The other day I went through two months of e-mail and made an interesting discovery … I discovered that more than forty people had contacted me to either seek advice or complain about an airline not refunding their fares after they themselves changed or cancelled their tickets.
This revelation in reading these e-mails was this … that travelers do not seem to understand what “Non-Refundable” really means.
So let’s start with this … non-refundable has its first known origins in 1963, so it’s a fairly new word in our lexicon … it’s an adjective and Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘non-refundable’ as “not subject to refunding or being refunded.”
No traveller expects to have to cancel their trip or change their flights, but these things happen, and when they happen there are ways to avoid being told “no refund.” Travellers actually have multiple choices.
The first and most obvious choice to avoid hearing “no refund” should you need to cancel a flight is to purchase a flexible or refundable ticket. Each airline uses they’re own fare codes, however in economy class a “Y” fare is almost always fully flexible and refundable.
Yes … flexible and refundable airfares are more expensive than the lowest cost restricted fares, but that is the trade off for your freedom to change your ticket on a whim. By purchasing the lowest possible fare, the most restricted fare, travelers are gambling that they won’t need to cancel or change their travel plans. I admit it, I often buy the lowest fare and play the odds, and the few times I have lost out on that gamble I knew it was my problem since I purchased the lowest fare with the most restrictions.
For those not interested in paying a higher airfare, there is travel insurance. Travel insurance protects travelers in case they have to cancel a trip due to illness, injury or personal tragedy. Travel insurance is also good for unforeseen incidents where travel plans change once travel has begun.
Airline seats are ‘perishable’ items. Once the cabin door closes on a flight an airline can’t get that revenue back. A passenger opting off a flight leaves the airline limited access to resell a seat, if they can resell it at all and there is no way to sell that empty seat the following day … once it flies, its gone.
Before any airline website or travel website allows customers to pay for their tickets customers must check off a box stating that they understand the rules and regulations of their purchase. Failure to read the terms of service shouldn’t be made the airlines’ problem.
So next time you purchase tickets please read the fare rules and restrictions. Should you have to cancel your travel plans remember this … no matter what happened, no matter how sad or horrible … its not the airlines’ responsibility.
We’ve all been there; the difference is knowing where to place the blame …