Airline refund when person being visited dies prior to trip?

I recently bought airline tickets for my family to visit another family member but that person died before we could visit. Common sense seems to tell me I should be able to show the death certificate and get a full refund but the airline thinks otherwise.

Their policy is only to change a reservation (possibly make a reservation too, I’m not sure) to get to the person’s bedside or attend a funeral. Both those are kind gestures but in my case the person is not there to visit. I contacted the airline but they aren’t budging.

Unbelievably I didn’t buy travel insurance in this case when in hindsight that would have been a great idea (doh!).

Is there some technique to use with the airline to get a refund for this?

No, not any more.

Why would that be common sense?

Because there’s no one there to visit.

I forgot to mention another option - I can change the tickets to some other destination, some other time but that will cost $200 per ticket which is about the cost of each ticket now so that’s the same thing as not going and losing all the money.

I am sincerely sorry for your loss.

As far as the plane tickets, remember that almost all airlines sell fully refundable tickets. You can get a 100% refund at any time for any reason (or even no reason). For a much lower price
they sell non-refundable tickets. In exchange for the reduced price, you assume the risk if you do not fly. However most airlines let
you use the value of the non-refundable ticket towards the purchase of a future ticket (generally up to one year). They do charge
a fee of $100 to $200 (domestically) for that, which is sometimes more than the ticket is worth. (Southwest does not charge a fee, you just pay the difference in fare.)

Refundable tickets cost so much more that unless you frequently change plans it ends up being cheaper occasionally paying a change fee or throwing away a ticket.

I don’t know of any travel insurance that covers death of an unrelated party. Generally, they only cover you if someone in your household.
a travel companion, or maybe a close relative dies, but I certainly don’t know what all policies cover. So read the terms carefully if you are hoping to have a certain kind of hazard covered.

If you bought the tickets through a national high-volume full-service travel agency, they often have contacts with whom they could try to plead your case.
But their services cost. I doubt you’ll be able to get a full refund on a non-refundable ticket, however.

Did you tell them, when you bought the ticket, that you were buying it purely for the purpose of visiting a specific individual? 'Cause, normally, you know, they don’t care why you’re making the journey.

What has happened is that you have changed your mind about wanting to travel, due to circumstances which you didn’t foresee when you made the booking. You could, as you say, have bought insurance, or you could have bought a flexible, refundible ticked (which would have cost more than the no-refund ticket that you did buy). You were the only person who knew your reason for wanting to travel; you were the only person who could make any assessment of the risk that your desire to travel might change. It was up to you to manage this risk, not the airline. “Common sense” says that if you didn’t think you needed a refundible ticket, that’s not the airline’s call; it’s yours.

…“common sense” is a subjective matter, and simply doesn’t apply here. As a business the airline can have whatever policy it likes as long as it conforms to local laws and regulations.

I’m not aware of any special techniques you can apply other than going to the top and pleading your case or going to social media and attempting to shame them. Although I personally would not recommend the latter as I don’t consider the airline has done anything to deserve it.

Yes I did have the option for refundable tickets and in hindsight should have considered that option but didn’t, completely my bad call. I also didn’t consider travel insurance but don’t know now if that would have refunded the tickets, another possible bad call. I’m seeing a pattern here…

I thought my special situation would allow for a refund but I’m seeing that’s probably not going to work out. Thanks for the great responses.

Yeah, that would never have occurred to me. If I buy a ticket somewhere, and the purpose for my visit no longer applies, I don’t see why that’s the airline’s concern (other than good PR, I guess.)

I’m also in the “huh?” camp towards the OP. Why would/should the airline care about your change in plans? They offer fully refundable tickets, and non-refundable tickets, and you purchased one but not the other, expecting that non-refundable really meant refundable? It just makes no sense.

Non-refundable does not mean refundable.

Now, if you weren’t aware of the different types of tickets or such, I could understand the confusion and possibly even the upset.

I could see it being standard practice or common courtesy to refund a ticket if the person (or one of a party) flying dies, but not just if the reason for being at the destination changes.

Why is this the airlines problem? They don’t care why you were flying in the first place, so why should they care about why you are not flying?

First, I’m sorry for your loss.

/travel guru hat ON/

full disclosure… I’ve been in the travel business for several years working both for airlines, travel agencies and corporate travel departments.

You’re unlikely to get a refund of your tickets due to the death of your relative; but you do have some options…
-fly to your destination anyway and take advantage of your already-purchased tickets.
-cancel the current reservation, hold the electronic tickets as credit toward purchase of a new trip (most airlines also don’t allow a change of names and that the e-tickets be used within one year from the date of purchase).
There’s another option that you might want to exercise, but this requires some work on your part. Take NO action until an hour or so before departure. That way, if the airline cancels the flight, then you can call the airline and have them refund due to the cancellation. This may apply also if there is a schedule-change imposed by the airline or if the flights have been delayed for a long period. Obviously, this can be risky as there is no guarantee of a cancellation or delay. Regardless, you probably should cancel the reservation before flight departure as many airlines will suspend the value of the e-tickets if you just no-show the flight.

best of luck!

/travel guru hat OFF/

This just happend to me last summer. I booked through Expedia and they gave me the full refund on my ticket. My friend who was also flying in used Kayak was able to get half of her ticket refunded. I think if you went through a third party ticketing agency, it may be easier to get the refund than directly through the airline.

My experience is that the airlines are much more flexible about things than third party ticketing agencies.

I am sorry to hear about the passing of the person you were going to visit I don’t know if insurance would have helped in this situation. I do suggest contacting Chris Elliott at and seeing if he can assist in acheiving an acceptable resolution.

Check with your credit card issuer – maybe you have travel insurance and don’t know it. Some credit cards automatically provide travel insurance on travel charged to that card. Mine does.

Of course, having travel insurance does not mean that the current situation is one under which the insurance would pay out. They tend to be more for airline cancellation, illness of the traveller, &c.

Typical airline practice is to permit the ticket value to be applied to another ticket, on the same airline and by the same passenger, within a year, less a change fee of typically $200. That’s all you can reasonably expect.