comes to Malaysia Airlines

If your travel plans have changed, we highly suggest you cancel your Malaysia AIrlines ticket and get a travel voucher/open ticket rather than request a refund. You can submit your request via the online Assistance Request Form and get a travel voucher within less than 24 hours. If you opt for this solution, you will save time, money, and nerves.

Tickets booked through a travel agent

Have you bought your ticket on a website other than Malaysian Airlines’ official site? Did you use a Malaysia Airlines promotion by one of the OTA websites? Contact the website or travel agent who helped you with booking, not Malaysian Airlines.

Qantas

Qantas offers two types of economy tickets: cheap non-refundable tickets and Flex fare refundable tickets. If you have a refundable ticket, you can apply for a refund online or call Qantas hotline. The cancelation fee can be as low as AUD 99 for domestic flights (Qantas Economy Class) and as high as AUD 600 for international flights (Business Class).

The only bad news is that the current processing time for refund requests is about eight weeks. Once you make a request online, you can be sure that it will be processed, and you don’t need to make any extra calls. You just need to wait. Once the system processes your request, you will get a notification via email.

Qantas cancellation fees
Qantas cancellation fees.

How can you return a non-refundable flight ticket?

If Qantas reschedule your flight within the last 72 hours before the departure, you can get a full refund. If you have just found out that your flight will be delayed by one hour, contact the airline, and you will likely get your money back.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines offers a great variety of fare conditions for economy tickets. If you have chosen the Economy Lite, it means that your ticket is non-refundable. But if you have selected other fares, you can cancel your ticket and get a refund. Just keep in mind that you will have to pay the refund fee (SGD 70 – SGD 200).

Singapore airlines refund cancellation fee
Singapore Airlines ticket fare classes come with different cancellation fees.

How can you request a refund for your flight ticket? You don’t need to call or email the airline. You just need to sign in “Manage booking” page, enter your booking reference and your name, and then click “Cancel my trip”. Further, the system will inform you about the cancelation procedure and familiarize you with the fees applicable to your ticket.

Tickets booked through a travel agent

We need to warn you that you can cancel your Singapore Airlines ticket online and get a refund when and only when you’ve purchased a ticket directly from the official Singapore Airlines website (even if it was an SIA promo ticket). If you booked your ticket through a third-party website, you need to contact that website.

24-hour flight cancellation rule

The 24-hour flight cancellation rule is applicable exclusively to flights to or from the USA booked at least one week before the departure. If you booked a flight to a country other than the USA, this rule would not work for you.

Tax return

If you cancel a non-refundable ticket, Singapore Airlines will refund taxes only. Unfortunately, the company may also apply a cancellation/refund fee. In such a case, the amount of your refund will be under $100.

Thai Airways

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thai Airways canceled many of its flights and updated its refund policy. So if you have recently bought a Flexi or Full Flexi fare ticket, you can cancel it and get a refund. You need to pay a fee that can be as low as THB 2,000 and as high as THB 6,000 – it all depends on the type of your ticket.

Thai Airways is one of not many airlines that allow travelers to request a flight ticket refund not only before but also after the trip (up to 90 days after ticket expiry). Just keep in mind that if you request a refund for the originally scheduled flight, the no-show fee will be applied instead of the refund fee.

Tickets bought before the pandemic

Did you buy your ticket before the pandemic started and before Thai Airlines changed their refund policy? You may face difficulties with getting a refund. The chances are Thai Airways will keep offering you to postpone your trip and get a new ticket as soon as they are available. Unfortunately, Thai Airways suffered significant financial losses due to lockdowns and travel restrictions. The company still struggles to resolve the issues – the flights canceled 17 months ago are still not refunded. If you want to get your money back, keep sending emails and making calls. Sooner or later, your request will be considered and satisfied.

It’s worth mentioning that if you bought your ticket from a travel agent, you shouldn’t even try to contact Thai Airways – the company will decline your request automatically. To get adequate help, you need to contact your travel agent.

Virgin Australia

The refund policy of Virgin Australia differs from the policies of other companies. Firstly, it doesn’t refund tickets associated with international long-haul travel and travel from/to Tonga, Rarotonga, and Port Moresby. At the same time, it allows travelers to cancel domestic flights and get travel credits at no fee. Depending on the fare rule, it also allows the cancellations with a refund to other forms of payment per request.

If you are eligible for a ticket refund, log in to your account and click Manage your trip. There are you will find the button “Cancel my trip”.

If your flight departs within 72 hours, you should better call customer service (13-67-89) or talk to the customer representatives on Twitter. Why? If you decide to cancel your flight ticket online, it may take the system too long to process your refund request.

What can you do if you hold a non-refundable ticket for an international long-haul flight? Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is to accept Future Flight credits and use them in the coming year for your next trips.

Conclusion

As you can see, ticket refund policies and refund request procedures vary from company to company. If you travel with customer-centered APAC airlines like Emirates and Singapore Airlines, you can get a flight ticket refund by simply filling a form on a website. But if you travel with companies like Malaysian Airlines, you should be ready for hassles – you will likely need to call customer service and spend a few hours on hold to make an initial refund request.

If you don’t want to lose your hard-earned money, we highly suggest you follow these simple rules:

  • Always check fare rules before buying a ticket. If you know that your travel plans will likely change, don’t buy non-refundable tickets.
  • Purchase tickets on reliable, trustworthy websites that provide adequate customer support. Otherwise, it will be extremely difficult for you to change or refund your flight ticket in case of necessity.
  • Consider buying travel insurance that covers costs associated with trip cancelation. Protect yourself from financial loss.

And we want to remind you that even though your current trip has been canceled, the new exciting trips are waiting for you in the coming years. The world is slowly getting back to normal, and you can start building new outstanding travel plans.

Wish you good luck with getting a flight ticket refund and planning new trips!

Jessica Fender

Jessica Fender


Jessica Fender is an experienced traveler who has visited over 52 European, African, and Asian countries. She is an editor at UnemployedProfessors, a writing help website. In 2018, Jessica opted for a digital nomad lifestyle – she travels the world, works remotely, and enjoys her life to the fullest.

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