Let us suppose we have planned and prepared for our dream vacations for a while and just before we are all set to leave, some type of tragedy occurs and we have to cancel our vacation plans. Imagine the disappointment of everyone in the family! In addition to dealing with an upset spouse or angry kids, we have the long, arduous task of retracing everything we did to plan the trip. The hotel reservations, rental car booking, shore excursion plans, the credit card company notifications and other chores can be overwhelming. To add to this headache, how about worrying about probably losing the thousands of dollars we paid on airfare for all the folks in the family?
Getting refunds on plane tickets can be a nightmare. Unless you are on a business trip and have booked tickets that are fully refundable or transferable, there is very little chance that all your money will be returned to you without any hassle.
So let us focus on how we can improve our chances of getting at least a portion of our hard-earned money back from the airlines.
Proactive planning – Before you buy the tickets, read through the small script and ask questions to the person at the ticket counter, to the travel agent assisting you as well as go to the airline website and read up on their cancellation policies. Check up on the fare return rules and policies on fees and credits for return or cancellation or postponement of dates.
Travel Insurance – Many companies offer travel insurance. A travel agent always advises people to take travel insurance. Sometimes its worth all the frustration and shock that we experience when an untimely even occurs out of the blue.
Check policies ahead – Most airlines have different policies. The last time I checked, Delta airlines will allow unused international tickets to be forwarded to a future date within a year for an additional payment of $200 or so. If you have no immediate plans to go on vacation or do not know which date you can go and where then you will lose the money. You can always re-book the ticket for next summer and use it if you intend to go anyway and try to save the $200 in some other way.
Show proof – Sometimes if we show a doctor’s certificate or proof of a death in the family or other serious events that prevented us from going on the trip, we may get a return after paying some penalties. To do this, do not call the telephone number, just go to the airport and speak with a friendly looking representative and be earnest in you plea for help.
Get them when busy – One of the trickiest ways to save the penalty and still be able to go is to reach the boarding gate just in time for boarding when the agents are busy and stressed out. They will make the changes in a hurry and some of them may waive penalties simply because there is no time to look into them or because the crew and the rest of the passengers are in a hurry to roll out of the gate on time.
Face to face – It is always better to go to the airport or to your travel agency and sit down or talk face to face about the situation. The more believable and gentle we are, the more they will do to understand our situation and try to help. Stick around the airport or agency as though you have no recourse but to get some money back. Ask them earnestly what other options you have (never get angry because these customer service agents cannot be blamed for your unfortunate circumstances or the airline policies ) and listen carefully. If there are some options that you can accept, then try to follow the requirements and make a plan to get some of the money back.
Service to the Country – Some airlines waive penalty fees in the case of the traveler having to go to Military duty, Jury duty, etc, regardless of what type of duty it may be. Also, if you work for the government in some type of important position, then you may be able to get some higher up to negotiate the deal with the airlines for you, especially if you have a valid reason for canceling the trip.
Join the club – Some airlines have clubs that may give you more privileges when it comes to postponing trips or reducing penalties on an air ticket. The catch is that most of the time you have to join these clubs when you start planning your itinerary. You may join clubs using your frequent flyer miles or by giving additional money.
Ask the boss – Sometimes, if you have a good standing in your company and are on good terms with the management, they may be able to help you out if the loss or penalty of the tickets is very large. Again, apply in writing, and state your case as well as you can to show them that you would appreciate some help “for hardship reasons”. Many companies can write these out as bonuses or other incentives to employees and also take tax deductions on them. So you may get lucky and be able to replace the money you lost on your vacation.
Credit Card chargebacks – If you have not paid your credit card and its less than 60 days since you purchased the tickets, you may be in luck! Some credit card companies are liable by federal government laws to return you the money that was charged for any purchase that they couldn’t use.
As you can see, there are several ways to avoid or minimize penalties on unused air tickets. Especially because of the terrorism scare, these tickets are not to be sold to other parties or auctioned off on eBay like many of the items piling up in our homes.
By careful planning and some cautionary procedures that may help you later, you can easily minimize the amount of the ticket price that you will have to sacrifice. Hopefully, you will be on your way to the much-needed vacation shortly thereafter!