"Nonrefundable" airline tickets

When I travel by air, I usually buy nonrefundable tickets, because refundable ones cost so much more. But I’ve taken to wondering, exactly how nonrefundable are they?

Let’s say I’m in the airport, walking to the gate, and I fall and break my arm. I’ll of course go to the hospital, and miss my flight. Can I call the airline the following day, and switch my tickets to a new flight? Or will they just say, “Tough luck, walk more carefully next time”?

What if I bought tickets for someone else, and they weren’t going to be used? Say, for instance, that I bought a round-trip ticket in my brother’s name, so he could come visit me. But then he says he’s not coming, and I want to recover the money I paid for the tickets. Can I have the airline revoke the tickets and credit me, or will the credit appear in my brother’s name? Can I legally dispute that charge with my credit card company?

(Not that any of this appears likely to happen to me anytime soon. I’m just curious.)

Laugh hard; it’s a long way to the bank.

They might be willing to put you on another flight after you pay some kind of fee, but there’s no way they’ll give you your money back.

What did you think the word “non-refundable” means?

“Non-refundable” means “you’re not getting your money back, Jack.”

It doesn’t necessarily mean “worthless except for this specific flight on this specific date.” Usually right after nonrefundable it says “change subject to fee”. So, you can change them to a later date, but it’s going to cost you a little bit to do so.

AuraSeer - ahhh - a subject I know well (as I have to do travel arrangements for a whole bunch of people).

Non-refundable means that you won’t get your money back, but you can use them for a different flight. There is a fee - usually $75 - and no one else can use the tickets but you (e.g. you can’t give them to your brother to use if you aren’t going anywhere soon) and you generally have a year to do so.

I’ve done this often, and I agree with Missy.

Also, if you’re a VERY frequent flyer (or have a corporate deal with the airline) they often waive the additional fee. There are a few other conditions under which you might be able to beg and grovel and get the fee removed. Sometimes, if you make another reservation and just show up with the prior ticket, they will be in too much of a hurry to bother collecting the fee.

…however, be warned that nonrefundable tickets you buy from consolidators may really, actually be use-them-or-lose-them. Happened to me.

Or, as in my thread over in MPSIMS shows, they will make it so only the ticketed party - not the purchaser - can get a voucher for another flight.

Imagine you book a flight for your wife and six kids to Disney World. Before the majoc day arrives, your wife up-and-leaves with the kids and decides that the Mailman’s house is her own private Disney World.

All of the tickets are in the names of ticketed travelers who did NOT pay for this, but if you cancel the trip, credit will be extended to everyone except for the person who laid down the plastic (besides the one ticket in your name).

Then, within the year (or two) allotment, your ex-wife, six kids and the mailman can go on a nice trip thanks to your generosity.

Yer pal,

Good point, particularly if they’re international tickets, to which totally different rules may apply.