Unused Flight Tickets – Can you get a refund?

2020-09-09

Many of us know that horrible sinking feeling as you are rushing to the airport and know that with each passing minute your chances of arriving on time are getting smaller and smaller. Plans can change at the last minute or unforeseen problems can occur trains that turn what should be just a simple trip into a nightmare.

Whatever the reason for canceling a flight ticket, most passengers are unaware of their rights and what they should receive from the airline. Passengers do not know, for example, that regardless of the reason for canceling a ticket, airlines should refund at least some of the cost.

What is the actual cost of a flight ticket?

We often misunderstand or are misled as to how much of the airline ticket is the actual flight cost. Tickets actually consist of 3 parts and judgment C-290/16 of the European Court of Justice ensures that airlines must list each cost separately.

An example breakdown of costs (%):

  • Base fare: actual ticket price – approx. 30%
  • Fees & taxes: airline fees, security fees, fuel surcharge airline and security taxes – approx. 70%

The full list of charges includes the following:

  • Base fare or “actual ticket price” – the actual price charged by the airline for transport from origin to destination
  • Processing or service fee – the cost of issuing and distributing flight tickets, e.g. as for travel agencies
  • Taxes and fees – costs passed on by the airline to third parties. These include customs and security fees as well as taxes imposed by certain countries. Fees also include the luggage charges, if not included in the base fare as with low-cost airlines
  • Transaction fees – bank transfer fees
  • Fuel surcharges – extra costs per passenger for aircraft fuel, if applicable
  • Additional fees – these include personal services such as prepaid on-board services or meals

The base fare, also known as the “actual ticket price”, will only be repaid in full if the airline can resell your ticket and it is permitted in the airline’s terms and conditions. In this case, up to 95% of the total ticket price can be recouped.

If you do not use your ticket then, legally, the airline and airport fees and taxes, plus any surcharges do not apply. Service fees and taxes thereon can only be charged by the airline if the service is provided. So, if you are a no-show, or cancel your ticket, then you should be entitled to a refund for service charges paid in advance.

In general, however, airlines do not like to advertise these rights and it can often be an uphill battle to get your money back. Budget airlines in particular may be more evasive in refunding or even replying to your claim, but thankfully services such as GIVT’s exist whereby experienced professionals are happy to enforce your rights at no financial risk to yourself.

Flight cancellation charges and fees

When you purchase a flight ticket, you are entering into a contract with the airline. This is viewed as a work contract and consequently, as the passenger, you have the right to break your contract with the airline should you so wish. This means you may cancel your flight ticket at any time and not be charged a cancellation fee. European Court of Justice ruling no. 75/2017 from July 6, 2017 states that airlines are not permitted to charge a lump-sum cancellation fee.

A full refund of the ticket cost is due in the case of “extraordinary circumstances”, for example, if the Foreign Office issues a travel warning after you completed your booking. More information about extraordinary circumstances can be found here.

Return tickets and cancelled outward flights

If for any reason you missed your outward flight, you may still wish to take your return flight. In this case be extra careful as many airlines consider a missed outward flight as a forfeited ticket for both the outward and return flight. In this case you are advised to check with the airline in advance whether you are permitted to travel on your return flight, to avoid any problems at the airport on the return journey home.

What documents do I need to make a ticket refund claim?

To ensure you receive your rightful ticket refund certain documents are required as proof for the airline and if necessary in court. You should, therefore, always try to keep your travel documents filed safely. Usually a booking confirmation clearly showing the ticket fare and passenger names is sufficient.

Documents which may be necessary for a refund request:

  • Booking confirmation or proof of purchase listing ticket cost details
  • Copy of national identity card or passport
  • Confirmation of ticket cancellation (if applicable)
  • Confirmation of ticket cancellation (if applicable)

How to claim your flight cancellation refund

To claim your refund directly with your airline the following steps should be followed:

Step 1. Cancel the flight in writing, either by registered post or email, as soon as you know you will not take the flight. The sooner you cancel, the better the chance that the airline can resell your ticket and you can obtain a refund of up to 95% of the ticket price. Allow 2 to 3 weeks for your refund to be processed.

Your claim letter should include the following:

  • Airline complaint centre address
  • Date of departure
  • Date of arrival
  • Departure airport
  • Flight number
  • Destination airport
  • Booking number
  • Transit airport (if applicable)
  • Date of the cancellation
  • Account details

If you receive no response from the airline after 2 to 3 weeks proceed to step 2.

Step 2. You now have several options available to you. You can send the airline another letter/email, personally enlist legal services, or use a professional company like GIVT that specialise in seeking passenger refunds from airlines.

Step 3. In the event that, after sending a second letter/email to the airline, you still receive no response, you can file a personal lawsuit against the airline or use GIVT’s services. GIVT offers a no win – no fee service, with a 99% success rate.

Step 3. In the event that, after sending a second letter/email to the airline, you still receive no response, you can file a personal lawsuit against the airline or use GIVT’s services. GIVT offers a no win – no fee service, with a 99% success rate.

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