Canceling or changing an airline ticket is inevitable. People get sick, plans change, and life happens where you just have to change or cancel your travel plans. Airlines make billions of dollars on change and cancellation fees. However, the consumer comes away with nothing but a hole in their pocket. When you book a mileage ticket, the fees to cancel or change are often less than if you tried to change or cancel a revenue ticket. There are a few airlines that have very low change or cancellation penalties for tickets booked on miles. These airlines allow passengers to have good flexibility with respect to changes or cancellations of award tickets.
The Best: Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines is by far the best airline when it comes to changing or canceling your ticket. That’s because there are no fees to change or cancel your ticket with Southwest Airlines. As a result, it gives you the most flexibility with regards to domestic travel. This policy applies to both revenue flights and those booked using Rapid Rewards points. You can book your flight and if you want to cancel it later, you can do so guilt free. Also, if at a later time, the price of your flight drops, you can easily change it as well without penalties. For domestic travel, you can’t go wrong with Southwest Airlines.
If you are interested in booking Star Alliance awards knowing that you may have to cancel at a later date, consider Singapore Airlines. Their fees range from $12 – $20 for changing your ticket, with the exception being a $75 fee if you change your award within 24 hours or don’t show up for your flight.
If you decide to completely cancel a ticket and get your miles back, it’s only $30. Compare that to United Airlines which charges $200 for the same thing if you are a general member.
Another good Star Alliance option is Avianca. Tickets booked with Avianca Lifemiles can be cancelled for $50 per passenger. They charge $150 for ticket changes, so it might be best to cancel and rebook if award seats are still available.
The British Airways website states that it charges $55 to cancel and redeposit your Avios.
However, that’s not entirely true. When you cancel a ticket booked with Avios, you will lose your taxes or $55, whichever is less. So, if your taxes were $11.20 for a roundtrip on American Airlines, you will lose that amount, but you won’t pay the $55 fee above. If your taxes were $75, your net refund will be $20, after the $55 cancellation fee. Make sure that you cancel online, as it costs more to do this on the phone.
Believe it or not, Korean Air is like Southwest Airlines. They have no change or cancellation penalties. So, this might be a good option for booking partner awards on Delta and Alaska airlines. I’ve never booked a Korean Air award, but it’s a good option.
Honorable mention: Alaska Airlines
Alaska doesn’t charge any fees if you change or cancel an award 60 days prior to departure. If within 60 days, the charge is $125 to cancel or change. That’s pretty good, but the airlines listed above are better in the 60 day window.
So, if your travel plans are not set in stone, or you just want to have more flexibility with respect to canceling your flight, consider using miles of the above programs to book your next ticket.