Airline Ticket Refund Policies
June 9, 2024 2:54 PM   Subscribe

I am considering a flight via Delta to visit a dying parent. If the person dies before my visit, is the ticket refundable?

If I buy basic economy for the date I plan to travel, it is about $320. For about $80 more, I can purchase a "Main Cabin" ticket. I am having trouble understanding the policy on Delta's site. I do not travel often, so a credit for the cancellation would not be helpful to me.

I guess I'm wondering whether to pay a little more for "Main Cabin" or if regardless of the type I ticket I buy, I won't be able to get a refund.

My father has been failing for about a year, and is in hospice care - but as is often the case in these matters, there isn't a good way to "guess" on timeline. I was lucky enough to see him last year when he still recognized me, but I'm missing him and want to go again, even if just to sit by his bed and knit while he sleeps, you know?

But it will be July before I can go and I'd like to better understand my options for tickets / refunds.
posted by hilaryjade to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Best answer: Delta has both "Main Cabin" and "Refundable Main" tickets - I think Main Cabin on its own just means you get to choose your seat and you accrue miles. Refundable Main is genuinely refundable to your original payment method but it's probably more than $80 extra.

I'm sorry about your father - I hope you're able to see him.
posted by mskyle at 3:03 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry for your loss.

Delta will refund for immediate family deaths, however, they are not very clear on the policy for basic economy tickets. Go to FAQ and "I have a non-refundable ticket and will not be traveling. Can I obtain a refund?" at the bottom.
Exception: The death of the passenger, immediate family member, or traveling companion. In this case, you will be required to forward a copy of the death certificate to the Passenger Refunds Department mailing address.
With a sample size of 1, one person on Reddit got their basic economy ticket refunded.
posted by saeculorum at 3:16 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]

Best answer: mskyle is correct. Main Cabin by itself can be cancelled for (full) credit but not a cash refund. Refundable Main should pop up as an "upgrade" option after you choose the Main price on the ticket matrix. There's also a box you can tick on the home page booking panel for "refundable fares."
posted by praemunire at 3:16 PM on June 9

With a sample size of 1, one person on Reddit got their basic economy ticket refunded.

This is likely correct, but I would really hate to have to try to navigate this process while grieving. Airlines are notoriously slow and obnoxious about these matters. Be kind to yourself and book refundable if you can afford it. If you can't, then at least you'll have this information in your back pocket.
posted by praemunire at 3:21 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]

Check with your credit card company. Capital One (branded as REI) told me they'd refund airline tickets in case of family emergency. There's a question of whether one of us, who is under palliative care, will be well enough to make the journey.
posted by kokaku at 3:45 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your credit card might include trip cancellation insurance, which is a reason to get a refund. If your card does not offer this feature, you could price out trip cancellation insurance yourself.

I hate paying money for refundable tickets given the price premium these days. You’re gambling with the airline and the house always wins. You have lots of options still, such as delaying booking until closer to your intended departure date or just eating the price of a low fare ticket. I’d wait until 2 weeks before departure to book.
posted by shock muppet at 4:33 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]

Maybe you already get this, but I’ll add that even with a non-refundable ticket, a cancellation results in credit (generally minus a $99 cancellation fee) toward the purchase of another ticket. So assuming you’d be taking a different Delta flight someday anyway and that you can afford not to have that money in your bank account until then, it’s not a risky gamble compared to the cost of upgrading to refundable.

There may be a time limit to spend the credit. I don’t believe there was when I last did this, though, a few years ago, but I’m not positive if that was a pandemic policy.
posted by Kriesa at 3:23 AM on June 10

Post-COVID the non-basic-economy tickets all credit 100%, no fee, on Delta, American, United and JetBlue.
posted by MattD at 5:13 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Post-COVID the non-basic-economy tickets all credit 100%, no fee, on Delta, American, United and JetBlue.
This is incorrect. Delta charges a fee for non-refundable fares. American doesn't provide refunds for non refundable fares. For all those airlines, the refund is in the form of a travel credit (usually expiring in a year) rather than cash.
posted by saeculorum at 7:10 AM on June 10

You have to read the whole rule when you're analyzing airline policies. From that very page, just a bit further down in the same section:

"Cancellation fees are not applicable for the following tickets:

Delta Main Cabin and above tickets for travel within the U.S., Puerto Rico and USVI

Delta Main Cabin and above tickets for travel originating from the United States, Canada or the Caribbean to anywhere in the world (including flights operated by joint venture and codeshare partners)"

Which covers most Delta flights, just not Basic Economy or, for whatever weird reason, tickets originating in Central or South America (!).

I can confirm from personal experience that canceling nonrefundable tickets on Delta results in a full e-credit. OP has said they wouldn't find that useful because they don't travel much, but if they did cancel, they would receive a full e-credit, no fees.
posted by praemunire at 7:57 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]

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