When unforeseen circumstances disrupt your travel plans, you might find yourself facing a dilemma many travelers have come across: should you cancel your flight in or simply let it be and miss it?

The answer is actually simple.

You should always cancel your flight instead of missing it on purpose because it is the much better financial choice, and your return or connecting flights won’t automatically be canceled.

Why You Should Cancel Your Flight

Financial Considerations

While most airlines will levy a cancellation fee, especially if the cancellation is close to the departure date, you will likely be able to get at least a partial refund in the form of an e-ticket or monetary refund.

A no-show, on the other hand, typically leads to the forfeiture of your ticket’s full value.

To go into more detail:

  • Cancellation Fees: An airline’s cancellation fee can vary based on factors like the fare class, and how close to the departure date the cancellation is made.
  • Refund Policies: Depending on the airline’s policy and the fare type you’ve purchased, you might be eligible for a partial or full refund after deducting cancellation fees.
  • Credits and Vouchers: Some airlines offer the option to convert the ticket value into credits or vouchers that can be used for future travel.

Return and Connecting Flights

If you miss the first leg of your journey, this might have ramifications for your subsequent flights, potentially resulting in automatic cancellations of your return or connecting flights.

This is common as part of an airline’s “no-show policy.”

plane circling the globe

If you notify the airline in advance that you will be unable to make your flight and ask them to cancel it, your subsequent flights will still be valid.

You Won’t Be Charged If You Miss Your Flight

You are unlikely to be charged if you miss your flight, unless you have a habit of doing so.

As mentioned, the worst that will happen is that you will lose the entire value of your ticket, and the rest of your itinerary will be cancelled.

How to Cancel Your Flight

It’s easy to cancel your flight, which can be done either online or on the phone.

While it can vary slightly depending on the airline you booked with, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Access Your Booking: Log in to your airline’s account or navigate to the booking platform where you made the reservation. You’ll need your booking reference or confirmation number to proceed.
  2. Navigate to Manage Booking: Look for the “Manage Booking” section.
  3. Select Your Flight: Within the “Manage Booking” section, locate the specific flight you want to cancel. Click on the flight details to proceed.
  4. Choose Cancellation Option: Most airlines provide the option to cancel your flight directly from the “Manage Booking” page. Look for a “Cancel Flight” or “Cancel Reservation” button.
  5. Confirm Cancellation: After clicking on the cancellation option, a confirmation prompt will appear.
  6. Provide the Reason for Cancellation: Some airlines might require you to provide a reason for canceling, so pick the most relevant option from the provided list.
  7. Check Refund Details: If you’re eligible for a refund, the confirmation page should provide details about the refund amount and timeframe.
  8. Check Your Email: After canceling your flight, you should receive a confirmation email from the airline.

Note that if your flight was booked through a third-party agency, you’ll need to contact them directly to cancel the flight instead of the airline.

Airline Cancellation Policies

  • Allegiant: You must cancel seven or more days before your flight, and you will be charged a cancellation fee per flight (e.g. charged individually for both flights in a round-trip ticket). You will receive a travel credit.
  • American Airlines: Except for American’s basic-economy fares, you can cancel all bookings without a fee. You will receive a travel credit.
  • Delta Air Lines: Except for Delta’s basic-economy fares, you can cancel all bookings without a fee. For basic-economy fares, the cancellation fee is $99 for flights within the U.S. or to Mexico, the Caribbean or Central America. You will receive a travel credit.
  • Frontier Airlines: Frontier will charge a $75 fee if you cancel a booking that was booked on miles. If you cancel at least 60 days before your departure, you won’t get charged a cancellation fee. Otherwise, the fee will be $49 for flights canceled between 59 and seven days before departure, and $79 for flights canceled six days before your flight. You will receive a travel credit.

cancellation policy sign

  • Hawaiian Airlines: Main cabin, first-class and business-class fares can be canceled without a fee. You will receive a flight credit, but will lose the difference if the new flight you book is cheaper.
  • JetBlue: You will not get charged for a cancellation unless you have booked a Blue Basic fare. You will receive a travel credit.
  • Southwest: Southwest has the best policy, allowing you to cancel 10 minutes before your departure time for a travel credit for the full amount.
  • Spirit Airlines: You can cancel your flight for free 60 or more days before your departure for free, though you can be charged as much as $99 if you cancel your flight 2 days or less before departure. You will receive a travel credit, but it will only be valid for 60 days.
  • United Airlines: If you are traveling within the U.S., Canada, Mexico or on an international flight that departs in the U.S., you can cancel for free unless you have booked a basic-economy ticket. You will receive a travel credit.

The “Flat Tire” Rule

If you’re in the unfortunate situation of running late and being unable to catch your flight, you can take advantage of the “flat tire” rule.

The “flat tire” rule allows you to rebook your flight if you think you are going to miss it, for free or for a small fee.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).