Airline Cancellation Policy: What You Need to Know Before Canceling Your Ticket

How long in advance can you cancel your ticket? Can you get a refund? Are there any fees? Check the cancellation policies of all major airlines here.

Airline Cancellation Policy: What You Need to Know Before Canceling Your Ticket

How long in advance can you cancel your ticket? Can you get a refund if you cancel your flight? Are there any fees? Can you cancel your trip for free?

In this complete guide, we've summarized the cancellation policies of all major airlines to answer those questions.

Did you know that if the airline cancels your flight, you may get up to 600€ in compensation? Submit a flight compensation claim with ClaimCompass and get money back from the airline without lifting a finger!

North American Airlines' Cancellation Policies

American Airlines cancellation policy

A full refund is granted to passengers who cancel their flight within 24h after their booking. The only condition is that your flight needs to be 2 days away or more.

The cancellation policy of American Airlines also mentions a free 24-hour hold on some of their flights. For this to be applicable, the flight must be at least 7 days away at the time of the booking. It guarantees the price of your booking for up to 24h and cancel it within this timeframe, at no extra cost, should you decide not to purchase the ticket after all. If your flight is eligible, you'll see a "hold" label once you reached the "Review and Pay" page.

Finally, American Airlines give their passengers the possibility to extend the amount of time during which your booking is held at the same price. Note that this is, however, not free.

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United Airlines cancellation policy

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) set up the "24-hour reservation requirement", requiring:

"carriers to hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty."

Unlike several US airlines, United Airlines' cancellation policy doesn't grant more advantages than this rule. As long as your flight is at least 7 days away, you won't pay extra to cancel your ticket within 24h after booking it.

However, in our post on flight cancellation refunds, we've described a hack that allows you to cancel for free for up to 48h.

For a fee, United's FarLock holds the price of your ticket. You can choose to hold it for 3 to 7 days.

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Delta Air Lines cancellation policy

Delta's cancellation policy goes further than the DOT's reservation requirement: it removed the rule stating that the flight had to be at least 7 days away.

Instead, Delta lets you cancel your ticket, free of charge, "by midnight of the day after the eTicket is purchased or midnight of the departure date of the first flight, whichever comes first."

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Southwest cancellation policy

While the language differs, Southwest has established the same rules as Delta Air Lines.

According to Southwest's cancellation policy, there are no requirements regarding how long in advance of the flight you purchased the ticket. They let you claim a full refund without advance purchase requirement.

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Spirit Airlines cancellation policy

Spirit didn't improve the requirements set up by the DOT. The only way for you to get a full refund after cancelling your flight is to do so 24-hour after booking and at the condition that your flight is at least 7 days away.

Spirit's cancellation policy states that the cost of cancelling or changing your ticket outside this limit varies depending on whether you're doing so past the 24h deadline, or if the flight is less than 7 days away, or both.

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Frontier Airlines cancellation policy

Here again, Frontier's cancellation policy doesn't vary from the DOT's rule. Full refunds are only granted if your flight is more than 7 days away and you cancelled your ticket no more than 24 hours after the reservation.

Note, however, that if you purchased the WORKS℠, the value of your ticket can be applied to another booking at no extra cost, up to one year from the time of the cancellation.

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Alaska Airlines cancellation policy

In their cancellation policy, Alaska Airlines reduced the advance purchase requirement from 7 days to only 24h. In other words, you're entitled to a full refund of your ticket if you cancel your flight within 24 hours, as long as your flight was supposed to depart in more than 1 day.

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Allegiant Air cancellation policy

As per the DOT's rule, Allegiant passengers will receive a full refund of their airfare if the cancellation of the reservation is made within 24 hours of the initial booking, unless the flight was booked within one week of departure.

Allegiant, in their cancellation policy, also mention their Trip Flex service, which "allows customers to make changes and cancellations to their air itinerary without incurring all of the fees that otherwise would apply if the change or cancellation is made at least one hour before the scheduled time of departure".

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JetBlue Airlines cancellation policy

No improvement of the DOT's rule from JetBlue either. Their cancellation policy lists some pretty hefty fees should you cancel past 24h after the initial booking, beyond $200 on some tickets.

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Air Canada cancellation policy

When cancelling a flight with Air Canada, you will be issued a full refund when you do so within 24h after the initial booking, regardless of when the flight is departing. Past this time limit, you will incur a fee for cancelling your flight, as per Air Canada's cancellation policy.

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WestJet cancellation policy

According to WestJet's cancellation policy, "If you cancel your flight within 24 hours of the original booking, the full cost of your flight will be refunded to you in the original form of payment, except in the case of flights that are scheduled to depart within 24 hours of the time of booking (ie, same-day flights), where the cancellation fee per person will be charged."

When cancelling a flight outside 24h of making the reservation, you expose yourself to fares that vary according to the flight class of the ticket you purchased. The higher the class, the higher the fee: for example, cancelling a Business fare more than 24h after booking will cost you $600 CAD/USD.

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European Airlines' Cancellation Policies

Ryanair cancellation policy

Ryanair has one of the worst cancellation policy in the industry. Travellers flying with Ryanair should be very confident about their travel plans when they book a flight with the low-cost airline: flights cannot be cancelled. Ryanair's cancellation policy doesn't mention any rule allowing you to cancel your flight and get a refund.

The only thing you can do is to change your flight, which you can do up to 2.5 hours before take off. Note that you will still have to pay a fee for doing so, according to Ryanair's cancellation policy.  

If you need to change the name on the flight, do so no less than 2 hours before the flight; if you've already checked in, you need to contact Ryanair's customer support.

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EasyJet cancellation policy

By comparison with Ryanair, easyJet's cancellation policy is slight better, but far from great. Cancelling within 24h of booking will grant you a full refund... minus cancellation fees.

If you cancel more than 24h after making the reservation, you won't be issued any refund, partial or full. If you're in this situation, EasyJet recommends that you change your flight instead.

But when changing your flight, note that you will still incur a change fee (plus the fare difference if the new flight is more expensive). According to their Fees and Charges, it's cheaper to change your flight more than 60 days in advance and to do so online (via their website or app) than with the assistance of their customer support team.

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British Airways cancellation policy

British Airways states that as long as your cancel your booking up to 24h after the reservation, you will be issued a full refund. No mention is made of a constraint related to the date of your flight.

Furthermore, British Airways's cancellation policy states that should the call center be closed when you call, this 24-hour deadline can be extended to 48 hours. This doesn't apply, however, if your flight is less than a week away from prchase.

If you cancel your flight more than 24 hours after booking, the amount of the refund will vary based on the type of ticket that you purchased and a cancellation fee may be added.

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Lufthansa cancellation policy

The cancellation policy set up by Lufthansa only states a very general rule, which is that your flight can be cancelled and refunded up to 24h before departure, but the refund and/or cancellation rules depend on the type of ticket that you purchased.

This implies that depending on your ticket, you may be entitled to a full or partial refund and may or may not have to pay a cancellation fee.

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Air France cancellation policy

According to Air France's cancellation policy, the full refund of your ticket is conditioned by 3 factors:

  • your ticket must be refundable (potentially at an extra cost)
  • you purchased the ticket at least 2 days or up to 12 months prior to the day when you request a refund
  • your boarding pass was not yet issued

The wording is quite complicated for the second condition, but it would seem that unlike most airlines, you cannot cancel a flight soon after making the reservation, but rather have to wait at least 2 days to do so. This seem counter-intuitive and may be a mistake on Air France's website - the rule could instead be that you can cancel a flight up to 48h after booking.

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Norwegian Air Shuttle cancellation policy

The conditions to cancel a Norwegian Air Shuttle flight vary depending on the typpe of ticket purchased.

  • LowFare, LowFare+ and Premium tickets can be cancelled within (only) 4 hours of booking
  • Flex and PremiumFlex tickets will be fully refunded if you cancel or don't use your flight.

The rules to change your flight are more clearly explained, in Norwegian Air Shuttle's policy. Passengers can change the date and time, destination and name of the ticket holder up to 30 minutes before scheduled departure for most destinations online. Modifications made at the airport or over the phone will cost you an extra $25 per person, each way, so do try to make all changes online.

Change fees are applicable, depending once again on the type of ticket. It's free to make a modification for Flex and PremiumFlex ticket holders. For LowFare, LowFare+ and Premium, the fee varies  according to whether the flight is an international long-haul one ($130) or not ($70).

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Conclusion on Airline Cancellation Policy

Cancellation policies vary from one airline to the next. In the US, the general rule implemented by the DOT ensures a common ground that guarantees basic rights for travellers who wish to modify their journey. While some US airlines stick to these rules, others went the extra mile and improved them for their passengers.

In Europe, the flight cancellation policies vary greatly. The type of ticket is usually the main criteria influencing the right to a full or partial refund, the existence of a cancellation fee or not, as well as the amount required to pay to change your ticket.

While in the EU, there aren't common rules regarding cancellation policies, the EU Regulation 261/2004 acts as the reference when it comes to compensations for flight cancellations. When the airline cancels your flight, you can be entitled to up to 600€ in compensation.

Note: We have listed the cancellation policy rules of some of the main airlines in the world. If your airline is missing, we invite you to check their website directly.