Have You Ever Canceled a Flight?

Last week one of my relatives told me that he was considering canceling a flight within 12 hours before take-off – a flight that had been purchased only a week or two before.  I know that this relative has bought and canceled flights several times in the past as his whims change – and these flights are not purchased with credit card rewards but with real money.  I was very surprised he was considering doing this again as this behavior has cost him hundreds of dollars or more over the past few years.


I have never canceled a flight or backed out of a ticket in any way (though I did miss a flight once).  I don’t purchase plane tickets until I am fully committed to traveling on those dates and I usually track prices for a month or more before I buy.  This often results in us not RSVPing to weddings until the requested date because we won’t buy flights until we’re 100% sure we have the money and vacation time to make the trips.


I think the only reason I would cancel or change a ticket is if I or someone in my party were physically incapable of flying (very ill, perhaps) or if there was a family emergency of some type, and neither of those situations has yet occurred.  Purchasing a ticket is a big commitment for me and I wouldn’t back out of it lightly as my relative has, not only because of the associated penalties.  But I’m sure others may feel differently or have had other experiences.


(If you are prone to canceling flights or might ever have to, check out this recent post from Bible Money Matters on how to minimize penalties.)


What’s your flight-cancellation story?  How far would you go to avoid canceling or changing a flight?


photo from FrancoisRoche


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Filed under: travel

19 Responses to "Have You Ever Canceled a Flight?"

  1. bogofdebt says:

    I’ve never cancelled a flight. I don’t actually fly that much so that could be a big part of it…. But as we are actually going to be booking a flight for our honeymoon,like you, I’d only cancel if it was a dire emergency. I’m actually worried as we need to book it in March but it won’t be until June/July that we leave. So I’m going to look into trip insurance. I wouldn’t want to lose all that money that we worked so hard for.
    bogofdebt recently posted..Spending Recap 7/2-7/8

    1. Emily says:

      I’ve never bought trip insurance so I don’t really know if it’s worth it, but certainly for bigger/more expensive trips there’s more reason to get it or have some kind of plan for if you need to reschedule.

  2. I cancelled a flight because I got too sick to travel. I lost out on something like $600 and could never use it again. Not thrilled with that, but sometimes you can’t help but get sick the weekend your cousin gets married!
    Kathleen @ Frugal Portland recently posted..Don’t pay annual fees!

    1. Emily says:

      Yikes! That’s a huge loss. Simply unavoidable in your case, though. Sorry you had to miss the wedding as well as losing the money.

  3. Renee says:

    I’ve cancelled/re-scheduled many flights w my long-distance grad school arrangement…. and it hasn’t cost me a thing! 🙂 Southwest lets you rearrange your flights w no additional fees – just have to pay the difference in ticket price. They also give two free checked bags. Also, I find their prices dont go up significantly until about 10 days before the travel date (and often they’re even cheaper if we wait to book..) Sometimes they’re a little more expensive than Expedia or whatever discount site, but in the long run (factoring in the times we *had* to check bags), I think we’ve come out about even. And I usually find that the extra $30 is worth the freedom of flexible travel dates.

    1. Emily says:

      That’s a good tip to fly with the more amenable airlines only if you know your plans may change.

  4. The only time I ever canceled a flight was when I lost my passport in Israel of all places. I got the full ‘experience’ including a trip inside the heavily armored ‘bunker’ in Tel Aviv, otherwise known as the US Embassy. It was an experience never to be forgotten. The ticket change only cost me $50 thankfully. The folks at my travel agency, Golden Rule Travel http://www.goldrule.net, lived up to their name and took care of everything for me over the phone.
    Josh @ Live Well Simply recently posted..How Much Does it Cost to Get Married?

    1. Emily says:

      Wow, that definitely constitutes and emergency situation. Thank goodness you got back with only a $50 charge!

  5. I didn’t know you were allowed to do this. I guess I always assumed you would owe the airline a kidney if you canceled.
    My Money Design recently posted..How to Read and Evaluate Basic Stock Metrics

    1. Emily says:

      Well… You certainly wouldn’t be out more than the cost of the ticket!

  6. I don’t fly much, but I’ve never canceled a flight. It’s far too expensive. Plus, when I’m flying, I’m usually going on vacation. I have ever motivation to step on the plane.
    JP @ My Family Finances recently posted..Can I Trick You Into Giving Me Ideas for Content and Top Family Finance Posts #8

    1. Emily says:

      Haha very true. The only time I’ve gotten sick near flights was in college when I was going home for winter break, and you bet I was motivated to get on those flights!

  7. Never canceled a flight, but this morning’s was only the 8th time in my life I’d ever been on a commercial flight. My brother’s fiancée always flies SouthWest and apparently they will let you reschedule a flight. When they were in their long-distance phase, she came out to visit and wound up moving in for 11 months. She booked her return trip just before the voucher expired.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Did I Sell Out?

    1. Emily says:

      I think the more flights you take the more you start to see it as no big deal and can conceive of shifting them around.

  8. Molly Groman says:

    I haven’t traveled international so far, but local yes I hav been traveling for 6-7 times in an year and never ever really cancelled a ticket. But my few friends have and they all say that they had to incur heavy financial losses!
    Molly Groman recently posted..I no longer have the stamina for all nighters!

    1. Emily says:

      I don’t even want to know what canceling an international fight would cost. I bet even my relative would think twice!

  9. […] left a great tip on Have You Ever Canceled a Flight? that Southwest lets you rearrange flights you already booked for free and also gives two free […]

  10. Peter says:

    Thanks for the link love! I’ve never had to cancel a flight before until this last time, and I was amazed at how much it cost. We ended up paying $260 or so to reschedule our flight after we got too sick to fly. Hopefully next time we’ll be able to book with Southwest where they have no rebooking fees, or if it’s an expensive trip – consider trip insurance.
    Peter recently posted..How To Create A DIY Green Screen Setup On The Cheap: Screens, Stands And Lighting Setup

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks for your contribution to inspiring my post (well, your article plus my crazy relative).

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